Seminary Students Protest Firing of Admissions Director

They say the director has done a great job and is just the latest Black administrator to lose a job.

June 27, 2022
A brick building at Columbia Theological Seminary, with faculty members lined up in front of it.
(Columbia Theological Seminary)

The Reverend Samuel White, the admissions director at the Columbia Theological Seminary, has been fired, and Black students are protesting, Religion News Service reported.

Black students at the Presbyterian Church seminary in Decatur, Ga., say they are stunned by the surprise firing of a “beloved” admissions director, saying it’s the latest in a series of firings of faculty members and administrators of color since 2019.

On Tuesday, as most faculty, staff and students had left campus for the summer, they received an email from President Leanne Van Dyk telling them that it was White’s last day.

The following day, the seminary’s African Heritage Student Association published a letter addressed to the president and Board of Trustees expressing “deep sadness and tremendous frustration” over the incident and asserting that Van Dyk’s tenure “has been defined by racial injustice.”

The letter demands that the president, who is scheduled to leave her post in five weeks, resign immediately; that the board president resign; that White be reinstated; and that a new advisory board be appointed to oversee personnel changes.

White’s tenure as director of admissions, the students wrote, “resulted in the recruitment of one of the largest incoming classes in recent history, and the most diverse incoming class in the school’s history. Without fail, Rev. White is committed to ensuring that the seminary upholds the values and ethics it professes around justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

White did not respond to a request for comment.

In an email to Religion News Service, Jennifer Cuthbertson, the seminary’s director of marketing and communications, declined to say why White had been fired. “Columbia Theological Seminary is sensitive to students concerns over the departure of Rev. Samuel White,” Cuthbertson wrote. “However, it was a carefully considered decision and out of respect for the privacy of all current and former employees and consistent with our policies, we do not comment on personnel matters.”

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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