Professor Nobody

The following letter was submitted to us anonymously. We suspect that the sentiments expressed here are common on The Hill.

IN all of my years in academia, this school year at Shorter has been the most emotionally difficult, mentally challenging and physically exhausting. I say this not because I have frustrating students, a hectic schedule or mounds of paperwork – but because my colleagues, my students and the staff that supports us has been in “survival mode” since the upheaval caused by the adoption and impending threats of the Personal Lifestyle Statements.

There seem to be four titles to describe both my colleagues and students:  “Hoping for Change,” “Staying Regardless,” “Pursuing the Back-Up Plan” and “Seizing the Better Opportunity.” While these four titles are common to every faculty and student towards the end of the semester, the numbers at Shorter are staggering. Every day, someone posts the name of another faculty or staff member who has announced their resignation and new appointment. Every day, another student comes to me and tells me about their roommate or sorority sister who has just committed to another school. The numbers seem to have increased throughout the last several weeks. There is an air of detachment that is hindering productive class time, lunchtime banter and even the students’ effort and attention to grades. Emotional tensions are extremely high as faculty are secretly meeting and students’ parents are calling for recommendation letters, extremely upset about the toll this semester has taken on their sons and daughters.  Knowing that colleagues and students have written emails and personally met with members of the administration only to be left with more doubt, more anger and more confusion is frustrating.

As ridiculous is the fact that every week in my Inbox there is a Wellness announcement for faculty and staff. I wonder if they know WHY my blood pressure is sky high, WHY I am experiencing IBS, WHY my doctor has upped my antacid prescription and most importantly – WHY my doctor is suggesting anti-anxiety medications.  The reason is the university I that I have learned to love – which I am so proud to be a part of – is experiencing changes that affect me emotionally, mentally and physically.  No one from the administration has reached out to me to ask “What can we do to support you during this time of transition?” No one has reached out to me to ask “May I come and give your students some reassurance that they are going to be okay?” No one has reached out to me to say “Your job is not at stake. If you agree to sign these documents we will make sure that your program thrives.” No one has reached out to me to say “Your diligent research, work and talent make you so valuable to our University. We hope you will sign these documents and stay on board.”

I do not find it necessary here to announce which title I have chosen. Just let me say when I was assured that I was doing well in my job, even knowing that Shorter contracts were one-year commitments, I, like many of my colleagues, bought a home in Floyd County. I established my family in this community. We have a church family we love and have close friends in dance programs, sports and local civic organizations. The thought of moving is completely overwhelming: pulling our children from their educational environment and neighborhood to another city or state, asking my spouse to seek another job in this economy, considering trying to sell our house – the home that my spouse and I prayed over, toiled for and have worked to make a haven for our family. To say I am devastated is an understatement. One thing is certain – this entire situation and these documents have made me question trust in authority, my need for religion, my faith in Christianity and my place in higher education. All of these questions are contrary to every assurance I had when I walked into the Chapel on October 24, 2011.

19 responses to “Professor Nobody

  1. Love and blessings to you, Anonymous. If you ever need to talk, please look me up on facebook. There aren’t many with my name.

  2. I wish I could hug your entire family right now.
    I will pray for your peace & wisdom in the choices you are facing.

  3. Praying this is a nightmare we all can wake up from…

    Peace be still.

    An Alumnus of Shorter.

  4. Betty Zane Morris

    I am so-o-o sorry. Wish we could do more.

  5. a devastated mom

    God bless the person who wrote this. My daughter is a freshman at Shorter now. She arrived in the fall excited and thrilled to be at such a special place. Needless to say-this year has been a nightmare. She is questioning what being a Christian really means. Her friends and her professors are leaving, and she has no definite plans for next year. I feel totally helpless. I pray that the school can “wake up” from this horrible nightmare.

    • My daughter is also a freshman this year. This has disrupted the entire campus. We come from a Baptist church that teaches us to love and we have a tremendous preacher that teaches us the truth of the bible. I can only hope that she has hidden the word in her heart and not be too annoyed with the way Shorter has misrepresented itself by all of this “corruption”, for lack of a better word. God Bless to all and hope that these teachers can find peace!

  6. This is heart wrenching. It sounds to me that you are a God fearing, faithful leader at Shorter. What I cannot understand is why the administration sees such a need to put labels on people and judge actions so harshly.

    Do I think that teachers are held to a higher standard (at any level, at any institution)? Absolutely.
    Do I think that Faith and Christianity should be considered before committing to a Baptist College? Sure.
    But, do I think that the administration needs to take a totalitarian approach to faculty lives? NO!

    I think when we attended, we all had things to complain about, but NOTHING so serious as the lives that are being uprooted over this.

    Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with you and your family!

  7. God bless the person who wrote this. My heart aches for them, as it does for my daughter who is a Shorter freshman. She arrived on campus in the fall, excited about being in such a special place. Needless to say- it has been a nightmare. She is questioning what being a Christian really means, and how the Shorter Administration could destroy her entire future. Her friends and professors are leaving, and she doesn’t have definite plans for the future. I feel helpless to explain why all of this turmoil is happening. I feel sorry for all of the alumni who are dealing with the failing reputation of the school.

  8. Ann-Carol Pence

    People who manage people with the weapon of FEAR will not be reaching out to you ever… PERIOD. I suggest you leave now and find an educational program who will support you.

  9. God bless you and your family. My 4 years at Shorter COLLEGE were the best of my life. I had amazing professors who would have moved heaven and earth for their students. That part hasn’t changed. Unfortunately, the new administration is determined to drive off the faculty and staff of that caliber so they can be replaced by people supporting the fundamentalist doctrine being forced onto the Hill. It broke my heart to take my diploma off the wall of my middle school classroom because I was so ashamed of the new Shorter. Lux Veritas!

    • Larry T. Burgess

      Dear Amy,
      I presided and preached in the worship srvice when your Dad was ordained a Deacon, the same night your Mom had to leave church early to go to the hospital and give birth to you! Your Dad and I hurried to the hospital to get in on the wonderful event. It thrilled me to see you when we moved our daughter into the Shorter dorm and you were there moving in as well! We love you and your family, and we pray God’s very best for you always! We also grieve with you at the chaos “on the Hill.”

  10. Speaking as an outsider with no attachment to Shorter, I must say it’s time to man up. The leadership has changed, so move on to another place. This is real life. When layoffs reach into homes and families, they have to deal with it. It effects every one, even at places of higher learning. You cannot change things outside your control, but what you can do is choose how you respond to criticism and model for the students a changed life in Christ. Students should be observing how peaceful and how calm you are in the midst of a storm. Now that would be a testimony that would make all alumni proud of calling Shorter College home.

    • JackinNC,

      Speak for yourself if you must… but don’t presume to have a clue about what would make all alumni proud. Proud we are of those individuals who are stepping out to support those like Professor Nobody, and the students and staff affected by decisions and political moves by the Georgia Baptist Convention that are causing these devastating changes in leadership.

  11. This alumni is proud of professor nobody. I don’t think most understand what the faculty of Shorter is going through unless you know some of them. Having shared conversations with present faculty and students, I know first hand the hurt and dismissal they are all feeling. Telling them “time to move on” is like dismissing a grieving widow at the grave of her husband. Those who have dedicated their lives to Shorter have made countless sacrifices to better that institution. It’s a shame that the GBC has empowered a few men who never knew the true heart of Shorter in the first place. Peace to professor nobody and the many others who are becoming the “victims” of a very unchristian attitude.

  12. JackinNC,

    So easy for you to say.

    Spoken like a true outsider who obviously has no empathy for those whose lives have been so deeply affected by this human tragedy. But like the fundamentalist that you are, whose ears have been tickled by a very shallow view of the WHOLE of scripture, and who bases his salvation on Baptist doctrine alone, you are unable to grasp the unbelievable heartache imposed on faculty, staff, students, alumni and Rome community that suffers under the imposition of this doctrine, MANY of whom are Christians who “love their neighbor as themselves,” a commandment that much of the SBC seems to have conveniently forgotten. Your statement reflects no love, which we have come to expect from this administrative regime. However, your use of the term ” control” is completely accurate, as control and control alone is what the SBC seems to be all about. I have heard that line before from the current chair of Shorter’s homogeneous board of trustees. When you have no real, and no reasonable Response, that is no response other than that programmed into you by the Baptist hierarchy, you say, ” Well the Baptists are ‘in control’ now. Are you incapable of your thinking on your own?

    I expect that your response would no doubt include some idea that you are persecuted for righteousness sake. Perhaps you will typically deflect altogether. But let me say that your response demonstrates that you simply don’t know what you are talking about and need to stay out of this discussion altogether.

  13. Christian ministers in Birmingham told Martin Luther King, Jr. to ‘man up’ too, which in his case meant to keep his mouth shut, to stop stoking fires of complaint, to stop rallying people to the cause, to allow change to take place in time, and to trust that higher authorities had good intentions and would eventually help alleviate injustice via passive measures. That, too, Jack, was bad advice predicated on terribly misguided theology.

    Jesus wept.

  14. Sherri d. Sutton

    JackinNC-you must be joking right? I am guessing that since you are not an alum, you must be part of the SBC…a preacher? Certainly not a pastor! This is about politics and not about creating core values that represent the mission of the school.
    I am an Alum and would want the faculty and staff to stand against such hate! They are modeling more of what it means to be a Christian to those students than Shorter’s leaders ever will with these new policy changes. Jesus spoke harshly to the Pharisees…. This administration is laying oppressive burdens to others. Deciding if they are the right type of Christian for the school. Playing God with the pick and choose scriptures. They are bullying and using fear to rule.
    Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
    Jesus said, “My burden is light, my yoke is easy.” How about the leaders of this university show love and compassion to the students, faculty and staff. The Chinese have a saying, ‘the fish rots from the head down.’ Shorter is rotting.

  15. JackinNC,
    You wrote, “The leadership has changed, so move on to another place…. It effects [sic] every one, even at places of higher learning.” Well, no; that’s not the way academic institutions work. A fundamental assumption in higher education is that institutions will respect the academic freedom–defined as the freedom to investigate, to publish, and to teach in one’s discipline without internal or external interference–of all members of the academic community. This is because free inquiry, without ideological constraint, is vitally necessary to the functioning of the university, since its most significant mandate is to generate knowledge. Simply to say, as the Shorter administration has said, “Agree with us or resign,” is the antithesis of academic freedom.
    Not to be condescending, but many people who are not involved in higher education fail to grasp these concepts. There is no shame in that; I do not work in a church, and I doubtless misunderstand many aspects of church leadership. Nevertheless, I don’t presume to tell church administrators how they should lead a church. Please, try to develop a modicum of humility and realize that you are not qualified to tell academics how we should lead a university.

  16. There is no forum for faculty to speak. When asked about a “faculty senate,” faculty members are told by members of the administration that there is no need for one, that it would just be used as a “soap box” or a place to complain. The “town-hall meeting” to announce the implementation of the lifestyle statement was a joke; no one spoke but the president and a member of the BOT. Faculty members were told to contact the president directly and individually if they had any questions or concerns. Questions and concerns were not addressed or invited during the session. Try to get a meeting with anyone in the administration; it’s nearly impossible. They are too busy putting out fires and trying to fill the coffers (not a single faculty gathering goes by without some reference to all the money the Lord is going to bless Shorter with for being so faithful). They truly believe faculty complaints are a sign of an “un-Christian” nature, and when faculty members leave, it’s God’s way of weeding out the weak and unfaithful. Faculty members are struggling, hurting. MOST faculty salaries are low at Shorter, benefits are being slowly pulled away, and a newly-revised “nepotism” rule prohibits academic couples from working together, this while the new president openly hires the son of his old boss…and then jokes about it. They say they want to encourage “traditional” family values all while making families suffer: “No, you cannot work here if you have a ‘non-traditional’ lifestyle, but don’t worry, you can’t work here if you do either, especially, if you and your spouse happen to both be academics in a related field, well, or if you disagree with the powers-that-be about how to run your own spiritual life.” It’s all hypocritical and sad. What they really want is a monastery: People who lead celibate, asexual lives, people who then will not have families (families after all drive healthcare claims up rather than down, and they love to remind faculty members how high claims have been over the last three years. Maybe they should do as Professor Nobody suggests and take a hard look at just what is making faculty members sick: The way they’re being [mis]treated.). Academic jobs are scarce, especially now, during a recession, and now faculty members of Shorter, who were promised one thing, are being told to accept something else…or else. Interesting how lying and being blatantly deceitful, somehow didn’t make it into the Lifestyle Statement (some faculty members were hired recently and told they would NOT have to sign a lifestyle statement). Being an academic is hard — no doubt — but having an administration that openly attacks their hard-working faculty on multiple fronts, well, that makes everything even more difficult.

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