It is with great sorrow that we come together today with the departure of our president and dear friend, Fr. Julio Giulietti, S.J. We have all come here to seek the truth, and to know and understand what has happened within the university walls and what has become of the reputation of WJU. In this light, please invite anyone to read the blog and feel free to comment as you wish.

Any posts with profanity are not welcome, otherwise, please speak your mind. You are a part of this university and we want to hear your voice!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Response to Fr. Currie

The original article in Connections by Rev. Charles L. Currie, S.J., President AJCU can be found HERE.

 Dear Fr. Currie.

 As I read your September letter in Connections this morning I was pleased to notice the following:

"A Jesuit college or university must model concern for justice in its institutional practices.  It must mirror a life of just relationships with students, faculty and staff, and in its outreach."

I think you are absolutely correct.

Your mention of Fr. Howard Grey and his opinion that "In institutions, students will form memories of who they should be."  clearly speaks to the heart of the current difficulties at Wheeling Jesuit.  I have no doubt that Fr. Grey would agree that until justice is provided for Fr. Julio Giulietti, our students will form faulty memories of who they should be.

You have characterized the people responsible for his firing as "good people".  That may be true, but sometimes good people do bad things.  This is one of those times.  Until Fr. Julio's good name and reputation are restored, the university will only mirror injustice with its entire community.  That our students might perceive this as right and just should be a concern for all of us.

WJU alumni understand that it is within the power of the Maryland Province to restore justice and integrity to the university. We understand that it could be accomplished quickly.  That is what needs to happen. 

Providing a solution to the WJU problem requires courage, discipline and honorable intent.  Isn't that what the pursuit of magis is about?

My best,
Judy Geary

Sunday, September 13, 2009

$5,000 accusation against Fr. Giulietti, explained

The University Administration, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees continue to state that they "cannot tell us why Fr. Giulietti was fired due to confindentiality and privacy laws proctecting Fr. Giulietti".  The attached lettter from Fr. Giulietti's lawyer responding to one of the contrived accusations against Fr. Giulietti is now a document of common knowledge. Is this one of the "OFFICIAL" reasons for his firing that they cannot make public?

Click images for a larger view.

Turmoil at the Top at Jesuit University - National Catholic Reporter

Ex-president will not fight ouster, but some board members protest

September 1, 2009

Jesuit Fr. Julio Giulietti is accepting his controversial dismissal as president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, but one former board member is calling for an investigation into whether the local bishop was behind the ouster. Other board members are protesting that the university’s bylaws were flouted during the process.

On Aug. 5, the Wheeling Jesuit University board of trustees, a group comprised of four Jesuits, fired Giulietti hours after the larger board of directors fell two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to dismiss him.

Before becoming president at Wheeling two years ago, Giulietti was director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Boston College and director of Georgetown University’s Center for Intercultural Education and Development in Washington. Officials of Wheeling Jesuit, which has just over 1,000 undergrads, say a search for a permanent replacement will begin soon.

The trustees released no specific information as to why Giulietti’s contract was terminated, although university staff and some board members speculated that his management style, especially his decisions to replace several administrators, and a drop in the university endowment were two likely reasons.

Those opposed to the firing appealed to the Maryland Province, which includes West Virginia’s only Catholic university, to overturn the decision. That will not happen, according to a province release, which stated: “Maryland Provincial James Shea supports the action of the Wheeling board of trustees and the university’s efforts to move forward in a positive manner.”

Giulietti says he will not seek legal recourse to get his job back. “I don’t feel it is right for me to go back to Wheeling while the same members are on the board,” he said. “It wouldn’t be constructive for the university.”

Talk of a lawsuit has simmered down. Board member Rudolph DiTrapano, a lawyer who practices in Charleston, W.Va., said he considered legal action but after looking over the situation, he determined that remedy in the courts seems unlikely.

“The Jesuit order is not exactly a democracy,” DiTrapano said. “It doesn’t appear there’s much recourse here.”

Not everyone is so resolved.

Former board of directors member Lynda Wolford, a retired CPA and senior administrator in higher education, said she was informed by a source close to Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael J. Bransfield that he told certain board members, “You know you will need to fire Julio.” Wolford said she is keeping the name of her source secret, in case the issue does become a legal matter. She stressed she did not know Bransfield personally.

Bransfield denied Wolford’s charge in a statement to NCR.

“I have never communicated my opinion or my evaluation of Fr. Julio Giulietti to the board or staff of Wheeling Jesuit University,” Bransfield wrote. “In fact, I have deliberately kept the office of the bishop out of any discussion regarding leadership at Wheeling Jesuit. Any board member who said that I pressured the board has never spoken to me concerning this matter.”

The diocese and university have no direct financial or fiduciary ties. However, the chief financial officer of the diocese, William G. Fisher, currently chairs the board of directors. Fisher declined to comment, referring all university communication to Acting President Davitt McAteer.

Wolford, who resigned from the board of directors in protest of the Aug. 5 firing, would like to see the issue probed.

“Anyone who was terminated the way Julio was, the reasons should be exposed,” she said.

Giulietti would not comment on the allegations of the bishop’s involvement or their relationship. A spokesman for the bishop said he had no knowledge of the relationship between Giulietti and Bransfield.

Board of directors member Dr. Donald Hofreuter, who has a 48-year relationship with the institution, says the meeting was called too soon. He said an evaluation of the president was underway, but did not include comments from faculty, students, staff or alumni.

“I thought we should allow the whole process of evaluation to take place,” Hofreuter said, “since we had requested a full review of his job performance.”

According to the university bylaws, a president can be fired by a two-thirds vote from the board of directors, followed a by a majority vote of the board of trustees. DiTrapano told NCR that the directors’ meeting included no discussion, simply a motion to dismiss Giulietti, which fell approximately two votes shy, with one abstaining.

“That was it,” said DiTrapano, who plans to resign from the board as well as stop contributing to the university. “As far as I was concerned Julio was still president.”

Local news agencies received a press release from the trustees the next day, saying Giulietti had left the university.

Jesuit Fr. Edward Glynn, one of the four trustees, was not aware of the second meeting and, according to an e-mail he sent to a fellow trustee, Jesuit Fr. Gerard Stockhausen, he was surprised by the decision. “Since the directors did not act,” Glynn wrote Stockhausen, “there was no reason for the special meeting of the trustees.”

Glynn, who did not return requests for an interview, had telephoned into the directors’ meeting from Pennsylvania. Stockhausen referred all questions to the university.

Acting President McAteer could not speak to the votes taken by either boards, but did comment from his own point of view on why Giulietti would have been dismissed.

“The experience base that he brought to the table as a spiritual director is not the experience base needed to operate the multiple facets of a small, but substantial-sized university,” McAteer said.

Not so, says Giulietti.

“That is a very common criticism that people make about a president,” Giulietti said. “But what you do as president is bring in very talented people whose life work is related to specific needs of the university. I am a leader that helps move an institution forward with a vision of where it can go in the world. That’s my skill. That’s how you attract people to the university. As far as finances, I’m not a CFO.”

Giulietti pointed out that he inherited a $35 million debt and a relatively small endowment of $19 million, which dropped to $11 million during the global financial crisis.

“That’s not my fault,” he said. “That’s the world’s fault.”

Giulietti was also criticized for reassigning or asking for resignations from key administrators early in his tenure.

“He fired some administrators that were close to board members,” one staff member said on the condition of anonymity. “That was not forgotten.”

Giulietti said the reorganization saved nearly a half-million dollars per year. He also pointed out the chief financial officer and dean of academics he hired both became well liked and effective administrators.

Hofreuter and Wolford listed several improvements under Giulietti, including greater recruiting efforts, a successful reaccreditation process, better relations with alumni, expansion of overseas opportunities for students, and improved faculty relations with administration.

“He was making progress,” Wolford said, “but it takes at least two years for those improvements to show. The bottom line is there was an urgency to terminate his contract before the benefits of his work began to appear.”

McAteer says the main issue for Wheeling right now is a smooth transition into the next school year.

“Nothing is going to change at all in the classroom,” McAteer said. “We are going to be ready when students begin to arrive at the end of the month.”

One staff member who spoke with NCR on the condition of anonymity said that Wheeling is a strong institution academically, but worried about the turmoil at the top. The university has had eight presidents in its 55-year history, but will now be hiring its fourth this decade. (One president resigned due to a life-threatening illness.)

Wolford echoed that staffer’s concern. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that the institution will be able to survive with this kind of leadership model,” she said.

The staff member was not as hopeless about the future, simply stating, “I just wish everything weren’t so secretive.”

Michael Humphrey, a regular contributor to NCR, lives in New York.

- as published in National Catholic Reporter

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dampened Spirit - Inside Higher Ed

September 8, 2009

One board member called it “dirty business.”

Last month’s controversial firing of Wheeling Jesuit University’s president had many twists and turns, pitting two governing boards against each other and spurring allegations that an area bishop played a role in the president’s ouster. While the Rev. Julio Giulietti was beloved by many, it was no secret that the Wheeling president had his detractors from the moment he took office two years ago. In the end, even Giulietti’s ardent supporters proved powerless to save him.

Giulietti was fired August 5, and his dismissal was the orchestrated work of a group of board members who -- amid the protest of some of their counterparts -- helped set in motion a vote that would prove Giulietti’s undoing, members of the Board of Directors said in interviews and now-public e-mails.

William Fisher, chair of the Board of Directors, encountered significant pushback as he moved toward a dismissal vote for the president. Among those who objected was Rudolph DiTrapano, a Charleston, W.V., lawyer and member of the board.

“I thought that [vote to remove him] was bizarre because we had no evidence of misconduct or incompetence,” says DiTrapano, who now intends to resign from the board. “Everything I knew, the man spoke five languages and was working day and night for the university. The vote was just baffling.”

Fisher, however, made clear that he wouldn’t be challenged. In a July 16 e-mail to the Rev. Edward Glynn, who holds dual membership on the university’s Boards of Directors and Trustees -- more on the role of the two boards below -- Fisher said the vote would go forward with or without the skeptics’ acquiescence.

“I exercise my right as Board [of Directors] chair to call the meeting. A majority of the board has told me they want one,” he wrote in an e-mail, now posted on a Web site dedicated to the case. “If you feel strongly it is a waste of time, you may ask to be excused.”

Fisher went forward with the August 5 vote at a time when Father Giulietti was on vacation and Father Glynn was attending his brother’s funeral in Pennsylvania, some 350 miles away from Wheeling. As such, Father Giulietti was unable to defend himself and Father Glynn, his lone likely supporter among the trustees, was unable to vote.

Inside Higher Ed requested an interview with Fisher through Wheeling’s communications office, but he was not made available.

When the vote came before the university’s Board of Directors, it narrowly failed to produce the two-thirds majority required to oust Father Giulietti, two board members told Inside Higher Ed. That result prompted a second vote the same day by the university’s Board of Trustees, which approved the measure. Some directors still question whether the trustees had authority to overrule them, and the university did not respond to a request for bylaws articulating the powers of the two boards.

“[Giulietti] survived the Board of Directors, then to add insult to injury some Board of Trustees I’d never heard of, three out of five show up, and overrule us,” DiTrapano said.

“I have not heard of any activity that the Board of Trustees embarked on [before this vote],” he adds. “It’s just bizarre that we were required to vote if our vote was meaningless.”

Throughout the process, DiTrapano said there was no discussion about the reasons for firing Giulietti, and the director was perplexed that a vote would go forward before a comprehensive evaluation with student and faculty input -- due this fall -- was completed. The perceived rush to judgment has led to speculation that the local Roman Catholic bishop, the Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, a longtime donor with no jurisdiction over the university, pushed for the ouster. A spokesman for the diocese denied the bishop’s involvement, but DiTrapano and another board member have heard otherwise.

“I believe that this termination was directly ordered by the diocese,” said Lynda Wolford, a director who resigned over the issue.

Wolford said she was told by someone “close to the diocese” that the bishop ordered the termination, but she would not elaborate on the source.

While Bishop Bransfield has no official role at the university, his connections to the institution extend beyond his patronage. Wheeling Jesuit is a desirable postsecondary option for students who attend area schools run by the Catholic diocese. Furthermore, Fisher, the Board of Directors chair who initiated the vote, works for the bishop as the diocese’s financial officer. Bryan Minor, a spokesman for the bishop, said any discussions that Fisher and Bishop Bransfield may have had about Wheeling Jesuit’s president were “merely coincidental.”

“He said to me specifically, ‘I have kept the office of the bishop out of the leadership discussions surrounding Wheeling Jesuit University,’ ” Minor said. “Bishop Bransfield wishes the best for Father Giulietti as he moves forward, and Bishop Bransfield wishes continued success for the university.”

If the bishop was indeed hands-off in his approach to the university, he was also quick to chime in after Giulietti’s firing. A news release announcing the “change of leadership” at Wheeling quoted the bishop, even though he has no official position within the university or authority in the matter. In an e-mail to Fisher, Glynn noted with some sarcasm the bishop’s contribution to the release.

“It is more than quite humorous that apparently the public spokespersons for the University in these matters is now not the Chair of the Board of Directors nor the Chair of the Board of Trustees, but the Bishop and the University legal counsel, neither of whom are members of Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees,” he wrote. “Yippee!"

The bishop emerged as a spokesman yet again to announce the appointment of the acting president, David McAteer, and then presided over a mass to mark “the current transition of leadership.”

Minor said the bishop agreed to the mass because he and McAteer had forged a friendship after the 2006 Sago mine disaster. McAteer, former assistant secretary for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, was directing an independent investigative panel examining the tragedy at the time, and Bishop Bransfield was providing spiritual support to the community.

The Rev. Charles L. Currie, a former president of Wheeling who maintains ties to the institution, said he believes Giulietti’s firing had more to do with a lack of chemistry between the president and some board members than any potential influence of the bishop.

“I’ve heard some of that same thing [about the bishop ordering this], and I can’t speak for the bishop, obviously. I don’t have any evidence that there was untoward influence,” said Father Currie, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges. “I think it’s fairly obvious that the bishop and Father Giulietti didn’t have a great relationship, but I don’t know anything beyond that.”

It is clear Father Giulietti may have gotten off on the wrong foot with some directors, because the board was split on whether to hire him from the beginning. Some directors favored James Birge, who had served as interim president.

Birge, who is now president of Franklin Pierce College, in New Hampshire, could not be hired under the bylaws at the time, however, because he was a layman. The bylaws have since been changed to allow non-clergy members to be president.

Trustee’s Past Includes Harassment Allegations

The power struggle that unfolded at Wheeling Jesuit was in part a product of its somewhat unusual governance structure. Of the 28 Jesuit colleges in the United States, Wheeling is among only four that has two separate boards. The Board of Directors, made up mostly of lay people, numbers about 20 and handles most of the university-level decisions. The Board of Trustees, which is made up of Jesuits, typically delegates its authority to the directors -- but can intervene in certain circumstances like the dismissal of a president, according to Currie.

The question of whether the trustees in fact had the authority to overrule the directors at Wheeling may be moot in Giulietti’s case. He was ultimately asked by the Rev. James M. Shae, one of two provincials to whom he reports within the religious order, to step down, Currie said.

“Even if there was confusion with respect to the boards, once a provincial asks a Jesuit to leave an institution, that trumps everything else,” he said.

The three voting trustees were the Rev. Brian O’Donnell, the Jesuit community rector for Wheeling; the Rev. Gerard Stockhausen, president of the University of Detroit Mercy; and the Rev. Thomas F. Gleeson, a former president of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., who was named as a defendant in a highly publicized sexual harassment suit filed by a former male student in Berkeley. The suit, which alleged Gleeson had asked to masturbate with the young seminary student, settled out of court in 2000 with no admission of wrongdoing, but it continues to haunt named defendants seeking positions of authority in higher education.

University officials did not respond to requests for comment on the past allegations made against Gleeson, but Currie stressed that the allegations were “never substantiated.”

“Since and before the case in question, Father Gleeson has held important positions of responsibility and brings to his role as a trustee many years of experience in higher education, including previous experience as a trustee at Wheeling,” Currie wrote in an e-mail. “I don’t think unproven allegations should stand in the way of his service.”

Father Giulietti and Father Glynn, the two remaining trustees, were absent from the special meeting to oust the president. Without access to the board’s bylaws, it’s unclear whether Father Giulietti would have had a vote concerning his own removal. However, Father Glynn made clear in an e-mail to Fisher that he felt the board was on “shaky ground” by proceeding with a vote when so few members were present.

“The dysfunctionality of the governing boards of Wheeling Jesuit University now is publicly manifesting itself,” Father Glynn wrote to Fisher August 8.

Father Glynn could not be reached for comment.

Property Dispute May Have Played Role

In a small town like Wheeling, there’s a lot of talk, and university officials have struggled to stay ahead of rumors about the reasons behind Father Giulietti’s dismissal.

Citing the confidentiality of “personnel matters,” university officials have provided no explanation for Father Giulietti’s firing, and as such a particular theory has persisted in the community.

Despite denials from the diocese, many believe the bishop was interested in obtaining a valuable piece of property that Father Giuletti appeared best positioned to acquire. The property in question was Mount de Chantel Visitation Academy, a recently closed school that is still home to five nuns. The nuns had an affection for Father Giulietti and the university, which is located on contiguous property, and had hoped Wheeling Jesuit would purchase and renovate the buildings – providing a home for the sisters for the remainder of their lives.
While the university may not have been financially positioned to acquire the property, Father Giulietti’s favored access was a source of frustration, according to Wolford’s unnamed source.

“That [conflict] stoked it, and so then everything Julio said or did became a point of ridicule for certain board members,” Wolford said. “They’ve made it very difficult for him the last six or seven months, and are not giving him any credit for what he’s accomplished there. And over time you’ll see all that reversed.”

According to Minor, the diocese has no interest in the academy’s property.

Acting President’s Appointment Questioned

When Father Giulietti was fired, it was reasonable for outsiders to assume that a critical report from NASA on the university’s administration of federal funds might have had something to do with it. The space agency’s August 3 audit suggested that NASA grant officers had failed to recognize the university’s double billing and other accounting errors on the order of $4 million.

But if the trustees who ousted Father Gulietti were upset about the NASA report, their selection of McAteer as acting president is puzzling. As university vice president, McAteer had oversight of the NASA projects, according to board members.

To glean from Father Glynn’s e-mails, however, it’s unclear how McAteer, who holds a law degree but no Ph.D., was chosen in the first place.

“Who appointed the acting president? No press release states who made the appointment,” Father Glynn wrote to Fisher. “As a Director and a Trustees [sic], I have received no request for approval of the appointment.”

McAteer did not respond to an interview request.

The university has not indicated how long McAteer might stay in place as acting president, but a search committee has been formed to find a new leader. If McAteer does not stay on, the new president would be the university’s sixth leader since 2003. That level of transition has left a bad taste in the mouths of some, and the handling of Father Giulietti’s dismissal hasn’t helped heal any wounds.

“This is dirty business. This is really dirty business,” said Wolford, who retired as Georgetown University’s vice president and chief audit executive two years ago. “It’s not the kind of thing you ever expect from an institution with a religious affiliation.”