Monthly Archives: May 2012

AND SO IT BEGINS PART TWO

Dr. Carolyn Ward loved Shorter College. As a student at Shorter, she was active in student affairs, president of her class for 3 years and president of the student body her senior year. She graduated cum laude with a degree in biology and later became a well-respected physician in the Atlanta area. She was also a woman who brooked no nonsense.

She served on the Alumni Governing Board 1963-1964

She served as a trustee for Shorter College from 1986-1991, 1992-1997, 1999-2002 and served on the reorganized board from 2002 through October 7, 2005. She served as Chairman of the Board 2001-2002.

In 1997, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Alumni Association.

The faculty and Staff of Shorter College named her the Red Cross “Hero of 2003” as past chairman of the Shorter Board of Trustees.

The following are excerpts from her diary of her experiences with Shorter – a diary that she kept from 2001 until shortly before her death in 2011.

From her cover letter:

“ These last years (2001-2005) were tumultuous years for me and the rest of the Board, during which in the Fall of 2001 the College Executive Committee realized that the Georgia Baptist Convention which had the right to elect trustees since the 1959 charter was about to begin packing the Board of Trustees with men (sic) whose first loyalty was to the Convention. In spite of all that we tried – 2 face-to-face meetings  with our boards and committees as well as meetings with both groups’ officials, numerous letters back and forth  – – – we lost the decision of the Supreme Court by a vote of 4-3 in May 2005.  Thus by one vote, the history of Shorter was forever changed as well as her future.

“. . . My grief and sadness has continued, especially as I see the predicted changes occurring. In addition the Baptist media, the now (2006 -2011) Board chairman and even the now president in his speeches, continue to rewrite Shorter history according to their own desires.  They paint those of us who tried so hard, in the worst possible light.

“One thing I know is that I did my best, that I did what I thought I should and that I have no regrets.  I would do it again.

Selah

From her diary:

“Fall 2001 – GBC elected 3 trustees who were not originally presented by SC [Shorter College].  They turned down a former trustee, the immediate past chairman of the Board and the immediate past President of the Alumni Assn. We asked them to reconsider. Especially since 4 ladies had rotated or resigned off the board, and Shorter, having a long history of being a woman’s college and today has approximately 65% women in the student body, we asked that the alumni president be nominated.  They refused.

“Being the first time this had occurred and given the history of the politics and record of the Convention, it was immediately seen as a takeover of the board by the extreme fundamentalists of the Convention.  It was also evident that such a takeover would forever change the entire character and soul of Shorter College.

“AT THE SAME TIME, it happened that this year of 2002 was the ten year audit to be done by SACS.  The SACS Handbook mandates that a college through its governing board must be free of undue external pressure from any outside group.  As the workup for the review proceeded, the SACS group found that they had questioned the independence of Shorter’s governing board 10 years ago and thus they focused on this unresolved issue.

“Since our paperwork had to be submitted to SACS by Jan1, the BOT on Nov 2 voted a lease arrangement for the management of the college, which was considered to be temporary until changes could be made with the GBC. This had not been accomplished by January 1 and so the lease went into effect on January 2.  Because of the immediate furor and reaction that it met with the GBC’s leader, it was rescinded on Jan     (date omission by the author) in order to work with the GBC as they refused to talk until it was.”

From February until November 2002, work went on in order to come to an agreement with the GBC on the selection of trustees. All efforts were met with the same sort of intransigence that is evident now.  In May, the Shorter trustees passed a new bylaw to the charter in an attempt to clarify Shorter’s position regarding the election of trustees. The bylaw, in essence, set forth in writing what had been the agreement with the GBC since 1959. It said that the Georgia Baptist Convention would still elect trustees, just as it always had, but that the nominees would be qualified first by the College. The vote on the bylaw was split; it passed and became a bone of contention between the GBC –placed trustees and the rest of the board.

As was the custom, Shorter sent a list of proposed trustees to the GBC. The proposed trustees were to be evaluated by the GBC Nominating Committee and selections for each of the eight vacancies were to be made. The Nominating Committee would then present the slate of candidates to the full Convention for a vote.  For each position, three nominees were submitted.

The Convention began and the Nominating Committee had still not informed Shorter whom they had chosen as trustees for the school. It was not until November 11 that the GBC Nominating Committee handed the list of nominees selected to the Shorter representatives at the Convention.

Dr. Ward writes, “. . . NONE of the 8 are from our list. Thus they have completely ignored our bylaw, have once again demonstrated that the Board is not independent and remains under the pressure and thumb of the GBC. This means we again have an issue with SACS.

“Rev. Mike Everson, chairman of the GBC Nominating Committee prior to reading the names of the GBC nominees, gave a “7 minute dialog” against the College and our President in particular.  . . .He also made comments about the ones which Shorter had nominated to the GBC. He said that one woman had joined a Baptist [church] recently in order to be on the Board and there was a question about how much either she or her church gave to the Cooperative Program. He also said one of our nominees only went to church a couple of times a year. Etc.  Their 8 nominees were, of course, elected.”

And so the process of electing trustees began. No longer would the trustees be vetted by Shorter. No longer was there a primary focus on the qualifications of the candidates as would best serve the institution. Trustees would now first be qualified on how much they or their churches gave to the Cooperative Program of the GBC.

For those of you who have been scratching your heads and wondering how we could get to the place in which we currently find ourselves, you must look to the beginning of the Fundamentalist take-over of Shorter.

We thank Dr. Ward for her diligence and love of Shorter and for sharing her insights with us. We hope that we can honor her memory, as we step forth in faith to declare that Shorter has always been a Christian institution of higher education.

Not once, in all of the controversy currently surrounding our beloved institution has the current administration pointed to the reason for the “need for returning Shorter to its Christian roots”. They have not. Shorter has always held to its Christian roots; it just has not sold herself to the Fundamentalist agenda. The Fundamentalists of the GBC now have complete control – not ownership, as no one owns a non-profit institution – of the school.   The agenda at Shorter is no longer the pursuit of academic excellence; the agenda is power and control disguised in the  name of Jesus Christ.

As Dr. Ward wrote, in reference to her leadership of a rapidly changing Board of Trustees, after the trustee election of 2002:

“God Bless Shorter.  God bless our Board.  And God help me to do my duty.”

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AND SO IT BEGINS

When, in 1958, Dr. Randall Minor and the Shorter Board of Trustees agreed with the Baptist Convention of Georgia to change Shorter’s charter, they did so in good faith.

Since 1914, Shorter had maintained control of its Board of Trustee selection process. As early as 1919, Shorter had continued its affiliation with the GBC, receiving funds and making annual reports to the Convention, however it had maintained its independence.  In 1938, the Board of Trustees agreed to submit names of new shorter trustees to the GBC “for its approval or disapproval before final action by the Board”, however the college still had the power of formal and final approval of the new trustee. A 1953 GBC adoption of a new selection process for its affiliated college’s trustees allowed for each college to nominate 3 persons for each trustee position. The Convention chose one from the three.

Finding the college in dire need of funding, Minor negotiated the new charter and the College agreed to the changes that all future trustees would be elected by the GBC and that each trustee be a member of a Baptist Church which is affiliated with the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia. Until then the charters had continued to renew the stipulation of the original charter, which said “members of regular Baptist churches of good standing.”

According to a speech by Dr. Rob Nash, entitled “On Being Baptist: The Soul Purpose of Shorter College” in his Founder’s Day Address, October 7, 1997, “From 1873 – 1902 and from 1914 until 1959, Shorter’s trustees were either self-perpetuating or had final power over the trustee selection process.” At the time of the ’59 charter change, Dr. Minor knew he was dealing with gentlemen and that they would honor the 1953 GBC selection process. As a result, he failed to include in the new charter the process by which new trustees would be elected. He never envisioned, nor would he have been able to conceive of the Georgia Baptist Convention of 2001.

When, during the selection process for the new trustees in 2001, Shorter did as it had done since 1953 and submitted a slate of candidates – three for each open position – to the Georgia Baptist Convention, they expected the GBC to continue to honor the ’53 process. What they didn’t reckon on was that the GBC was finally under the total control of Baptist Fundamentalists. When the GBC failed to accept any of the candidates and proposed and elected a slate of its own candidates, The Shorter Board of Trustees refused to seat them.  In retaliation, the GBC withheld its annual contribution to Shorter.

For months, Dr. Ed Schrader tried to negotiate with the GBC in order to reach an amicable settlement of the matter. For months, Robert White and the Executive Board of the GBC stalled, refused to negotiate and made excuses. However an even greater problem was on the horizon.

On January 4, 2002 Dr. Schrader sent a memorandum to Dr. Bob White and pertinent officers of the GBC. In that memo, Dr. Schrader addressed the upcoming SACS re-accreditation visit. He writes, “Shorter College has been warmly regarded by Georgia Baptists for its entire 129 year history. Personally, I want Georgia Baptists to view me neither as a politically ally nor opponent, because I am neither, but as a Brother who is committed (and called) heart and soul to Christian higher education, fostering a good relationship between Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Convention, and unswervingly dedicated to the spiritual and academic advancement of Shorter College.  I will fight to insure Shorter College remains a Georgia Baptist College and Shorter College will fight to insure that its progress and future are undiminished and unblemished.”  These were hardly the words of a man who later would be portrayed by GBC executives as intent on “stealing” Shorter from the Georgia Baptists.

The memo further relates a conversation between Dr. Schrader and the President of SACS, in which Dr. Schrader assured the SACS president that Shorter was addressing its concerns with the GBC proactively. “Since these issues (over-involvement of the GBC in the running of the college) were of concern in the previous re-accreditation review 10 years ago and not satisfactorily addressed then, the visiting team would take a very harsh view of our ignoring them in the intervening period.”

Dr. Schrader was concerned about the impact the loss of accreditation would have on the college. “Such public rebuke is the death knell for external fund raising, recruiting of top students and faculty and maintaining – let alone advancing –  the school’s academic and artistic reputation and standing.”

Schrader and the Board of Trustees had reason for concern. In the Reaffirmation Committee Report from the February 18-21, 2002 visit, the committee came down hard on the GBC involvement in Shorter affairs:

“It is the judgment of the Committee that Shorter College is in compliance with all Conditions of Eligibility except Condition Three.  The College has an active policy-making board, which meets the mandatory requirement of this section.  However, undue pressure is being placed on the Board of Trustees by an outside agency, namely the Georgia Baptist Convention.  The issue is the selection of trustees. In November 2001 the Convention broke with a long-standing practice and elected several trustees, which were not nominated by the College.  Serious concerns exist regarding the existence of an independent governing board and for its ability to protect the Institution from undue outside influence from the Georgia Baptist Convention.  Specific actions by the Georgia Baptist Convention this past year regarding the politicization of the trustee election process demonstrate that the College is subject to external political and religious influence that may affect its ability to carry out its mission, infringe upon its academic integrity and threaten academic freedom. Additionally, a pattern of activities carried out by the Georgia Baptist Convention and its agents has demonstrated a desire to affect outcomes of the College’s internal governance by this external third party entity. Therefore the Committee recommends that the Institution demonstrate that its bylaws and other legal documents ensure the independence of the board (Recommendation 3). This recommendation does not reflect a problem with the institution or its administration.  This is a problem between the Board of Trustees and the Georgia Baptist Convention leadership over the issue of governance.

The recommendation of 10 years ago echoes the same issues facing Shorter faculty and students today. Academic freedom and integrity are core values of higher education. As Mr. Pirkle’s letter of resignation reveals, the Georgia Baptist Fundamentalists have only increased their hold upon the University. To what sorts of interference was the report referring? Who from the GBC would have tried to influence the Board of Trustees? How is that influence being carried out with the current board? There is much more to this story, which we will disclose in our next post.

Documents cited here obtained from public records.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN INDEX ARTICLES

“Georgia Baptists should be deliriously delighted and eternally grateful for what is happening at our Georgia Baptist institutions of higher education” So begins the editorial by J. Gerald Harris in the May 17 edition of the Christian Index. The article, a paean to the virtues of Baptist school presidents, goes on to extol the direction of the Georgia Baptist institutions and to address the opposition to the direction Shorter University is taking.  J Robert White, Executive Director of the GBC weighs in on his Open Door column, calling Dr. Mike Simoneaux “just what the doctor ordered for Brewton-Parker.” He also calls Dr. Don Dowless “an amazing gift for Shorter University and the Georgia Baptist Convention.”

In reality, the beginning line should have read, “Georgia Baptists should be alarmed and angry for what is happening at our Georgia Baptist institutions of higher education”. In fact, any time the Christian Index tells its readers how wonderful everything is, those readers should see a red flag. The following is the factual accounting of how things really are at Georgia Baptist institutions.

Contrary to media reports, Truett-McConnell College has, in fact, required its faculty to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a condition of employment. Readers should understand that the Baptist Faith and Message is a much broader document than the Shorter Personal Lifestyle Statement. While the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000 substantially expanded the section on The Christian and the Social Order to include such statements as, “Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography” and “We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death” nowhere in the Baptist Faith and Message is there a requirement for active church attendance or a statement forbidding the use of alcohol in public. While the loss of faculty has not been widely reported, Truett too has lost faculty and will lose more. Faculty were given a far more generous 18 months to sign the statement as opposed to Shorter’s six month window. Many faculty are looking and several have already left. Perhaps Baptists should look for an exodus at Truett-McConnell as well.

Truett-McConnell President Emir Caner has touted the growth at Truett and has cited that growth as a reason to expand, but we must note that many of the new students are music students who came with Dr. Ben Caston, when he left the debacle at Brewton Parker College. Caner is leading the college away from a liberal arts focus and toward a seminary preparatory school while making grand plans for expansion. New facilities are being built and old ones are being renovated. According to our sources, Caner and the Georgia Baptist Convention is planning to build a chapel designed  to seat 2,500. Perhaps this is a case of over-expansion, considering the fact that the Truett-McConnell has approximately 700 students, and according to its website, conferred degrees upon its largest graduating class – 70 – this spring. According to the latest available data, the total population of Cleveland, Georgia stands at 3,410. For whom is Caner building such a large chapel/auditorium? Does he have information from his admissions department that the student population is going to more than triple? We would like to see that data, if in fact, he does. We would also like to know the source of funding for such rapid expansion. Could the Georgia Baptist Convention, who we are told, finds itself in apparent financial difficulty, requiring the elimination of between 60-70 jobs this year and the need to put its new building up for sale have “found” money to assist in this expansion?

Brewton Parker College is perhaps in the saddest state of all three institutions. Brewton-Parker College will be facing a situation in June where the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will most likely pull its accreditation. BP has been under a warning by SACS for a while now and the SACS visit to the campus on the third week of April did not, according to sources, go well. Perhaps it is the attention to the issues surrounding Brewton-Parker’s SACS accreditation that led to the lack of attention to daily business which caused Brewton-Parker Inc. to be administratively dissolved for lack of re-registration, though the corporation was later reinstated.

Brewton Parker faculty is also leaving in droves. According to our sources, “Everybody who can, is leaving.” The building and grounds of a once beautiful campus show signs of gross neglect, with grass left uncut and shrubbery untrimmed, and buildings with peeling paint. The Education building was condemned three years ago and other buildings have been closed to eliminate the need for heating/cooling and electrical expense. A bad roof on the auditorium has caused leaks into the building, allowing mildew and mold to grow behind the wallboard, but there are no funds to remove the wallboard and eliminate the mold, so students attend chapel in an environmentally dangerous building. There are only two housekeepers for the entire campus; so thorough cleaning of facilities is impossible.

The computer system for the college is literally falling apart and a minimal crew is struggling to maintain service for the college. No money is available to replace an outdated system. Students no longer have a bookstore where they can by the texts necessary for their classes. Many no longer make any attempt to buy the textbooks and come to class unprepared.

Sixty percent of the students are there on athletic scholarship. Many of these students tell the professors “I came here to play ball” and show no interest in class attendance or test taking. They know that professors have been told that these students are to pass the course regardless of whether or not they have completed their coursework.

The music department, for which a new expansion was built just a few years ago, is gone and only one biology professor is left to teach the remaining students.

According to public information, BP’s president, Dr. Simoneaux, had been “on loan” from Truett-McConnell and Truett was paying Dr. Simoneaux’s salary.

At Shorter, the total of faculty and staff leaving now stands at 60. A once excellent School of the Arts has been decimated. Thirteen members of the school are gone. The much-heralded School of Nursing, opened in the 2010-2011 academic year, has two remaining faculty members, as Dr. Vanice Roberts and many of the faculty left. Dr. Roberts is to open a similar program on the Berry College campus. In the School of Sciences and Mathematics, 4 chemistry professors are gone.The current count for Biology professors that have left is 5: The dean (40+ years of service), a tenured professor of 30+ years, and three assistant professors. A professor of mathematics and one of accounting have also turned in their resignations. From the College of Arts and Sciences, one of two Spanish professors is gone, as is the only French professor. The College has also lost a professor of history and one from Christian Studies. The School of Business has also taken a significant hit. Two of a total of three accounting professors have left. The Dean of the School of Education, one faculty member and the Assistant Director for the Center for Teacher Preparation have also resigned. Add to these numbers three librarians and the Director of the Shorter Museum and Archives.

For those of you that may be sports fans, the head soccer coach has resigned, as has the head cross country coach, a football coach and an assistant professor of Sports Management.

There have been significant losses in upper administration, as the Assistant Registrar, the Assistant Vice President for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, Acting Vice President of Institutional Advancement, and the Director and Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs.

Losses also have ranged from Information Technology to Financial Aid to Human Resources to the Student Services Advisor to Facilities Management. These support staff have been vital to the running of the university.

Of significant importance is the loss of the Dean of Adult and Professional Programs, which has been the cash cow for Shorter. Perhaps she knew that non-traditional (adult) students on satellite campuses would have little patience for the changes occurring at the institution and would balk at the idea of having the GBC brand of Christianity crammed down their throats through the policy of integration of education and Georgia Baptist religion.

Students by the dozens have transferred to other schools – a loss of 40 alone who were Fine Arts majors, and others are still exploring their options.

Alumni who had made pledges to support the building of the new library have withdrawn significant pledges out of disgust for the actions of the current administration. The citizens of Rome and alumni speak out almost daily in the Rome News-Tribune, decrying the loss of this once great institution.

Most interesting of all the comments by White and Harris are their references to the Save Our Shorter movement and the tireless work of Betty Zane Morris on behalf of Shorter. White refers to our concern as “juvenile behavior” and accuses Dowless’ critics, saying that we have “all but declared that Dr. Dowless is going to be responsible for the demise of Rome, Georgia and perhaps, the end of the world as we have known it.”  The facts presented above indicate a need for grave concern, not for the end of Rome or the world, but of Shorter University, Truett-McConnell College and Brewton-Parker College due to the Fundamentalist agenda supported and even lauded by White.

Mr. Harris takes his slap at the highly respected former Chair of the Communications Department and Teacher of the Year recipient Betty Zane Morris, first by calling her Mary Zane Morris, (in what must have been an intentional error writing, since Mrs. Morris has communicated many times with the Christian Index). Mrs. Morris also has a scholarship named after her at Shorter, established and supported by friends, faculty, alumni and students. At the Celebrate Shorter awards recognition this year, Mrs. Morris’ name was left off from the title of the scholarship. Harris says, “In my opinion, her prognostications may prove to be nothing more than the forlorn lamentations of a sullen soul.” That sort of rhetoric will not go over well among Betty Zane’s hundreds of friends and supporters. Betty Zane Morris earned her right to speak out about the school that she so loves. More importantly, Harris’s remark is not the type of comment that is appropriate for a Southern gentleman in regards to a lady. Mr. Harris owes Mrs. Morris an apology, which we are certain she will never receive.

We would be delighted to link you to the entirety of these two articles, however the Index, in its effort to spread the gospel to believers, requires a $6.00 subscription to the full text. We recommend that you check with your local library, your local Baptist church or friends and neighbors and read both articles. We suspect that proponents of higher education will find both articles sobering and thought provoking in light of the above information.

WHERE ARE WE GOING WITH SOS?

You must not be called Teacher, because you are all equal and have only one Teacher.9 And you must not call anyone here on earth Father, because you have only the one Father in heaven.10 Nor should you be called  Leader, because your one and only leader is the Messiah. Matthew 23: 8-10

For the past seven months, a raging battle has ensued over the documents issued by the current Shorter administration. Chief among them has been the Personal Lifestyle Statement found elsewhere on this site. It is not the intention of Save Our Shorter to wage a theological battle on these pages. We believe, as did Martin Luther and our Protestant forefathers before us, in the priesthood of the believer – that is, that every believing Christian has the God-given right to a direct relationship with God, without interference from the edicts of man.

We wish simply to point out that from 1926, with the first Baptist Faith and Message until a 1998 amendment to the 1963 version, the issues of lifestyle, as regards the family and the definition of marriage were not, historically, a part of Baptist doctrine.  Not until the 2002 Fundamentalist revision of the Baptist Faith and Message was there a mention of homosexuality, the denial of women as pastors, the loosening of restraints from worldly amusements and secular employment on Sunday, pornography and the right of the unborn. Nowhere in the Baptist Faith and Message is there any edict as to the refraining of the use of alcohol in public. That edict belongs solely to the Personal Lifestyle Statement.

The media has made much over the Personal Lifestyle Statement and has zeroed in on the issue of homosexuality. We believe that this is true, in part, because of the current controversy in America regarding the issues of “gay marriage”. While we welcome the media’s attention over the controversies surrounding Shorter, this sole issue is far from the heart of the conflict. Of equal and perhaps greater importance is the issue of control of the university and the threat to academic freedom through the interpretation and demands of the Biblical Principles on the Integration of Faith and Learning statement.

We believe in academic freedom. It is from this perspective that much of our disagreement with the Shorter administration and Board of Trustees arises.

Academic freedom has been defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the American Association of University Professors as follows:

“Academic freedom to explore significant and controversial questions is an essential precondition to fulfill the academy’s mission of educating students and advancing knowledge. Academic responsibility requires professors to submit their knowledge and claims to rigorous and public review by peers who are experts in the subject matter under consideration; to ground their arguments in the best available evidence; and to work together to foster the education of students.”

Consider for a moment, the comparison of the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – with the proper structure in an academic environment.

The administration and board of trustees (executive) holds primary responsibility for fundraising for the university, the proper administration of funds, the maintenance of the buildings and grounds and the provision of adequate resources for the faculty and students as they seek to explore the body of knowledge available in each discipline in higher education.

The faculty, with the Provost as head academician, holds primary responsibility for determining the credentials of its professors, deciding the curriculum, determining the degrees that are to be conferred and advancing knowledge through responsible instruction of its students.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), through its Commission on Colleges, acts as the judicial branch, reviewing the actions, funding and policies of their member institutions and awarding accreditation to those institutions who meet its standards of excellence.

Each of these bodies have a distinct and clear purpose. The board and administration has no authority over the faculty with the exception of ensuring that faculty guidelines and policies are adhered to and to give their approval and support to such items as tenure, policy change submitted by the faculty and addition or change in degree programs. The board and administration are there, in fact, to support the work of the faculty, not to dictate and demand their own version of higher education. With Shorter, we have a case, if you will, of the tail wagging the dog.

As we will make clear in the coming days and weeks, the SACS accrediting body has expressed clear concern regarding the interference of the Georgia Baptist Convention with the Shorter Board of Trustees and their influence over the duties and responsibilities directly accorded to the faculty. Those concerns are legitimate and are far deeper than the policies contained in the Personal Lifestyle Statement.

We ask those of you who are Georgia Baptists to hold your judgement until we have set forth our case. We ask all readers to respond, to question, to inquire through the true nature of critical thinking.

COMMENT POLICY

Save Our Shorter wishes to make clear its policy on posting comments to articles posted here. The purpose of this website is two-fold.

It was created to allow departing faculty, staff and students as well as supporters of the Shorter that we knew prior to the Dowless administration and the Fundamentalist take-over to have a place to give voice to their disappointment and opposition, because the current administration refused true dialog with them.

It was also created to shed light on the incidents that brought the changes espoused by the current administration to fruition. Our intent is to speak to the issues at hand as well as to relate those moves by the Georgia Baptist Convention Fundamentalists which brought us to this place. Much more will be posted on the issues in the coming weeks.

In the past few days, we have received comments to be posted which reveal the darker side of the Fundamentalist movement. Individuals with no knowledge of the players in this tragedy have attacked or attempted to attack faculty, staff students and alumni in a manner that is unacceptable.

Those individuals submitting comments are as follows:

I think it’s uplifting that dozens of un-Christian blasphemers are leaving a Christian university that is standing up for God’s Word instead of man’s.

Jay McHue – Nevada

It is sad to see you go, but then as a parent of a prospective student…I am glad to see those who should “know better” to leave. Practice your overt moral decline elsewhere.

Clive Smith

While your empassioned diatribe drips with the sentimentality of a life and career of a wandering, as well as wondering existentialist, it is a shame to see such a committment to the fallacy of a religion that has an appearance of godliness but denies the power of Truth.

I believe Shorter University has been done a great service by your departure and I am thankful that the students will no longer be subject to such an inaccurate representation of Christianity.

Chuck Swope

Any more comments of this type will not be approved for publication and the poster’s comments will be identified as spam and deleted.

If you wish to denigrate Shorter faculty, staff, students, alumni or friends, please feel free to start your own webpage.

SaveOurShorter

AND YOU ASK WHY THEY LEAVE

MY STORY

Four years ago, I arrived onto the campus of Shorter University (then college). I know this sounds odd since I am a freshman vocal performance major, but it’s completely true. Four years ago, I attended the Summer Arts Institute for piano. That week forever changed my life. Being surrounded by great counselors, campers, professors showed me what college life was going to be, and from that first day, I knew Shorter was where I was going to go to college.

Time went on, and my plans changed. I decided to go into Vocal Performance rather than piano, but I still knew that Shorter was the place to be. It was like a second home to me. When the time came for me to audition for my undergraduate program, Shorter was one of three schools I applied to, and the only one I actually auditioned for. I was excited to start my career at Shorter University! I had my voice teacher selected; I had my rooming assignment; I had attended Summit; I had bought things for my room. I was ready to go. The first few months went by in a flash: the chorale retreat, recitals, opera rehearsal and performances, and then the unthinkable happened: The Personal Lifestyle Statement.

At first, I didn’t know what to think about such a document – surely this could not be a legitimate request. No one could force another human being to sign such a hate filled and limiting document. It was impossible for me to think about. A week (I think) went by, and I was informed that people were going to leave if this didn’t change, and it seemed as if things weren’t going to change. I found solace in nothing. I became a shadow of the person I was. How could anyone destroy my beloved Shorter? How? It just wasn’t fair. Groups and protests were organized, and for a while it seemed like there was a glimmer of hope that the document would be retracted, but the powers that be became even more relentless. Although I wanted to stay, it didn’t seem like I would be able to, so I started applying to new schools. How funny… I spent my first year of college looking for a new one.

When first deciding about transferring, I had to sit down with myself and ask if transferring was the correct option for me. I mean, of course there were the obvious facts – my voice teacher wanted to leave, and other countless teachers and students did as well, but were those good enough reasons to leave? No. That alone was not enough. This issue dug deeper than just my peers leaving. This was personal. They had attacked me personally just because I have a “disease.”

 I grew up in the Mormon faith, and I was treated the same way there as I am here. I struggled for years to come to terms with who I was as a person, and how I was different from people around me. I couldn’t help but ask why it seemed like I should be punished for something beyond my control. I chose to be gay just as much as someone chooses to be straight, so why am I a sinner? I was told every day that because I feel a certain way, I would never be with God in Heaven. How is that fair? It’s not. What made this predicament more difficult was that I could not talk to my parents about everything that was going on, for their religious dogma coincides with fundamentalist Baptists on homosexuality.

Like other countless music majors, I sing in a church choir in Rome. For me, my church was Saint Peter’s Episcopal. At Saint Peter’s I finally felt accepted in God’s eyes. I finally found the place where God’s love permeated to every last individual in their church. Not just the ones they said were worthy. Everyone is accepted there. Saint Peter’s was the epitome of what Shorter really should be to be considered a Christian university.

So, yes this is my biggest issue with the document. How can a self-proclaimed Christian university come out with a document that is not Christ-like at all? Homosexuals are people too, but it seemed like I wasn’t at Shorter. I felt judged every Tuesday when I would walk to the cafeteria as other were walking to the Chapel for their worship service. I felt judged every time I passed someone. Solely because I am gay and it obviously showed. Should I have to hide who I am? Not be proud that I am a child of God and I am perfect the way He made me even though it’s different from others around me? That’s not fair. The only place I found solace was in Chorale where I was among people who loved and supported me for who I was and not who they wanted me to be.

I started my audition process. It was tedious for I did not want to do it. I thought that I was going to be at Shorter for four years, not just one. I had some fun though. I took a road trip to New Jersey; I also went to Atlanta for a regional audition, and I went to my hometown to audition at Mercer. I received great honors and scholarships everywhere I applied, but nothing seemed right, because it wasn’t Shorter. I thought I was never going to be able to get over it. I lost hope. Some days, I could hardly even get myself out of my bed to go to class; in fact I skipped many classes because I did not want to be reminded of what I was not going to have. It became too hard to bear.

The only thing that kept me going and inspired me to get out of bed was Chorale rehearsal for ACDA, but sometimes it was hard to put forth effort to pretend I was not depressed. I went to convention and had a blast. It was such a treat to be out and away with the people I hold dear to my heart, but spring break came and afterwards came opera scenes which was just another reminder of the censorship and rules Shorter administration was putting us under. (We were supposed to do The Elixir of Love, but because of the alcohol references, we had to change our opera). During spring break I finally decided what I was going to do with my life: Musical Theater Accompanying. I applied at Shenandoah University, but I did not apply in time for their auditions.

April came and I found myself thrown into the craziest month of my life. I had performance after performance, but I enjoyed every last minute. It blew my mind how much great music I was making with people at Shorter and in Rome. How could such a small town produce such great music? I knew I was where I was supposed to be. There were so many great things happening for me, so this is what hurts the most: leaving the people I am emotionally invested in, leaving such a great opportunities for music making, being attacked so personally for something beyond control.

So why am I leaving Shorter University:

  1. My professors are
  2. My peers are
  3. For being personally attacked for my sexuality
  4. To be in a comfortable and supportive environment where I can be who I am.
  5. God’s love and guiding hand is not found at Shorter

I feel that Shorter, the GBC, the Board of Trustees, and/or whoever can do what they want to the school. It’s their school, but I cannot personally attend a school so full of hate. The personal lifestyle statement is picking and choosing which sins are worse than others, but a sin is a sin. Why were homosexuality, premarital sex, and adultery singled out? What about child molesters? Is it acceptable to be a child molester? Is it acceptable to rape innocent humans? NO! It’s not. It’s just as wrong, but it wasn’t pointed out. That to me screams bigotry. Let it be known that this is not an attack on a religion, this is an attack on the thoughts of individuals who believe that they are above others and believe that God speaks to them and moves them to do things. Well, it is my opinion that God does not work like this. “LOVE so amazing SO DIVINE!” It is through Christ’s love that people are changed not by forcing them to attend Chapels, and to deny what they are to themselves. I believe God made me perfect the way I am, not the way someone says that I should be, and because of this I cannot agree with what Shorter says. Jesus did not tell the adulteress to get out of his sight, he said “Go and sin no more” not: sign this document or lose your job. Once again, this screams bigotry. I feel slighted as a student as if I’m not even important. This whole predicament is not fair to the student body. I have had to spend my whole first year of college LOOKING FOR A NEW COLLEGE, and I’m mad about it.

To those who are in charge of everything going on, know that I respect your decision to do this, and I know you have every right, as Shorter is your school, but do know that a legacy that has been built at Shorter University will now forever be demolished. Shorter’s reputation preceded her in many cases, and it does again now, but for different reasons. Also, do know that it is wrong to claim to be something you aren’t: Shorter is no longer a liberal arts college; it is now a Baptist seminary. You are not transforming lives through Christ; you are transforming lives through narrow mindedness fundamentalist views.

May God bless the Hill to keep her in constant care and peace through the turmoil that will ensue. May every endeavor upon the Hill be met with strength and courage.

Finally, remember you cannot force people to transform their lives through Christ. It is only through an example of His perfect love that people can be turned to him. Forcing people to believe what you believe will accomplish nothing.

McKinley Starks

ANOTHER ROMAN SPEAKS OUT

In her letter to the editor, printed recently in the Rome News-Tribune, Betty Zane Morris called for the citizens of Rome to speak out on the issues that are engulfing Shorter. Her call was a wise one, as it was a collection of Roman citizens, Alfred Shorter chief among them,who stepped forward and provided the funding to support the Cherokee Baptist Female Seminary at a time when the Baptist Convention of Georgia refused to do so.

Save Our Shorter is gratified to find that those citizens are now willing to speak to the issues at hand. It is the historical memory of these individuals, as well as the historical memories of those who served on the Hill, whether faculty, staff, administration or trustee, that will help to illuminate the true heart of the issues that plague the institution.

One such reply follows. We encourage others to come forth and help us to shine Light and reveal Truth on Save Our Shorter. We may be reached through our email: saveourshorter@gmail.com.

My father,  Dr. Forrest Lanier,  was Assistant to the President and Executive Vice-President of Shorter from 1975 to 1985.    Earlier,  he had been a trustee from 1952 to 1974,   so our families roots with Shorter go back many years.     I stand with each of the members of Save our Shorter,   because I know that if my father were still alive his heart would have been broken due the developments of recent months,  as would that of Dr. Minor.     As a former Southern Baptist,   I predicted many years ago that this “trickle down” of fundamentalism would eventually reach the pews of the churches,   and the situation at Shorter is endemic of that.    The takeover of the Convention was apparently planned at the “Cafe DuMonde” in New Orleans in 1967 with Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler discussing strategy over beignets and coffee,   and now it has reached this.     But the problem,  in my opinion,  is that all of this is too late.    The trend in recent years is for denominations (especially evangelical ones) that increasingly shed or dis-associate themselves from the institutions of higher learning that their traditions helped to create, and this continues today.   “Christian” institutions of “higher” learning as Shorter represents itself to the community and the world,  is in fact already a dying breed.  A newer,  younger and less “religious” generation is arising which is more tolerant of homosexuality,  premarital sex,  and the moderate use of alcohol.    The speaker of the North Carolina legislature said it well in response to the recent vote to ban gay marriage in his state:  “This is a generational issue.   This measure will be repealed in less than twenty years.”     President Obama recently endorsed gay marriage,  the first sitting President to do so.    Attitudes and “traditions” itself are changing in American society in response to the more secular,   more educated and more socially mobile individuals who are coming of age.

As for Don Dowless?   I would not be surprised at one thing [he does].    If there are no teachers to teach,  where will the students come from?    And if there are no students,   then where will the money come from?     And if the money dries up,   where will Shorter be at this point?

The “Taliban” of the Georgia Baptist Convention might not just hold him to the fire,   he might himself be on it…

“For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.” (Heb. 13:11)

John L. Lanier