ARPTalk 134 – The Fix Is In!

 

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There is now no doubt who Ron Vigus is. He was elected to be the Chairman of the Erskine Board of Trustees; however, he has abused his authority by disrespecting members of the board. He fails to understand (or, perhaps, does not care to understand) he is the Chairman of the Board. Instead of Chairman, Vigus has taken on the mantle of “Kooistra’s protector” — or, perhaps, “Kooistra’s enabler.” The above photograph is a perfect metaphor for Vigus. Kooistra’s hand is on Vigus’ shoulder as he hangs on for life. Interestingly, a non-ARP hangs on to a non-ARP for control of the educational agency of the ARP Church.

ONE: Vigus Fractures Board!

On June 15, according to the bylaws of the Erskine board, three members of the board petitioned Chairman Ron Vigus for a  “special” meeting of the board in order to hear what would have been a motion of “no confidence” in the leadership of Erskine President Paul Kooistra.

fingers-in-earsIn defiance of the bylaws and in a shameful show of disrespect for board members, Chairman Vigus, acting like a petulant child with his finger in his ears, refused to acknowledge the legitimate petition of three of his board members. Vigus complained he was on vacation and indisposed; however, he refused to allow the Vice Chairman to act in his behalf and call the “special” meeting and chair the “special” meeting if Vigus were unable to attend. Dictatorially, Vigus refused to allow a “special” meeting he could not chair. Nevertheless, as I understand it, Vigus returned from vacation in time to meet the 10 days required for the meeting.

Specifically, if the meeting had been called, the meeting would have involved the members of the board as constituted before July 1 — that is, the 2015/16 board. This is the board which constituted the May meeting of the board, and a meeting would have allowed the 2015/16 board to deal with matters involving President Kooistra arising from the June meeting of the General Synod. Specifically, matters involving Kooistra’s leadership, athletics at Erskine, and separation of the seminary and college.

And why would members of the board be upset with Kooistra? Well, could it be they felted “played” and lied to by him? At the board meeting, the rumor was Kooistra was going to resign after the board meeting and a motion asking him to resign was not needed — and Kooistra fed the rumor. At Synod, the rumor was Kooistra was going to resign after the meeting of Synod and a motion of “no confidence” by Synod was not needed — and Kooistra and others close to him fed the rumor.

As noted, Vigus refused to call a meeting of the board before July 1; however, he did notify members of the board of a called meeting after July 4. This was a calculated, political move; Vigus knew he could not call a meeting of a board which no longer existed. When Vigus called for the meeting, the three petitioners (as they protested Vigus’ actions) withdrew their call for the meeting, noting (1) such a meeting could not be called legally, (2) only a meeting of the board as constituted after July 1 could be called, and (3) this would put an unnecessary hardship on the new members of the board who have yet to receive board orientation training.

splaininAt this point, unity on the board is shattered by Vigus. The three members of the board who  petitioned Vigus for the meeting of the board did not rotate off the board and continue as members of the board — and, obviously, they are not pleased with the Chairman. Vigus ignores the following: (1) a significant portion of the board has no confidence in President Kooistra’s leadership; (2) a significant portion of the board does not trust Kooistra to tell the truth; (3) a significant portion of the board is offended by Kooistra’s attitude toward the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church; (4) a significant portion of the board does not trust Kooistra’s judgment regard financial matters — specifically, this means CFO Greg Haselden is not trusted; (5) a significant portion of the board does not believe Kooistra is able to provide capable leadership to Erskine Seminary and does not have the welfare of the seminary at heart; and, (6) now, a significant portion of the board does not believe Vigus is capable of leading the board. Like Lucy in the old Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, Vigus has “some splainin to do” to members of the Erskine board in August.

Do you think the fix is in?

TWO: Evaluation of President Kooistra

In the midst of a petition for a “special” meeting of the board and Vigus’ undermining and roadblocking of the call for a “special” meeting of the board, Vigus sent out a form for a board evaluation of President Kooistra. Two questions arose: “Why are faculty and staff not included in the evaluation, and why is anonymity not guaranteed in the evaluation?” The only ones involved in the evaluation are the members of the 2015/16 board, anonymity was not provided, and Vigus was the sole guarantee of the accuracy and authenticity of the audit.

The issue also involves SACS. One of the major reasons Erskine was placed of probation by SACS was failure to do evaluations properly. Last year, the board did its annual evaluation of Kooistra. However, a comprehensive evaluation involving board members, faculty, and staff has not yet been conducted — and faculty and staff are the people who actually work with and for Kooistra. They are the people who know the “real” Kooistra.

At this point, even an evaluation by the members of the 2015/16 board will not be a pretty sight. It will reveal the following: (1) a significant portion of the board wants Kooistra to resign; and (2) the board is terribly divided. The bottom line is this: with a board, faculty, and staff badly divided, Kooistra does not have a mandate to lead.

In the face of regulations and advice by staff at SACS’s headquarter in Atlanta and directives from Erskine’s own standards regarding Presidential evaluations, Vigus refused to authorize a comprehensive evaluation of Kooistra.

Here are the realities of Due West: (1) apart from the athletic faculty and Kooistra’s Leadership Team, Kooistra is not well thought of at the college; and, (2) at the seminary, most of the faculty view him with a complete lack of trust and respect.

Two members of the Executive Committee called for a meeting of the Executive Committee in order to make a motion to add the faculty and staff in the evaluation of Kooistra and to secure anonymity in the evaluation.

Presently, the Executive Committee is made up of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, secretary and the two members of the board who chair the board’s committees. The problem: at the May meeting of the board, Vigus did not name a chairman for the Seminary Committee. The chairman of the Seminary Committee on the 2015/16 Seminary Committee was Rev. Peter Waid (ARP). Since no one was named chairman, did Waid continue as the chairman?

Vigus asked the Vice Chairman what to do. The Vice Chairman answered: (1) he could rule Waid was the chairman of the Seminary Committee until he was re-appointed or someone  else was appointed in August; or (2) he could rule the Seminary Committee was without a chairman. Vigus ruled the Seminary Committee was without a chairman.

betterWith a high-and-mighty attitude of “I-am-better-than-you” and with no investment in Erskine or the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vigus treated Waid with naked contempt. Without a by-your-leave, Vigus summarily dismissed an Erskine Seminary alum, a seminary advocate who is willing to speak truth to Kooistra (and to Vigus as well), a senior member of the board who actually supported Kooistra for the presidency, and a highly respected senior minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in order to get a political advantage. From that point on, all votes ended in a 2 to 2 tie with Vigus’ votes breaking the ties. Therefore, an evaluation of Kooistra will be done; however, the evaluation will not include faculty and staff and will not guarantee anonymity.

As noted above, Chairman Vigus who cannot be inconvenienced while on vacation disrespected Peter Waid with relish. At the time, Waid was on a mission trip. At the time, Waid had to work hard and be inconvenienced in order to participate in the phone conference. He had to drive out of the mountains where he was in order to get phone reception — and was willing to drive to Due West for a face-to-face meeting if the need arose. Indeed, the cartoon caption of “I think I am better than you are” is an apt description of Vigus!

One good thing did come out of the meeting: Vigus no longer has sole control of the results of the evaluation. Oversight of the results of the evaluation survey was given to the board’s secretary, Rev. Andrew Savill (ARP). Savill is a good and honorable man who can be trusted.

A surprising thing also came out of the meeting. Kooistra did not ask for a comprehensive Presidential evaluation. I wonder, “Why did he not ask for an evaluation?” He knows a comprehensive evaluation is needed in order to satisfy SACS. As in the case of RJ Gore, he has no trouble giving a volunteer an evaluation. Does he not hear members of the faculty who are asking for a Presidential Evaluation? Did he not hear Gore’s request for a comprehensive Presidential Evaluation? Is Kooistra afraid of a Presidential Evaluation? He is doing such a good job as president, why would he fear a comprehensive evaluation?

Well, do you think the fix is in?

THREE: What is Kooistra presently doing for the seminary?

During and after the General Assembly of the PCA, a number of PCA minister friends called and asked, “Is it true the assets of Erskine Seminary and the seminary faculty in Due West are to be disbursed to Columbia and Augusta?” My response, “That’s interesting! It makes sense, but I don’t know how Kooistra would do it!”

Well, we may be seeing how Kooistra does it!

Kooistra could not find money to pay RJ Gore for 21 months of work he did as Acting Dean of Erskine Seminary. However, Kooistra has found money to pay a salary to the new Acting Dean of Erskine Seminary whose office is in Columbia.

Kooistra could not find money to continue Dale Johnson as the seminary’s only legitimate Church History professor in Due West or any of the extensions. However, he found the resources to promote two adjunct professors in Columbia to full-time. He also found the resources to petition ATS and SACS for a ThM program in Columbia. Praise the Lord, it’s a miracle! Like manna, money is suddenly falling out of the sky!

Is there a fix in? Is there a plan to completely overhaul the seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church? And, if there is, who gave Kooistra permission to do this?

FOUR: What’s wrong with Kooistra?

What is wrong with Kooistra? Why does he lie?

At the board meeting last February, Kooistra stated he often visited with the seminary faculty in Due West in order to find out their needs. Well, I cannot find any faculty members who acknowledge a sit-down meeting with Kooistra in their Bowie offices. As a matter of fact, I know someone who invited Kooistra to go over to the seminary with him and sit down and talk over differences with the faculty members, and Kooistra refused to do it. Indeed, Kooistra said the members of the seminary faculty offended him, and he is not going to sit down with them.

This sounds like he lies!

It is reported that at a meeting of the seminary committee of the board Kooistra presented seminary budget spreadsheets for the next three years. One of the explanatory notes stated the budget “assumed” three fewer faculty members for 2016/2017. When asked how the seminary faculty, already reduced by one third, could function if three more faculty were lost to further cuts, he replied by saying, “This is just what we are telling ATS. This doesn’t mean we are committed to doing this.” Well, does that sound like Kooistra and company were attempting to deceive ATS?

This sounds like he lies!

At General Synod, when Kooistra disputed the financial figures given by RJ Gore, he said he did not know where Gore got his numbers, and then he stated the actual budget for the college was $17 million and not $29 million. Well, the financial numbers Gore used came from the OFFICIAL Erskine Report to General Synod. The $29 million was what the report stated. Well, did he lie in the report, or did he lie in the debate with Gore, hoping no one would notice?

Whatever, this sounds like he lies!

On Gore’s evaluation (as can be seen in the last issue of ARPTalk), Kooistra attempted to misrepresent Gore’s performance. I think Gore should ask the Minister and His Work Committee of Second Presbytery to investigate this matter. Either Gore is an incompetent or Kooistra lies in an attempt to smear Gore.

This sounds like Kooistra lies!

At General Synod, Kooistra stated he gave back to Erskine “most” of his salary. Well, that is easy to find out. Kooistra’s salary is about $150,000. In the most recent KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for the Annual Fund, the total giving for seven donors of the ten members of the Leadership Team was less than $25,000. Well, if Kooistra’s giving equals the total $25,000 of the Leadership Team, it does not equal an amount that is “most” of Kooistra’s salary of $150,000.

This sounds like Kooistra lies! This is also a dumb and unnecessary lie. No one particularly cares what he gives. What he did at Synod is a self-serving ploy begging for pity.

What is wrong with Kooistra? Why does he behave in the manner he does? Does he have a personality disorder?

See the following from the DSM-IV and DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) regarding Antisocial Personality Disorder (begin on page 2) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (begin on page 9) (http://www.arptalk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/dsm.pdf). Much of this seems to fit. Does Kooistra need to visit a mental health professional? In the light of many of Kooistra’s recent actions, this is a fair question to ask.

FINAL WORDS

Well, the fix is on in Due West. Vigus and company are attempting to protect Kooistra. From where I sit, they are attempting to enable a man who exhibits serious personality flaws. From where I sit, instead of acting in a manner demonstrating fiduciary responsibility, Vigus and company are acting in a manner harmful to Erskine.

Long ago, Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In our case, this needs to be changed a bit: “The only thing necessary for the demise of Erskine is for the sane members of the board to do nothing.” I wonder, do the members of the board have the courage to replace both Kooistra and Vigus?

These are my thoughts,

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Charles W. Wilson

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