The following appeared on the editorial page of the Rome News-Tribune on May 11, 2012, and is republished with permission. Please note that the current count of those who are leaving the school has climbed to 59 since this letter was written.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: 53 display integrity, courage
by ROBERT K. FINNELL, Rome
HAVING NO relationship with Shorter I have observed the ongoing controversy from a distance and regrettably detached. The article and editorial in this past Sunday’s paper caused deeper reflection.To learn that 53 members of the faculty and staff were leaving was both disappointing and uplifting. The uplifting part is easy. Fifty-three people with the integrity and courage to say “no” to the bigotry, ignorance and selfishness which currently passes for leadership at Shorter. Let me be clear it is a private school and can lawfully follow the path it has chosen. But measure the action of those with power versus the character of those who have served the school well and now feel compelled to leave.I do not know Mr. Wilson but what has he done to merit losing his job? Up until being presented with a “life style” statement apparently the only thing he has done is his job and apparently well enough that the school had no other reason to terminate him. Mr. Wilson and the 52 others who have shown personal courage and integrity in dealing with this issue are to be commended. There have been plenty of circumstances when people have blindly “signed” just to go along not willing to confront the darkness in light of the power it possesses.
Ms. Morris asked us as a community to reflect upon what these actions by Shorter say about us and urges action. Certainly there have been some protest, especially among some alumni, but is there anything we as a community can do? The answer in a limited way is yes.
First, we can let those 53 people and their families know that we support them. Second, certainly there must be in the Baptist community an enlightened voice that will stand up against such intolerance. Third, I hope the Rome News-Tribune and other media will continue their reporting on this issue. Fourth, Shorter should be denied access to our public facilities.
Barron Stadium being the prime example, we should not allow our tax dollars to subsidize their intolerance. The Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority should not allow use of public facilities to any institution that discriminates on the basis of race, age, sex, religion or sexual orientation. The same should apply to the use of The Forum and other public facilities. If Shorter does not want to reflect the tolerance afforded to all citizens within the greater society, then they must not ask society to subsidize their intolerance regardless of how right they believe themselves to be.
History teaches us that people like those currently responsible for Shorter’s actions will not voluntarily reverse course. People who believe they are “right” seldom are open to critical self-assessment. Indeed we should expect them to defend their action and rebuke any call for review. However, the long arc of history bends toward the advancement of mankind toward tolerance and the willingness of people to extend the hand of friendship regardless of temporal differences.
Mr. Wilson, I hope you are allowed to keep your job but I am more thankful for your integrity and courage. May others be equally measured, including our community.
Read more: RN-T.com – LETTER TO THE EDITOR 53 display integriy courage
So if I understand his article correctly, Mr. Finnell is suggesting that Shorter University, as a private organization, should not be permitted to exclude anyone based on their beliefs…however, public facilities in Rome SHOULD exclude Shorter for precisely this reason? Yet another shining example of the incoherence of the new tolerance.
Once again, you have it all wrong! If Shorter’s administration chooses to go down its current path, which it has every right to do, the Rome community has every right to say we don’t support you and you can not use our public faciltiies! You don’t take public funds if you don’t adhere to a non-discrimination policy in hiring. Shorter can not have it both ways.
Thank you for the clarification, Unhappy Alum. I must have misunderstood the article. If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that the Roman community should combat viewpoint discrimination by engaging in its own viewpoint discrimination. That makes much more sense. I’m glad we had this delightful conversation…I’m learning so much.
I have some questions for you.
Do you think that the citizens of Rome, GA – who have supported Shorter more over the last 138 years than the GBC ever has – to sit back and accept the legalistic destruction of Shorter and not say or do anything?
Do you really think that the citizens of Rome don’t have the right to voice their displeasure?
Do you really think that they don’t have the right to put their displeasure into actions?
Or, like Shorter, when they accept tuition from gay students and alumni – are they supposed to turn the other way in regards to where the money comes from?
Is Shorter going to start having students and alumni sign pledges as well? Are they going to be THAT pure?
Just a few questions that have been on my mind.
The Roman community should vigorously offer any wisdom they have regarding the conversations at Shorter…that’s what makes for a robust public discourse. Of course…each participant in the conversation should also engage in rigorous self examination to ensure they are not becoming the oppressor as they seek to speak out on behalf of “the oppressed.” I’ve been disappointed that, from my perspective, any time a critic of Shorter’s policies are challenged to consider whether they have also judged, and if they have demonstrated an equally rigid kind of “fundamentalism” in regard to their own moral vision, the response is typically scorn and derision. Supporters of Shorter are maliciously eviscerated in the public sphere. Any dissenters from the prevailing public opinion are immediately maligned as intolerant bigots. I don’t fault anyone for criticizing Shorter’s policies, Felieca. I fault them for doing so uncritically.
I would like to remind jarnold of the biblical manner in which this entire endeavor was started. We took Jesus’ teachings in Matthew very seriously when we believed someone in the Christian community was “in sin.” We went to them: the administration, the Trustees, Nelson Price, and we confronted them with their failures to show the love of Christ. The common answer we received, aside from the deflection of the actual issues, was that they didn’t care what we had to say. Well in order to make them care, we had to take this before the entire community. These things are biblical.
Now don’t mistake fringe opinions and comments with the core of this movement. Generalizations about who is involved in name-calling and “judgment” do not serve either side well, but instead only angers one side and shows the ignorance of the other.
And the logical fallacy apparent in the argument: “well you’re sinning too,” is ridiculous. Show some thought and insight and provide something useful to the conversation.
I can appreciate your wisdom- mutual name-calling will do nothing to further the public discourse. However, if the primary concern of your movement is to uncover the intolerance of an administration that seeks to impose its own narrow view of morality, I think it is quite appropriate to question whether this movement has shown equal intolerance in its attempts to conform Shorter to its own moral vision, and for the community to examine the motives of those who have brought forth this “sin” to judge.
That would be Dr. Martin Luther “King”, Jr… He deserves a correction. But while I’m at it, Mr. Arnold, even the church you claim to attend in your personal biography, has written on its home page, in all capitals, mind you, “EVERYONE’S WELCOME”… You would do well to learn from that.
If I used more vulgarities and personal insults, perhaps I could be as open-minded as you one day, Michael. 😉
Among the other matters the Rome Community can explore with the current Shorter mindset is the film Higher Ground. The discussion of the Baptist Faith and Message chat in the RN-T opens the way for lots of conversations about the Baptist tenor and legacy in Floyd County and many ways to get at it. Click on my name for more on this film.
Thank you for your support of those who have had the opportunity to not sign the documents and leave Shorter. However, I beg that you not make gross assumptions about those of us that are “left behind”. We have not all blindly signed these documents to stand in agreement with the Shorter administration – some of us had fewer options. Jobs in academia are difficult to get and the application process is lengthy. Some of us must support families, some care for elderly parents in the area, some must pay back the student loans that got us here, some must have health insurance, some are so close to retirement that there are few options available. I am so, so proud of my colleagues who have been able to submit their resignations to Shorter and I hope I can join them soon; however, I am also proud of those who (for whatever reason) are staying because they have been bullied into doing so. These individuals need our support and love too!
StillHere- Thank you for your part in this struggle. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for all of you – leaving or remaining. I celebrate those of you who are trapped on the battlefield and those of you who voluntarily remain to rebuild afterward. I’m sorry that we had to be reminded to continue to let you know that we’re fighting for you, too.
Please read the Information for Faculty and Staff (Current) in the right hand menu. Lux Veritas!
Please know we have not forgotten you! We pray daily for your strength and pray God’s protection over you. We continue to be the voice for those of you who must still silent to maintain your jobs. We are here for you and speaking for you!
Here’s the thing that a lot of people aren’t saying: Shorter is not an easy place to teach/work to begin with…even BEFORE the Lifestyle Statement debacle…and it’s not because of the lower-end pay or the shifting health benefits or dwindling retirement plans or the students who come to us having scored an 8 on the ACT. No, it’s hard to work at Shorter because, for many of us, teaching is a labor of love where the job is never-ending, AND even though we do our jobs well, we get absolutely NO respect from adminstration. Some of us work 60+ hours a week, and in return, we get treated like we do not matter or worse, like we are just part of the “Shorter machine” that can be easily replaced if we “squeak” too loudly. I’m afraid the Lifestyle Statment, while yes, insulting on multiple levels, functioned mostly as a cold reminder about how the powers-that-be really do NOT give a care about the opinions, voices, or sacrifices made by its faculty members, and yes, it gave us a collective reason to leave and seek employment elsewhere, where we can hopefully be treated with respect and decency.
In support of those left at Shorter with no place to go due to personal reasons other than agreement……
Alumni and people of Rome, how much do you really support the folks that helped you get the business, practice or job you currently have? Thinking of these folks, praying for them, and speaking out for them does not help them. Help them get out!