I write today with difficult news in the life of the school, and in the wake of the events of last spring surrounding the presidential search. In writing to our community on May 19th, our board chair, Fred Garcia, committed to an inquiry into the causes of the breach of confidential information that has hurt so many people within and outside of our school community.
In the course of that inquiry, the school uncovered through digital means the identity of at least one person responsible for both the “Strapped Student” email and wide distribution of the confidential documents. On Wednesday, August 20, I met with that student in an effort to understand the actions taken and with the hope that we might find a way to restore the student to right relationship to the school. Regrettably, my attempts were rebuffed; immediately after our conversation, the student indicated to our registrar an intent to withdraw from the school.
I am grieved that our efforts to help this person were turned aside. We expect accountability and integrity from students who aspire to religious leadership, but we also hope to model a way forward for those who have erred in judgment. For now, the student’s intent to withdraw from Starr King has made this way forward impossible. Even sadder is the reality that this is not the first time the school’s efforts toward understanding and reconciliation have been rejected. Since the breach occurred in early April, board members and others have attempted conversations with students and other members of our community who had knowledge concerning the distribution of the confidential information, but the students chose not to participate.
Several people have asked why we continue to seek answers to the disturbing spring events. Quite simply, it’s because the breach—private and confidential information released anonymously—is contrary to everything Starr King School stands for: contrary to our counter-oppressive values; our ethic of religious leadership; our model of ministerial formation; our dream of whole and holy community. We honor and expect direct address, even when it is difficult; we shun anonymity in favor of being named and known in our work and in our lives. Rather than expose supposed injustice, the breach violated community trust; rather than contribute to the wholeness of our community, the breach hurt real people—not only candidates and committees, but faculty and staff who dedicate their lives to the work that we do, students who come to us to learn and grow, alumni who treasure their Starr King training. We seek to understand how the breach happened because it’s important to all of us—and for all of us–that it never happen again.
That challenging work continues. I’ll be back in touch soon with news about the formation of the ad hoc committee and its composition. In the meantime, please keep me and the school in your thoughts and prayers, as well as our students—particularly those students who may have momentarily lost their way.