Walk the halls of Concordia University in River Forest and you might notice that women outnumber men by almost two to one.
At Concordia, the largest student demographic is female graduate students — in the fall 2018 semester, 57 percent of the school's undergrad enrollment and 68 percent of the graduate level students were women.
That might not sit well with one of the members of the Concordia Board of Regents, who is now under fire for comments he made online that critics say are sexist and racist.
An online petition to have Eric Arno Hiller removed from the board had received over 1,700 signatures by Monday, Aug. 12.
The petition was launched by Concordia University Chicago alumni after comments by Hiller surfaced where he, among other things, said that "a typical woman" should "carefully manage her priorities, or she will be swept along by the wicked zeitgeist that will encourage her to get more degrees and promotions and more responsibilities."
Hiller, who has worked as a product development expert at McKinsey & Company since 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile, did not respond to several attempts to reach him by phone and email. The next board of regents meetings are set for Sept. 20 and 21, and a petition is calling on the board to put the topic on its agenda.
In the conversation that took place between Hiller and several others on Facebook in November 2017, he said that degrees and promotions and responsibilities would "massively distract her from her primary priorities as a single Christian woman, including finding a husband (and all the prep and activities that goes with that), serving her family, supporting her friends, serving the Church, etc."
"That means she is going to have to, as much as possible, avoid jobs with lots of travel, jobs with excessive hours, promotions that are going to force her to work more, etc.," he added. "This will be DIAMETRICALLY opposed to what society, her bosses, her crypto-feminist friends and sadly, her father, are encouraging her to do."
The comment is one of several made by Hiller on Facebook over the last couple of years, which critics say should preclude him from his position on the board, where he has served since 2013.
In that same conversation, which took place on the Facebook profile of a friend of Hiller, the board of regents member also stated, "I can't speak for all men, but for most men, a girl with a great body is high on the list of things that says, this is a candidate."
"Moreover, the traditional Christian man will typically value women who overtly signal that being a great wife and mother are their priorities (and then family, friends, Church, etc.) but that career/education are just MEANS to the prioritized ends and should be made to serve those desired ends," Hiller wrote
In another exchange in March 2018, Hiller gives his thoughts on women in the military, stating: "Many people want to blame women and 'feminism' for [women in the military], and there is no doubt that they all suffer from the curse and Satanic desire to usurp male authority," he wrote. "There is no doubt any and all forms of feminism are, prima facia, evil."
In a third exchange that has surfaced for which no date has been determined, Hiller allegedly shares his thoughts on affirmative action, referring to Asian students as "Orientals," writing that the term "minority" is "a function of how incompetent and lazy a group is."
The group that has formed to remove Hiller from his position on the board created a Facebook group called Concerned CUC Family, which includes screenshots of the three separate exchanges between Hiller and others on Facebook.
Arif Negiz, who graduated from Concordia in 2011, said in a telephone interview that he and others believe that people like Hiller are taking the school in the wrong direction.
On his group's online petition on Change.org, Negiz and others said Hiller's comments are "sexist, racist, and do not reflect the values and Christian attitude expected from a leader at Concordia University."
Negiz tells Wednesday Journal that earlier this year the issue was brought to the attention of Rev. Daniel L. Gard, recently retired as university president, who took the offending online exchanges to the chair of the university's executive committee and Concordia Board of Regents, but no action was taken.
Madison Schulz, a former student body president who is a member of the group working to oust Hiller, said she is personally offended by his comments, stating: "What he's saying about women and Asian Americans is not OK and should not be allowed in the Lutheran Church or anywhere."
She said it is frustrating that Hiller serves on the board representing her interests and possibly hindering her professional career. "As a woman I'm frustrated, but as a human being I'm disgusted," she said.
Concordia alumnus Brian Becker, who serves on the Concordia University Foundation Board and has vocally supported removing Hiller, said it would take a two-thirds majority vote from the board of regents to get Hiller off the panel.
Recently appointed Concordia President Dr. Russell P. Dawn declined to discuss the controversy, but the president's office has released two statements on the topic — one on Aug. 8 and another on Aug. 12.
The Aug. 8 letter declined to directly address the controversy, stating: "We cannot speak directly to the comments made by a particular member of the University's Board of Regents, or to the surrounding controversy. We will, however, continue to celebrate the good work our Lord carries out every day among the men and women of Concordia University Chicago."
The Aug. 12 letter, however, took a more direct approach, following a number of letters to the school demanding action.
"I wish to make clear that Concordia-Chicago does not uphold ideas and statements that are derogatory to women or minorities," the letter states. "As our email stated last week, Concordia-Chicago does uphold the idea that each of us is blessed with inherent worth and equally valued regardless of background or demographic group."
Dawn notes in the letter that the decision is left to the board of regents, and the president's office has no authority to oust Hiller unilaterally. He adds that "Concordia-Chicago values women and men equally, independent of their physical appearance or marital status" and "celebrates the achievements and contributions of individuals from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds."
David Gillaspie, who graduated from Concordia in 2013 and is working to remove Hiller, said he hopes the petition and attention brought to the issue persuades the board to take action at its September board meeting.
Gillaspie said he knows that other members of the board, as well as faculty and staff at the university, are concerned about the issue.
"I'm afraid for the future of my alma mater," he said, noting that Hiller's views "don't reflect Lutheran values at all."
"In a position of leadership, he has no role in representing Concordia," he said.
* This story was updated to correct the number of votes needed to remove a member of the board of regents.
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