Resigned SLU Theology Chair Jay Hammond On Lawrence Biondi: "He Creates a Culture of Fear"
As we reported last week, Jay Hammond, chair of the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, resigned in protest of Father Lawrence Biondi -- the latest high-profile case of faculty backlash against university leadership.
via Jay Hammond
After publishing Hammond's formal resignation letter and explanation -- along with response from his department in support of his decision -- Daily RFT got in touch with the professor to discuss his resignation.
"He punishes people that disagree with him," Hammond says of Biondi, SLU president. "He creates a culture of fear, which everyone will privately admit."
How does he hope the university will respond?
Hammond, who will continue on at the Jesuit university as an associate professor of historical theology, emphasizes that the decision he made was a moral one -- and not focused on the political or financial controversies surrounding Biondi's leadership.
"I was not hearing anyone talk about the moral dimensions of undermining the mission," he says. "I do not believe in Larry Biondi's absolutest leadership style."
Last week's news came just two months after faculty members released a lengthy report that they had submitted to the university's board of trustees calling for Biondi to be fired. SLU's financial health and reputation, that report said, had been badly damaged under Biondi in recent years -- as evidenced as well by the overwhelming no-confidence vote from the the College of Arts & Sciences and the Faculty Senate last year.
It's insulting for Biondi and top leaders of SLU to not even publicly acknowledge such great dissent, Hammond says.
"They are hoping the whole entire thing goes away. To me, that is unacceptable," he says. "The representative governance of SLU is intentionally being undermined by the upward administration."
He adds, "If you cross [Biondi], you are fired."
The dean of the university's law school resigned last year with a high-profile letter slamming Biondi for operating "so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity."
Hammond says, "I'm doing what I thought needed to be done because of what my Jesuit education [has taught me]."
He says he is confident that the board of trustees is divided -- and that there are some who agree there needs to be change and more who recognize that at the very least, there needs to be a public acknowledgement of the no-confidence votes.
Given their silence -- and referencing "charity in truth" -- he says, "To my knowledge, they have not told the truth yet.... And we are involved in a cover-up...a messy cover-up."
At this stage, he adds, it seems like the leaders of the institution are hoping to resolve these matters behind closed doors to avoid embarrassment.
"I think we are passed the point of embarrassment," he says.
Continue for more of our interview with Jay Hammond and for his full resignation letter.