The following guest column appeared in last Sunday’s edition of the Rome News-Tribune, and is republished here by permission.
GUEST COLUMN: Shorter’s broke, Rome must help fix it
by BETTY ZANE MORRIS, Guest Columnist
BEFORE MY CHURCH had even begun last Sunday, I’d had half a dozen people ask me if I’d seen the Rome News-Tribune’s editorial, “Mostly sad for Rome,” and comment on how good it was. One said, “They came out with guns blazing!” When I was able to get home to read it for myself, I found it to be as forthright as they said, and even chilling, as we think about the devastating impact on our beloved institution, the churches, businesses, education, and all the others affected by the impending doom.
While I loudly applaud last Sunday’s editorial I would suggest that the author reexamine the statement that next fall’s enrollment figures “are likely to be roughly the same.” While it is true that we won’t really know until fall, we must consider that entire departments are practically decimated because of the requirements being forced upon faculty and staff by the current GBC administration.
For example, the School of Nursing has lost all but two of its faculty, leaving two relatively inexperienced faculty to continue the program. How will they be able to find the qualified people to restaff this program, who are also willing to sign the required Personal Lifestyle Statements? If they can’t be found, what will happen to the more than 150 the students who are enrolled in it?
The Sciences, at the foundation of the strong premed and nursing programs, will lose 7 out of 12 faculty, who are leaving after this spring. With more than 200 majors, and more faculty losses expected, how will this department be staffed fully enough to teach students in those programs and others?
How do faculty and student losses in Nursing and the Sciences affect Rome’s medical community?
ANOTHER EXAMPLE, of course, is in the School of the Arts programs. This week, a source in the Music Department revealed that last fall’s enrollment of vocal students was 83 and, of that number, only 10 plan to return next year. Of the music and theatre faculty, 12 out of 20 will be leaving. Lost will be the glorious sounds of the Shorter Chorale under Dr. Martha Shaw’s direction. Lost will be the numbers of music faculty and students who directed and enhanced the music programs of our churches. Lost will be the delight of theatrical productions that have amazed and challenged us.
How do losses in the Fine Arts affect Rome’s cultural, church and arts community?
Another example of loss is in the School of Professional Programs which, in fact, did contribute greatly to enrollment increase over the past 15 years, but now is itself suffering a significant decline (down over 300 students) in enrollment due, in part, to the inability of businesses to pay for their students to enroll in it and, now, the forced signing of “the papers”, as they’ve come to be known. The School of Business on the hill is expecting a loss of 20% or more of faculty and students for next year.
How do losses of faculty and students in these areas affect Rome’s business community? How does the loss of these numbers of individuals affect the economy of Rome and Floyd County?
IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT to note that four of the seven Deans are not returning. They are from the School of Nursing, the School of Education, the School of the Sciences, and the School of Professional Programs, leaving those programs void of the valuable leadership they have provided.
These aren’t the only losses of faculty and students — just some of the more visible ones.
What will happen when 88 percent of the highly qualified faculty who responded in the faculty survey early this spring, leave, as they reported they would do as soon as jobs became available. If recognized, quality, qualified faculty aren’t there, why would students enroll?
What a gift Dr. Donald Dowless, Dr. Nelson Price and the GBC administrators have given to the schools and universities that are inheriting the excellent faculty and students from Shorter!
Another statement that caught my attention was “Supporters of ‘Shorter as it used to be’ can probably rely on Greater Romans to help them try to catch the school if the GBC some day abandons it.”
We need to ask “Why is the community waiting until abandonment by GBC to do anything?” Why do most of the people comment on how sad the situation is, sigh resignedly, and do nothing? Do we, as a people, give up so easily?
I CONTEND that, if the current situation is any indication of Greater Romans support, it isn’t so likely that we can rely on them. I’ve been astonished that more people in Rome and surrounding communities, who have no direct connection to Shorter, haven’t spoken out. Do they not realize that there is hardly a business or institution in Rome that doesn’t have Shorter graduates in responsible positions in their employment pool? There appears to be a blind eye among most regarding the gravity of the situation for Rome’s economy, not to mention all the other facets of a community, should the institution decrease significantly in size or, God forbid, fail. There have been many letters to the editor, articles and editorials but, I believe if a count were done, a majority of these have come from alumni, current students and former faculty, not from concerned, informed citizens of Rome.
As you may know, there are some groups under the radar who are fighting vigorously for Shorter to return to the shining example of higher education that has been built since its humble, Christian beginnings at First Baptist Church in Rome in 1873. Check outwww.saveourshorter.com to see how you might join in this battle. I hope and pray that these staunch defenders of the Shorter we knew and loved will be successful.
THERE’S an old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Shorter was Christian, thriving and unbroken until the GBC took over. Soon cracks began to appear, which have now become a huge chasm. Now it is “broke.” Let’s fix it!
Betty Zane Morris of Rome taught at Shorter College for 46 years, serving on the faculty and as department chair of Communication.