Monday, November 13, 2006

"Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence." Leonardo da Vinci

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men [or good women] do nothing."
Winston Churchill.


I began teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary in 2000, the first woman full-time professor in the school's 125 year history. With no warning I was given a terminal appointment in 2003 (by a new administration). My immediate reaction was to open all the evidence to the Board and Faculty and have my case reviewed. The administration insisted on "sealing the environment." They demanded "confidentiality"--claiming that they could not speak about the issues in order to "preserve [my] dignity."

What an outrage. After pressing the issue for more than 2 years I finally got a review from both a board committee and mediators. Both called for "redress" for me--the mediators calling for "reatroactive pay to 2003" among other things.

The CTS administration ignored the appeal for "redress" and buried the reports. It insisted that the matter of "my becoming a full professor 'is on the table.'"

But this "on the table" offer also included a silencing clause.

What is a Silencing Clause? It is an agreement that demands silence--meaning that neither party can ever speak of the matter again. The clause they offerred sounds altogether fair because both sides would be silenced. But the CTS administration wanted silence (i.e., a cover-up) because it has so much to hide. I was the one who wanted documents opened up from the beginning. Here is the statement:

"In order to move forward with these plans, the parties agree to not talk about events that occurred before October 19, 2005, since a breach of this provision will greatly harm efforts at reconciliation and restoration."

Why did the administration want me silenced? See: My Calvin Seminary Story.

Dismissal as an Academic Boomerang

'...Attacks sometimes recoil against the attacker, a process that can be called the boomerang effect... Attacks can boomerang when they are perceived as unjust by participants and observers... The dismissal of an academic can be interpreted as an attack on the academic or on academic freedom, and thus can potentially boomerang...

For getting rid of an academic without repercussions, the cover-up is a powerful tool. If few people know about the reasons, the processes and the outcome, then the potential for generating outrage is minimal. Many academics cooperate in a cover-up because they are ashamed by the criticisms of their performance and because they are not accustomed to seeking publicity. Indeed, most academics avoid public engagement, much less publicity, seeking recognition only among peers through scholarly publications and conferences. This means that if discreet efforts are made to get rid of them, many are inclined to go quietly. For them, going public is not dignified. Scholarly self-image can get in the way of the quest for justice or even for survival.

In some cases when academics sue for wrongful dismissal, they reach a settlement with the university that includes a payment to them only upon acceptance of a silencing clause, namely a settlement condition that restricts future public comment about the case. Silencing clauses are potent means for cover-up...'

From: The Richardson dismissal as an academic boomerang

Church Demands Silence Over Abuse

By Kelly Burke, Religious Affairs Writer
December 21 2002

Six months after the Catholic Church was exposed for including gagging orders in its compensation agreements, victims of sex abuse are still fighting to have the silencing clauses removed.

A Lismore woman awarded compensation after suffering abuse by a nun in a Grafton religious order says the church has yet to fully lift the confidentiality clause on her deed of release, despite public assurances in June that silencing clauses were the result of innocent error.

The scandal erupted after Sydney's archbishop, George Pell, said in a television interview that compensation paid to victims of clergy sex abuse was not hush money.

The Lismore woman has since received a new deed of release, but instead of the diocese removing the confidentiality clause, it has simply been reworded.

The document states she must not reveal the details of her case, including which diocese the abuse took place and which
religious order perpetrated it.

Sandy Caut, who was sexually abused by an Adelaide order of Catholic nuns, has fought the church to release her from extensive confidentiality clauses which demand she "not publish or cause to be published any article, correspondence, book or any writing or make any oral statement or engage in any electronic transmission of information" relating to the abuse. But after three redrafts of the deed, at Ms Caut's insistence, the silencing clause
remained intact.

"In the end, I just crossed it out, signed the thing and sent it back," she said. "The promises made at my mediation have not been followed up and they just leave you sitting in pain. This is not Christlike. To me it is cowardly and just as abusive as the original abuse."

Since December 2000 the church's sex abuse protocol, Towards Healing, has expressly banned clauses in compensation documents which prevent victims from talking publicly about their abuse.

Sister Angela Ryan, national executive of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference's professional standards committee, said confidentiality requirements such as those imposed on the Lismore woman did not amount to silencing clauses.

"She has been given the freedom to talk about what happened, as long as she doesn't reveal where the abuse took place and by who."

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, said Ms Caut's defaced deed of release was accepted last February. But it was church lawyers, not church leaders, he said, who were still having difficulties accepting that confidentiality clauses were not to be included in deeds of release.

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