Jul 04, 2016 | Comments 36
President Paul Kooistra of Erskine College & Seminary took an unprofessional “cheap shot” at former Acting Dean of Erskine Theological Seminary RJ Gore. Kooistra wrote an unnecessary evaluation of Gore’s performance as Acting Dean of the Seminary. In response to Item 6 of the evaluation (“I would encourage the evaluated employee to focus on the following area of improvement during the next year”), Kooistra writes, “This question is mute [sic] given the fact that R.J. has resigned from the deanship and will leave that position effective June 30, 2016.” It astounds one to learn the President of Erskine College does not know the phrase should read “This question is moot.”
Whether the question is “mute” (that is, silent and not needing expression) or “moot” (that is, having been previously decided by Gore’s resignation), the evaluation is unnecessary, unless Kooistra desires to create a personal confrontation.
Kooistra acts in a narcissistic and juvenile manner. Instead of evaluating Gore on whether he upholds the mission of the seminary, is loyal to the institution he serves, and has accomplished the tasks of Acting Dean of the Seminary, Kooistra creates a new orthodoxy of service — that is, “Blessed are all those who bow down and tell me how wonderful I am.” Kooistra acts like a little girl in grammar school who sends a note to a beau, saying, “Do you like me? Check ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’”
Besides not knowing the difference between “mute” and “moot,” Kooistra does not know the difference between “prospective” and “perspective.” He writes, “from my prospective [sic] he has not tried to work with me.” Are these truly the words of a college president?
Good heavens, exercising his “mute” and “prospective” analytical skills, Kooistra comes up with the following: (1) he gives a negative evaluation to a man who is a VOLUNTEER; (2) he gives a negative evaluation to a man without an official appointment or job description; (3) he gives a negative evaluation to a man who is not paid for his work; (4) he gives a negative evaluation to a man who saved his bacon with both SACS and ATS numerous times; and (5) he gives a man a negative evaluation whose salary and benefits he slashed 35%. At this point, vindictive fails to describe Kooistra. Parsimonious fails to describe Kooistra. Even louse-like, villainous, shameless, and toad-spotted fail to describe Kooistra!
After the May meeting of the board, Kooistra was overheard saying the members of the board did not like him, and he was going to resign. Because his sentiments were well known, certain board members refrained from pressing forward with a formal vote of “No Confidence.” Football, the only plan he has for Erskine, was voted down, and members of the board expected him to resign. The general feeling was: “Let him resign with dignity.” Indeed, on many occasions, he said he would know when it was time for him to go before the members of the board knew it.
Kooistra does not understand ARPs and is of the opinion members of the General Synod do not like him. He is correct. At General Synod, he was overheard saying he could not go on as president and was going to resign after the meeting. Once again, a vote of “No Confidence” was not pushed forward because most of us saw no reason for such a drastic action if he had decided to resign. We wanted to preserve some dignity for him.
In my evaluation of General Synod, in regard to Synod’s vote to support the petition from the seminary’s faculty for separation from the college, I wrote, “Interestingly, President Kooistra spoke in favor of the motion” (http://www.arptalk.org/2016/06/14/arptalk-131-general-synod-was-a-surprise/). Honestly, all of us were surprised when Kooistra rose and spoke in support of the motion for separation. Why did he do it?
Well, it was not because he was in favor of separation. Just minutes before the debate and vote, Kooistra was in a fluster over the matter. He was against separation. The word he was heard to use was “dumb.” However, when it was pointed out to him that the vote was going to be overwhelming in favor of separation, a calculated political decision was made.
Since the meeting of General Synod, folks are asking, “Didn’t Kooistra say he was going to resign?” Well, a wiry, career-ecclesiastic who has made an art of church politics, who is very apt at passive-aggressive ploys, and who has spent a lifetime developing “Jesus-Jesus” talk has played us! Yes, Kooistra has played us, and, so far, we have bought it!!!
At this point, as self-delusional as Kooistra is, I think he has deconstructed the events of both the May board meeting and the actions of General Synod as “Well, that wasn’t so bad!”, and has decided on a “Samson” strategy: “I will bring the house down with me if they dare touch the Lord’s anointed!” Indeed, he is delusional!
Kooistra is a silly, self-important man who thinks ARPs are the only people who do not like him. Well, let me be the first to inform him many in the PCA do not like him, either. Since the meeting of the General Assembly of the PCA, a number of PCAers called me and thanked me for calling Kooistra out. One PCA minister thanked me for doing what members of the PCA should have done years ago. One minister said to me, “Chuck, you have run over Kooistra with a train. Would you back up and run over him again? Because of the things he has done to people over the years, Paul deserves it.”
With permission from Dr. RJ Gore, I am posting Kooistra’s evaluation of Gore and Gore’s response to Kooistra below.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
Kooistra’s Evaluation of Gore
Annual Performance Appraisal – Staff
Erskine College’s annual staff performance appraisal process is intended to:
INSTITUTIONAL MISSION STATEMENT:
Erskine College exists to glorify God as a Christian academic community where students are equipped to flourish as whole persons for lives of service through the pursuit of undergraduate liberal arts and graduate theological education.
Section 1: Employee Information and Accountability Approvals
Employee Name: R. J. Gore
Date PA completed: June 30, 2016
Title: Interim Dean of Erskine Theological Seminary Reviewed by Area Vice President:
Supervisor’s Name: Paul Kooistra
Date Reviewed: June 30, 2016
Supervisor’s Title: President
Section 2: Supervisor’s Evaluation
1: In thinking about the employee’s job performance during the past year, briefly describe how the evaluated employee has contributed to the mission of Erskine College.
There is no doubt that R.J. has worked hard this year and has performed the duties of the deanship of the Seminary well. On the other hand, from my prospective [sic] he has not tried to work with me personally or to support me personally as the president of Erskine Seminary.
2: Given what I know of this person’s job performance during the past year, the evaluated employee consistently meets the expectations of his/her job.
☐ Strongly Agree
☐ Strongly Disagree
3: Given what I know of this person’s job performance during the past year, the evaluated employee is regularly engaged in the life of the institution.
☐ Strongly Agree
☐ Strongly Disagree
4: The evaluated employee is at risk for low performance.
☒ Yes (see answer under #1)
If yes, a separate Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) must be completed.
5: Assuming a position were available, the evaluated employee is ready for promotion today.
6: I would encourage the evaluated employee to focus on the following area of improvement during the next year.
This question is mute [sic] given the fact that R.J. has resigned from the deanship and will leave that position effective June 30, 2016.
Section 3: Confirmation and Signatures
By typing my name in the signature field below, I, the evaluated employee, acknowledge receipt of my annual staff performance appraisal. I understand that my signature does not necessarily indicate agreement with the evaluation of my supervisor. Further, I understand that I am free to schedule a meeting with my supervisor to discuss my evaluation and any questions or concerns I may have. If I disagree with my supervisor’s assessment of my job performance, I may indicate so below.
Employee Signature / Date:
Supervisor Signature / Date: Paul D. Kooistra, June 30, 2016
Dr. RJ Gore’s Response to President Kooistra
Dear Dr. Kooistra,
This is my response to your performance evaluation I have just received. This evaluation will become a part of my employment record and be a factor in any future employment I may seek elsewhere. I have chosen to make my response public. Also, I believe that this performance evaluation represents real, underlying issues that threaten the viability of Erskine Seminary and therefore should be available to the ARP Church for consideration.
Since 1996 I have been a member of the faculty in the Department of Theology and Church History. Since that time I have also been a member of Second Presbytery having transferred in from the PCA. From 1998-2003 I served as the last Vice President and Dean of the Seminary and from 2003-2006 served as Dean of the Seminary in the new structure which divided the responsibilities. Afterwards, I served as Associate Dean of Ministry for several years and for the last twenty-one months I served as Acting Dean of the Seminary (not Interim Dean as on the performance evaluation I am contesting). In my twenty years at Erskine I have had the word “Dean” in my title for approximately fifteen of those years.
First, in my humble opinion, your evaluation is completely improper. There is no job description for “Acting Dean.” I have never received such a job description nor have I ever received a Letter of Appointment naming me as Acting Dean (Employee Resource Handbook, E-5). Furthermore, there has been no performance counseling during the past two years that established Individual Objectives (Employee Resource Handbook, E-6). You are evaluating me for holding a position I HAVE NEVER HELD OFFICIALLY. In essence, I was a volunteer, and your evaluation of my volunteer services is uncharitable at best. My love for Erskine and desire to see the seminary hold together was such that I served for TWENTY-ONE (21) MONTHS without a Letter of Appointment, a job description, or one penny in pay for my services. I did what needed to be done when it needed to be done for one simple reason: if I did not do the work, we had no one else to do it.
While I did not have a job description, I did keep a list of duties I performed. That list includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Senior Audits for all master’s level graduates
- Advising (all programs, all students) as needed
- Review and post syllabi in advance of each term
- Maintain Student Documents Folder on Google Drive
- Create and manage Summer Schedule- post on Google Drive
- Create and manage Fall, Winter, Spring Schedule- post on Google Drive
- Maintain rolling two year DMin proposed schedule- post on Google Drive
- Create detailed DMin schedule Fall and Spring
- Assign professors to teach approved courses
- Manage professors’ work loads
- Submit requests for overload and supervision payments
- Create and circulate packets for faculty meetings
- Appoint Committees annually and ad hoc committees as needed
- Ex officio member of all Seminary committees
- Evaluate Transcripts for Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit
- Manage requests for Incompletes and Extensions
- Oversee updates/revisions of catalog and Faculty, Student Handbooks annually
- Write all documents for Accreditors: responses, petitions, etc.
- Represent ETS at ESDC, ATS meetings
- Chair Faculty Meetings in absence of President or Vice President
- Manage Assessment Calendar and Term Assessments (Summer, Fall, Spring)
- Adapt Academic Calendar for Seminary requirements
- Update degree worksheets annually and post on Google Drive
- Supervise Seminary Staff
- Submit annual ATS Report
- Update (annually) Educational Effectiveness Statement on web
- Produce Seminary-specific Academic Calendar based on College Academic Calendar
- Represent Erskine at Fall and Spring meetings of the Atlanta Theological Association
Second, I have tried to work with you as President, though clearly not to your satisfaction. I am sorry this did not turn out better. When I was informed you were becoming the next President of Erskine College and Theological Seminary, I said “I am stunned at the goodness of God. We have been blessed above and beyond anything I imagined possible.” (See ARPTalk 101). When you were called a liar at the 2015 Synod I took to the microphone to defend you (ironically you implied I was a liar on the floor of this year’s Synod when you disputed the budget numbers I quoted directly from the Erskine report, Index 34 and 34 Supplement). Over the last year I have supported Erskine by carrying a heavy teaching overload (150% of target load, 16 courses), have carried triple the usual DMin advising load, and have written six accreditation reports (of various sorts), all of which have been approved by SACS and ATS. I would point out that these efforts have not only been without compensation, but have gone largely unappreciated.
I have privately shared my opinions with you about your lack of connection with the seminary, your lack of leadership over the seminary, and the inequitable distribution of financial pain to the seminary’s detriment. Proverbs tells us faithful are the wounds of a friend. I have made suggestions to you that would help the seminary: to involve the leadership of the ARP Church in our strategic planning, to gain an online presence for our online MATS degree, to reconsider the 85/15 college and seminary shared costs ratio, and to increase advertising in the upstate.
Any public opposition to you has been in the course of my responsibilities as a faculty member engaged in collaborative, shared governance. That is part of the give and take of academic life and to take such disagreements personally is simply bad form. This performance evaluation has the smell of “payback” about it, but I will not pursue that. I do not know your heart and thankfully I do not have to. That is above my pay-grade. My differing with you at Synod was part of my responsibility as a presbyter, for I was not only the Acting Dean of Erskine Seminary, I remain a concerned member of Second Presbytery of the ARP Church.
Third, in the performance evaluation, you portray the issue as a personal problem between the two of us, as though the seminary faculty had not expressed itself clearly on several occasions. In reality, you do not have an Acting Dean problem; you have a seminary faculty problem. Now, your evaluation does sting. I have NEVER received such an evaluation, not in three decades of military service and, until now, not in two decades serving the seminary. But, I am much more concerned about how my colleagues view me than I am by your performance evaluation. I shared your evaluation with most of the faculty (I did not send it to the new Acting Dean; he does not need to be caught in the cross-fire, as I well know). Nearly all responded and I have cut and pasted their responses below (from the shortest to the longest). I also have included two unsolicited comments received mid-semester. No names are attached to these comments to maintain anonymity.
Faculty Member 1:
“RJ, I cannot believe this.”
Faculty Member 2:
“I am embarrassed for him. It is amazing to me that in the wide world out there he is thought of as a normal person.”
Faculty Member 3:
“Looks like Kooistra put a lot of work into that performance eval. Shoddy! Apparently his perception of one’s personal loyalty to himself is the only criterion for a performance eval. The narcissism is stunning.”
Faculty Member 4:
“I applaud you and your commitment to both the visible leadership and untiring efforts to secure the academic and administrative integrity of the Seminary. Your performance far exceeds most if not all of your colleagues. I want to personally thank you for your confidence and encouragement shown to me over the years.”
Faculty Member 5:
“His comments and evaluation are outrageous. They do not reflect any reality as it relates to your performance. Paul is simply striking out at you because you stood up to him and challenged him. He prefers to be surrounded by sycophants and toadies. Anyone who actually works at the seminary knows that you kept the seminary alive these past 18 months. When will Erskine employees get a chance to evaluate the performance of the President or any of his cronies? That would be very revealing. Keep the faith brother. Consider the source and move on.”
Faculty Member 6:
“I am embarrassed that such a report as this would come out on the stationery of our school! And over the signature of the President, no less! Frankly, it is petty and contradictory. Let me see, now, it says that you did a good job as Dean. It does not mention that on top of the Dean’s responsibilities (which I understand you took on voluntarily to help our school and hence, its President) and the overload you took in teaching, assisting Doctoral students with their research and dissertations, preparing for successive, successful accreditation evaluations, you also took something like a 35% salary and benefit cut. How in the world did you do all that and survive? . . . Now, the thanks you get for all your hard work and commitment is a terse, childish sounding note that basically says, ‘You were a good Dean and you worked a lot of extra hours but you didn’t show me enough that you support me.’ Isn’t that a contradictory conclusion for a report like this! Narcissism taken to a new extreme, I’d say!
Is it any wonder that after the college faculty passed a resolution of no confidence in this President (they read him early!), he went on a course of destruction with our seminary. He basically frittered away the collateral that was handed to him by the faculty when he arrived on campus just two years ago. He overlooks the leadership you provided by encouraging faculty to take a salary and benefit cut to save some jobs. No! His only ‘solution’ has been to fire people, disregard their dedication to the school, and criticize them in a number of places. Is that ‘Leadership’? Under whose theory of leadership does that fall? . . . Well, I’m embarrassed and I am sorry beyond words that you are the latest target of one of his senseless tirades. God bless you. You have demonstrated unequalled commitment to Erskine and I am sorry for this abusive behavior of a good and faithful servant of the ARP church and the school.”
Faculty Member 7:
I am so troubled by this evaluation, which sadly can be read in less than a minute.
I am troubled by what was unsaid in speaking about a man whom I respect immeasurably and who has served sacrificially:
- No words of thanks or gratitude for this man in serving unswervingly faithfully, effectively and wisely as our Acting Dean (unpaid).
- No thanks for being a key person in holding this faculty together and faithfully serving together in the present and wisely preparing for the near future- even more so after the departure of [seminary Vice President] Chris Wisdom.
- Stunningly, no thanks for his major role as a key figure in preparing six lengthy reports in a mere 21 months to our two accrediting bodies that were crucial components in Erskine’s successfully coming out of probationary status with SACS, avoiding the Seminary then going into probationary status with ATS when they learned about our SACS probationary status, and winning us the new online MATS program.
I am also troubled by what was said and assumed in the evaluation. In an extremely difficult and crucial time period for the Seminary it is apparently now a high crime to do the following things:
- To speak respectfully and truthfully behind closed doors in Seminary Faculty meetings with the President, or in private meetings with him.
- To respond faithfully and speak truthfully as Acting Dean when requested to do so by the Seminary Committee of the Board, providing them with crucial information, which is one of his responsibilities.
- And finally, as an ordained Gospel minister, a member of Presbytery, a faculty member of the Seminary and the Acting Dean of the Seminary (which is an agency of the ARP church), speaking faithfully and truthfully at Synod when matters crucial to the existence of the Seminary are at stake.
- It is also, last of all, deeply troubling and profoundly disillusioning that all these things are happening at a Christian institution.
EARLIER COMMENTS (unsolicited remarks received in Spring semester 2016)
Faculty Member 8:
“I will be using the example of Dr. R.J. Gore, the Dean of Erskine Theological Seminary, as I have observed him acting as a collaborative leader, working across the lines of the organization in an institution of higher education and a Christian denomination, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, to lead an effort at revitalization of a college and seminary. His work on this particular project, also, traversed the boundaries of a national accreditation agency.
Model the Way
First of all, I observed that Dr. Gore modeled the way through his spiritual life. While the institution was going through this he continued to model his own walk with God. He, also, modeled a professionalism by maintain a strong work ethic. He accomplished much in the classroom and in research and writing even as he embraced this added role. He often came to the faculty meetings with prayer requests for his family and, particularly, his grandson. This showed a vulnerability, that allowed the faculty to support and encourage him. In all of these ways, we also wanted to follow him into the difficult tasks of accreditation, in addition to our ordinary work as faculty.
Inspire a Shared Vision
Dr. Gore inspired a shared vision as he listened to our dreams and our visions. He listened to students’ dreams, their concerns, and he listened to the board members as well as the members of the denomination who sponsored this college and seminary since 1839. This act of listening inspired us. As he presented the vision of the seminary to the accreditors he even talked about ‘the vision of the community,’ not his vision.
Challenge the Process
He shined in this area. He is not a rebel. Yet, in meetings when assumptions were made, he politely interrupted, ‘Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question?’ Everyone eventually knew that the next thing to come would be, ‘I see where the data says …’ This quiet, careful challenging eventually caused a climate of necessary accountability in the community at the very time when it mattered most, as accreditation was on the line.
Enable Others to Act
Dr. Gore empowered others throughout the process. At faculty meetings as well as at cross-level meetings, with members of the staff and members of the community, he led by encouraging groups comprised of broad, diverse membership so that many voices could be heard. Through this he also ‘took risks’ on young leaders to step out. He seemed to see the process of accreditation as a unique opportunity for growth in others.”
Encourage the Heart
There is no doubt that Dr. Gore showed just how much he loved the students, the faculty, and the greater community of the college and seminary through it all. Anyone who went through this time came away with a greater appreciation for his heart for others. He is a servant-leader. This, in turn, created a climate of encouragement.
The seminary passed its accreditation last week. There is a sense of rejoicing for this small, historic seminary in South Carolina. Yet, the greater, longer-lasting impact will be the lives touched in the journey to that milestone.
Faculty Member 9:
“There are no doubt a few others to whom thanks are due for this good report from ATS, but I am quite sure no one put in more blood, sweat, and tears in it than you. The institution as a whole — students, faculty, and staff — along with the ARP denomination, and many other denominations as well, owe to you a great debt of thanks — far more than will ever be expressed or noted in this world, but which is not forgotten above. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
In light of the irregularity of your evaluation, the fact that I was not officially appointed, and the positive evaluations offered by my colleagues, I would ask that you rescind your evaluation. I would further invite you to petition the board to evaluate your performance as President. In the past such evaluations have been done online and have included faculty, staff, and board input.
Finally, a copy of your performance evaluation of me and my response will be forwarded to Dr. Belle Wheelan, President, SACSCOC, and to Dr. Debbie Creamer, Director, Accreditation and Institutional Evaluation, ATS.
R. J. Gore Jr., D.Min., Ph.D.
Professor of Systematic Theology and Ministry
Filed Under: Newsletter