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Leaked emails: Hope College board planned to fire school's president

Erin Dietzer/The Holland Sentinel • Apr 20, 2016 at 12:00 PM

HOLLAND — Emails leaked to online news website Inside Higher Ed show the Hope College board of trustees has temporarily withdrawn plans to fire President John Knapp.

"The executive committee has discussed the feedback received during the informational meeting on Tuesday, April 12, and we unanimously agree to withdraw our motion to recommend the termination of John Knapp’s contract as president of Hope College," said the email from board chair Mary Bauman. "Our rationale for doing so at this time is that we believe it is in the best interests of the institution as a whole and because we are concerned about the health and unity of the board. However, we continue to be unanimous in our serious concerns about John Knapp’s performance as president."

The email also said the board's May 5-6 meetings would have "discussion of this critical issue in order to provide information, answer questions and together move forward to bring resolution."

Bauman declined The Sentinel's request for comment, referring inquiries to Hope College's Vice President for Public Affairs and Marketing Jennifer Fellinger.

"As with the board meetings, there is an expectation that any board communications before, during and after meetings, are private and confidential," Fellinger said. "Any comment on the nature of the board's concerns would be speculation."

The email confirms the fears of many members of the Hope community, including students, their parents, alumni and faculty. Many gathered for a silent demonstration on Friday, April 15, in the college's pine grove to show support for President Knapp and the administration in a time of changing leadership.

Friday's demonstration was organized in response to concerns rising out of provost Richard Ray's sudden resignation Monday, April 11.

In an email to faculty on Monday, Knapp said earlier this year he had requested that Ray step down as provost in 2017, with the goal of transitioning to new leadership for Hope's academic program. According to Knapp's email, the outcome of several discussions in the interim was for Ray to step down sooner. Ray, who is also a professor of kinesiology at the college, will return to teaching at Hope in July 2017, following a year-long leave of absence.

Concerns spread among the Hope community that there was conflict between Ray and Knapp about the college's approach to social and religious issues that could lead to Knapp's firing, something Knapp denied in an email to Hope students and employees on Friday.

Read the rest of the story at The Holland Sentinel website.

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