A female member of the embattled board of Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois, today resigned in protest.
In her resignation letter, which was obtained by The Roys Report (TRR), board member Fay Quanstrom accused the board of bullying its female members and mishandling reports of bullying and intimidation by former Northern Seminary President William Shiell.
Shiell resigned March 13, about three weeks after TRR first published allegations of his bullying. Those allegations were included in letters sent to the board by 17 former and current Northern Seminary staff.
Referring to those letters, Quanstrom wrote, “The way the women of the Board have been consistently treated with bullying, talking over, and interrupting, echoes the experience of the letter writers. To be disrespected and disregarded for my heartfelt efforts signals the end to my contributions as a Board member and necessitates my resignation, effective immediately.”
Quanstrom also wrote a statement to faculty, staff, and students of Northern Seminary, confessing the specific ways in which the board has “responded inadequately.” These included failing to listen, prioritizing confidentiality over transparency, and being too removed to understand the campus’s pain.
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According to Quanstrom, the board refused to approve her proposed statement. After she resigned Monday, she felt free to share it as a personal decision.
The female whistleblowers who wrote the board told TRR they were drawn to Northern for its reputation of caring for diversity and fostering a safe culture for women. Instead, they say Shiell bullied and controlled them, and retaliated when they complained.
Shiell defended his treatment of others in his resignation letter tendered last week.
“The publicity around this process during my time away has hindered Northern’s mission and prevented my ability to lead the institution into the future.” He wrote.
Shiell added that he has “guarded the flock under my care” and “done everything in my power to prevent the kind of abuse of authority that has been publicly alleged about my character and leadership.”
Also, last week, Board Chairman Wyatt Hoch sent a letter to students, faculty, and staff thanking Shiell for his “deep commitment to women in leadership and racial injustice.” Hoch did not address reports of bullying by women in key leadership positions at the university.
Quanstrom told TRR today that Hoch hasn’t been at board meetings for “most of the last two weeks.”
TRR reached out to Hoch and Shiell for comment but received no response.
Quanstrom wrote that she visited the “precarious” and “fragile” university to listen to faculty, staff, and students in order to “bridge the considerable gap” between the board and campus. But she said she saw her efforts “destroyed along with the future of Northern Seminary by disrespect and condescension.”
She wrote that the board should apologize.
“Those on campus cannot comprehend the official silence of the Board to their distress and personal pain at the loss of so many colleagues who have withdrawn or resigned,” Quanstrom wrote.
“Frankly, as a result of this inaction the campus has no confidence or trust in the Board. The Board’s silence is interpreted variously as approval of the treatment they have received or indifference to it. The fact that the Board, charged with seeing the best interests of the Seminary, failed to discern those interests has harmed individuals and the institution.”
A growing student effort to bring accountability at Northern is working on a letter to the board with new action items which should be done by the end of the week, said student leader Justin Charles.
“We are currently drafting a response to the board with specific actions,” Charles said.”
Faculty and staff have shown their concern, too, said Scot McKnight,* Northern Seminary professor and author of “A Church Called Tov.”
“Some faculty and staff have expressed a loss of confidence in the Board because of the Board’s decision publicly to endorse the former president and because it failed to show pastoral care for the wounded in its communication with the Northern community,” he emailed to TRR.
*Scot McKnight has been a speaker at the Restore Conference, which is sponsored by The Roys Report.
Rebecca Hopkins is a journalist based in Colorado.
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