[ A letter from professor Evie Zachariades-Holmberg
to Protopresbyter George Dragas,
Dean of Holy Cross Theological School ]
February 17, 1997
Fr. George Dion Dragas, Dean
School of Theology
Dear Fr. George,
On Friday the 14th, during the first section of my NT Greek class (9-10) one of my students made the following announcement: "whoever of the students wants to learn how to read the Epistles correctly they can meet with Dr. Pilitsis every Friday in the Chapel from 3-5". A similar announcement has been placed in the Directions of February 14.
I believe that there is no need for me to mention that I had no idea about any of this. After all, the way I have been treated in this Institution for the past two years makes this kind of behavior a regular event on the part of the administration and of various members of its faculty.
Besides the fact that such an action on the part of Dr. Pilitsis is completely inappropriate and unprofessional -to say the least- (the fact that a professor interferes in a colleague's course and area of expertise and in such a manner without even approaching this colleague to ask whether his services are needed), the academic value of the whole announcement is evident to anyone who has even the most basic knowledge of the various levels of difficulty that our sacred texts present to a student. This announcement was made to students with no other knowledge of Greek but only one semester of NT Greek. The claim of the possibility of teaching proper reading of a Sunday Epistle to a student with such knowledge is as absurd as claiming that it is possible to teach someone with an elementary knowledge of English how to read Shakespeare properly. It must be obvious to every one that in order to be able to read properly one has to understand what one reads. In the case of the Sunday Epistles, the professor who teaches the relevant courses ought to have been approached so that she could arrange for an additional time-frame for teaching each Epistle excerpt read in Church and then arrange for the students to practice in reading it properly. I was never aware, however, that such en extra time-frame was being encouraged in our School, where even the addition of Liturgical Greek as a core course had supposedly caused so many problems in the curriculum of the School of Theology. I do not need to mention that a professor is not needed for just reading practice. Especially Dr. Pilitsis, who, when asked by the Dean of the College in the beginning of our current semester to teach Attic Prose ( a fourth course - course load which he is supposed to carry as an associate professor according to the policies and procedures manual of our School) his answer was that he does not have time and that I should teach it since everything I teach in the School of Theology from now on should be in addition to the three course load that I am supposed to carry as a professor. I must mention that this course was the fifth one in my course load this semester.
It is not the unprofessional behavior that surprises me in this matter. After all, Dr. Pilitsis had made an attempt last Spring to teach Liturgical Greek, a course of which I am definitely stated as a professor in my double appointment in the School of Theology (which appointment is still being ignored by the administration). As is presently the case, Dr. Pilitsis had attempted to do that without even consulting with me.
It is not the academic absurdity of the statement that surprises me either. After all it has so often been repeated by faculty members of the School of Theology : "the students do not have to understand what they read as long as they read it with the correct pronunciation" that I shall only mention in reference to this Fr. Stylianopoulos' memo of February 27, 1996 where Liturgical Greek is referred to as merely "recitation" and Fr. Calivas' statement during the Curriculum Committee meeting of December 19, 1996: "The School demands from the Greek Department that the students be proficient in the reading of the liturgical texts since it is impossible for them to be able to understand them".
In this respect I would like to state my professional opinion as the expert in this area for the past 18 years: It is very possible for the students to understand the liturgical texts and this is exactly what has been happening since 1992 and 1993 when Patristic Greek and Liturgical Greek were instituted in our School. In spite of the constant harassment I had to face (Liturgical Greek being called a "recitation course", Patristic Greek being called alternately "elective A", "elective B" , "a language course bearing no credit toward the M. Div. degree" etc. And all these attempts were being made in order to discourage the students from taking these courses), I have managed to teach Liturgical Greek and Patristic Greek for three consecutive years.
It has become obvious, however, that the more successful these courses become and the more the students appreciate them, the more I am harassed in this Istitution by both the administration and certain faculty members. Or even non- faculty members as the latest incident related to me by Dr. Michopoulos on Thursday the 13th indicates. Specifically, Dr. Michopoulos told me that Dr. Klentos was inquiring as to why there is lab in my NT Greek class, and Dr. Karras was trying to persuade him that my courses NT Greek and Patristic Greek should not appear as part of the Classics Major. When Dr. Michopoulos informed her that he is not going to make any changes at this point her response was that there should not be any Classics Major altogether. At this point I would like to remind you of Fr. Calivas' offer that I be the Chairman of the Classics Major - a Major that all his friends constantly try to defame and oppose.
I am not going to ask the question why Fr. Calivas offered me the position of Chairman of this Major on July 11, 1996. I am not even going to ask why when I politely refused, indicating to him that my main field all these years has been teaching the liturgical texts in our School and with a great success, according to everyone (until now), he arbitrarily informed me with no reasoning that the permanent appointment in the School of Theology given to me by the previous president is not going to be renewed and that I am not allowed to participate in the Faculty Meetings of the School of Theology where I have been teaching the majority of my courses for the past 18 years. The answer is obvious: Some people do not want me to teach these courses in the School of Theology upholding the academic standards which have enabled the students to begin to understand our sacred texts. This pressure had begun when I received tenure in this Institution but it reached its peak when I received the double appointment in the School of Theology which enabled me to represent my courses in the Faculty Meetings (a normal practice in every Academic Institution) and to teach them according to the Academic Standards required by the Accreditation Agencies. The completely unacceptable behavior of my colleagues during the December Faculty Meeting of the School of Theology, where certain faculty members objected to my teaching courses in the School of Theology which have been taught by me for years, and suggested that Fr. Stylianopoulos teach NT Greek from now on, a course he has never taught (at least not during the 18 years I have been teaching it), is the obvious answer to the question why I have been prohibited from attending these meetings. The fact that this School has constantly discouraged the students from seeking to learn to understand our sacred texts in the original is obvious not only from the constant harassment against the professor who supports the idea of instituting and teaching such courses properly , but also from the fact that until 1991 only NT Greek was being taught in our School. It was also taught during the last year of studies, which prohibited any understanding of the sacred texts chanted in the original Greek. All my attempts to indicate the obvious fact that such an arrangement of courses discouraged the students from learning the language of the Church had been met with constant reluctance to do anything about it. It was during the tenure of Bishop Methodios as president of our School that NT Greek was moved to the first year of theological studies and Liturgical and Patristic Greek were added to the curriculum. Before that time whenever a student wished to learn something beyond the basic NT Greek level he would have to arrange to take a directed study with me with absolutely no credit! The first time Fr. Calivas allowed anyone to take such a course with credit was in 1991 and only after I presented him with a copy from the registrar bearing his approval of such a course in the previous semester. (I possess the relevant correspondence). Even then, he insisted that this course be given a Modern Greek College number so that it would not count toward the M.Div. degree.
I am not going to ask why I have been constantly harassed and discriminated against in this Institution. The answer is obvious and I certainly intend to take the proper legal action to correct this behavior. I would like, however, to conclude with the following statement: One does not have to be a theologian to realize that our Orthodox Theology is based for the most part on the writings of our Church which have in their majority been written originally in Greek. Why then this constant effort to discredit the courses which pursue the in depth study of the language in which these texts were written and to discredit the professor who is the expert in teaching these courses in our School? I believe the answer to this question is also obvious. Our School discourages the students from learning the language in which the original texts of our Orthodox faith have been written.
Professor Evie Zachariades-Holmberg
cc: His Eminence Archbishop Spiridon
His Grace Bishop Maximos
His Grace Bishop Methodios