Calvin Theological Seminary's (CTS) first full-time female professor left the school at the end of August, charging the administration with sex discrimination and falsifying documents in an effort to undermine her. Ruth Tucker, a well-known author of 17 books, including Women in the Maze: Questions & Answers on Biblical Equality, made the allegations in a lengthy website account posted in September. She believes CTS unfairly removed her from tenure track with a one-year terminal appointment, which effectively ended her future at the Christian Reformed Church seminary.
CTS president Cornelius Plantinga Jr. called her move a "tragedy" and said the school had hoped to reappoint her as a professor. "There is another side to this story," he told CT, declining to reveal details about the "confidential personnel issue."
CT investigated Tucker's widely publicized claims and learned that neither independent mediators nor a CTS board ad hoc committee appointed to review the allegations found evidence of purposeful gender discrimination. However, both said Tucker had not been treated fairly and deserved some form of redress.
At the heart of the conflict is a poor evaluation given to Tucker in 2002. The evaluation cited largely negative comments pulled from faculty reviews. Henry De Moor, vice president for academic affairs, advised that Tucker be removed from tenure track in 2003, despite recommendations from students and the majority of faculty members.
When Tucker requested original copies of her faculty evaluations, she discovered that nearly half of the negative comments came from two faculty members. De Moor issued a second, more favorable, evaluation but affirmed his original conclusion. Plantinga agreed and recommended a one-year appointment, and the board voted to approve the action.
De Moor's evaluations were within his rights, according to CTS's ad hoc committee. But the members said, "The evaluation comments, when compared with reappointment files for other faculty members, display some evidence of gender and diversity insensitivity."
Tucker said the administration next told her she was demoted because of "faculty room ethos," or acting inappropriately when arguing and joking in the faculty lounge. After a colleague protested that all members shared blame, Tucker said she was accused of "unspecified ungodliness." She alleges that Plantinga falsified notes from a meeting, claiming Tucker screamed at him and told him "you know where you can shove that." Tucker denies the outburst took place.
The board committee reported "that there were a series of missteps, miscommunications, and inflammatory words by all involved. The incidents [of ungodliness], when placed in context, indicated issues to be worked on by Dr. Tucker, but should not have been given undue weight in the administration's handling of the reappointment process."
The committee concluded that "Dr. Tucker would have been better served by a regular two-year reappointment in 2003."
Independent mediators agreed, writing that the "lack of total support from the faculty seems to us to be enough reason to delay her progress toward tenure but not reason enough to take her off tenure track." They suggested that a reappointment to full professor without tenure and retroactive pay to January 2003 would be a fair redress.
Sidney Jansma Jr., president of the CTS board, said the board was evaluating whether to put Tucker back on tenure track when she withdrew her name from reappointment in November 2005.
"Our goal was always to help her achieve the position at the seminary," he said. "We wanted to keep her."
Kathy Smith, CTS director of continuing education and a full-time faculty member, said CTS leaders have supported and empowered her work.
"I find it ironic that this administration is having these allegations brought against it," Smith said, "because this administration came in  with one of its top priorities to make CTS a more safe and hospitable place for all people, especially women."
CT contacted several of Tucker's former colleagues and associates, but they declined to comment.
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
The Grand Rapids Press also covered the dispute, as did local stations WOOD and WZZM. Many bloggers are discussing the story, including former colleague Scot McKnight.
Tucker tells her story at RuthTucker.net and on her blog, River Rat Reflections. She also blogs at InterVarsity Press's QuestioningFaith.com.
Calvin Seminary's site has more information about the school.
Christianity Today recently interviewed Tucker regarding her book Walking Away from Faith, which the magazine also reviewed.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingJunia, the Female Apostle Imprisoned for the GospelWhat Scripture tells us about the story of this “outstanding” Jewish woman in chains.Português
- From the MagazineBhutanese Nepali Refugees Turn Their Trials into Zeal for EvangelismThousands found Jesus while displaced, which prepared them to plant churches and settle in a new land.
- RelatedHillsong Says It Is Moving ForwardNew revelations will require increased accountability, but pastor wants to look to the future.
- Editor's PickAfter Nashville, Moral Numbness Is Our EnemyShootings have become normal to the American public. But as Christians, we know better.