To the Editor:
As President of Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, I must respond to some of the negative assertions made by Theodore Kalmoukos in his most recent opinion piece about conditions at HCHC. It is understood and appreciated that Mr. Kalmoukos speaks out of genuine concern for the future of the School and, by extension, the parishes of our Archdiocese. And certainly some of the statements made in the article would have been valid in the not too distant past. However, Hellenic College Holy Cross is now in a far better condition than Mr. Kalmoukos would have your readers believe. The Association of Theological Schools, one of the two accrediting agencies to which we are accountable, prepared a report after its site visit to HCHC in late September that notes positively the creation of “a new team of academic and administrative leadership” and “a new sense of urgency in addressing the critical issues facing the institution.” It commends the current leadership team for “working diligently together to correct the insufficiencies and inadequacies” in strategic and financial planning. It goes on to remark on “a growing sense of optimism and confidence among trustees, faculty, staff, and students” and concludes, “insum, there are clear signs that the institution is turning around.”
Far from being overstaffed, as claimed in the article, the School has refined its organizational structure to ensure a tighter, more effective operation in which every individual is properly assigned and fully productive. Both ATS and the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), the other accrediting body, had in fact questioned whether our staffing levels were sufficient to meet the institution’s needs and are now satisfied that, as stated in the ATS report, “appropriate personnel are in place.”
As for the issue of financial management, the numbers speak for themselves: after years of deficit spending and no clear budgetary strategy, we have succeeded in balancing the budget for two years, outperforming the budget year to date and reducing debt by 35%. In that and all other endeavors, our leadership team has been aided greatly by our current Board of Trustees, which is composed of the kind of “serious people” with the requisite expertise that Mr. Kalmoukos suggests we still lack.
Regarding enrollment, we have instituted a multi-pronged strategy to communicate the strengths of our institution to the faithful. And the claim that the College has a negative financial impact on HCHC as a whole is greatly exaggerated, since its operating costs are incremental to those of the School of Theology.
However, to dismiss the impact of the pandemic on enrollment is disingenuous at best.
We are confident – and the accrediting agencies agree – that we have made and will continue to make measurable progress toward the stronger future that the School and the Church deserve.
George M. Cantonis
President, Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology
CC: HCHC Board of Trustees