College revokes Tucker Foundation appointment

by MICHAEL RIORDAN | 8/15/13 10:00pm

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by Madison Pauly and Madison Pauly / The Dartmouth
revoked its appointment

"The foundation and Dartmouth's commitment to inclusion are too important to be mired in discord over this appointment," Hanlon said in a statement.

Once he receives formal notification from Dartmouth, Tengatenga will seek legal action against the College, the Episcopal News Service reported.

Immediately after the College announced Tengatenga's appointment on July 16, several campus organizations mobilized against the decision, objecting to the reverend's stance on homosexuality.

Two days later, Tengatenga announced his support for same-sex marriage, explaining that he had previously articulated the Church's beliefs and not his personal views.

In 2012, the Malawi Council of Churches, which Tengatenga once chaired, pressured the Malawi government to uphold the criminalization of homosexuality, claiming it went against Christian values.

Dartmouth's NAACP chapter circulated a petition signed by several campus groups and over 30 faculty and staff members protesting Tengatenga's appointment.

Jordan Terry '15, Dartmouth NAACP president, said he was pleased with Hanlon's decision, calling it "morally the right thing to do" in an email.

"We are thankful for all of the students, faculty, staff members and alumni who demanded to be heard on this important issue," Terry said.

German and comparative literature professor Irene Kacandes, who chaired the search committee that selected Tengatenga, said she was surprised and saddened by the president's move.

"Tengatenga is an extraordinary person with important life experiences that I believe we all could have learned from," she said in an email. "Now we won't have the chance to do that."

Faculty and administrators said the decision reflected Hanlon's leadership.

Women's and gender studies professor Michael Bronski said Hanlon's unexpected statement, which he considers the president's first major decision on campus, provided insight into his thought process.

"Making a stand on the school's commitment to all of its students, in the face of possible criticism for revoking a job offer to a major international figure for very complicated reasons, was a move in the right direction, and demonstrates that he'll be a strong president for Dartmouth," Bronski said.

The decision demonstrates Hanlon's "big picture" approach to issues, which involves listening to many opinions before coming to a conclusion, director of religious and spiritual life Nancy Vogele said.

"My question was interestingly his question," she said. "Given all that's happened after the announcement, Can this person successfully lead Tucker?'"

Calling the search committee "incompetent," retired music professor Jon Appleton, who taught at the College for 38 years, said Hanlon had no choice but to rescind the offer.

Bronski said the controversy could have been avoided if Tucker separated its religious and service functions.

Soon after the search began, Kacandes said she noticed Tucker staff members held different visions of an ideal dean and reported this to the Provost's office.

"I wish I had insisted that the search be called off at that time until the internal people involved could have united around a concept," she said.

At the time, Tengatenga's appointment "seemed reasonable," she said.

"The search committee formulated an idea based on what we'd heard that made the most sense to us for Dartmouth, and then we evaluated candidates on the basis of our forged vision," she said.

Before the College appoints a new Tucker dean, Hanlon has asked interim Provost Martin Wybourne to form a task force that will clarify Tucker's mission and structure.

Tucker staff has not received information about the upcoming task force or search for an interim acting dean, Vogele said.

"I think they were focused on this decision first, and now that this decision has been made, they're looking at next steps," she said.

Vogele said she hopes the task force includes Tucker volunteers, students and alumni, and recommended it include constituents unfamiliar with the organization, who can bring "fresh eyes" to the process.

Kacandes said a search should not continue until Tucker's identity and purpose is clarified, while Bronski suggested the next committee avoid vetting religious figures.

"The moral conscience of the school' should not be the person running the Tucker Foundation," he said.

On July 22, community members expressed concerns over Tengatenga's appointment at a Tucker-sponsored meeting.

Senior media relations officer Amy Olson declined to comment on Tengatenga's intention to seek legal action.

Wybourne could not be reached for comment.