Monthly Archives: July 2012

DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY

The following article appeared in the Rome News-Tribune on July 17th and is re-printed here with permission from the author. If you would like to express your views on the situation at Shorter, please send your article to saveourshorter@gmail.com.

FOR NEARLY 50 years, my wife and I have been involved in one way or another at Shorter.

We both graduated in the ’60s. Our two children and son-in-law graduated in the ’90s. Shorter has always been like a family, and we loved to return for graduations and other special events. We were always welcomed and most of the faculty and staff knew us. Students we worked with over the years were encouraged to attend Shorter. Some did attend. Some received scholarships.

For several decades, my wife and I have served on the Alumni Governing Board during which there were several alumni director and college president changes. Never have we witnessed anything like this past year. The new administration has perpetrated fear and uncertainty that I have not seen in a long time. Dishonesty runs rampant. The new administration quickly attacked the fine arts by disallowing a popular opera because of the mentioning of strong drink. However, they did allow a flash mob dance to a song with blatantly vulgar lyrics to be performed in the dining hall. This flash mob was planned, led and performed in by the same dean whose “Christ-Centered Critical Thinking” plan is approved for the university.

THOUGH ATTENTION to the vulgarity of the lyrics was called to the president, provost, and dean, no acknowledgement of error or apology for the flash mob song choice has been made. We might note also that during the performance, the president’s wife was seen laughing and applauding. In another situation, at the awards presentation during Celebrate Shorter in early April, the listing of the scholarship honoring a much loved faculty member omitted that name from the printed program with another name being given to the scholarship. Though attention of this omission and change of names also was called to the president, provost and dean of that area, no acknowledgement or apology was ever made.

Since November 2011, there have been many articles and letters written, both pro and con, about the debacle at Shorter University. Some even declared Shorter evil and supported the change to a “Christian” institution. The editor of The Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist Convention’s newspaper, said he applauded what Dr. Dowless was doing. Some said there is a cancer that needs to be removed. Shorter has always been a Christian school. However, it is not a convent or monastery. Most of us are sad and angry to see our beloved Shorter destroyed in such a devious way.

WHERE WAS the Alumni Governing Board during all the controversy? I can say that we tried. Initially, The director of Alumni Affairs and the president of the Alumni Governing Board did meet with Dr. Dowless. Things were more positive at our next meeting but soon began to crumble. At the following meeting, some alumni had tried to speak with Dr. Dowless to encourage him to move more carefully. The lifestyle statement was out and the word began to spread over the social media network.

There were other meetings with Dr. Dowless by alumni, faculty and others, to no avail. He would not change his position on the lifestyle statement. Those not signing the lifestyle statement faced termination. More than 70 faculty and staff have left for one reason or another. It seems obvious to most that the precarious environment at Shorter caused many to leave. It certainly is not normal for so many to leave, were it not for the conditions placed upon them at Shorter by Dr. Dowless and others.

Alumni trust in the administration became greatly diminished. Some of the alumni along with AGB members organized a protest at the bottom of the hill, in November 2011. It was organized legally through the Rome police, and was carried out appropriately.

A NUMBER of AGB members, as well as alumni and interested citizens from Rome and other parts of Georgia attended. Only one AGB member attended the inauguration that was taking place at the same time. Another protest, arranged according to the regulations of the Rome police in the spring of 2012, occurred peacefully in the rain.

I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure I am not in a bad dream. The debacle at Shorter is a bad dream for many of us — a bad dream that may never disappear. Who are the people who have taken Shorter from us? How did such a heinous and villainous act slip by us? Someone said recently, “They fired a warning shot many years ago and the main attack has just arrived.”

Who would cause a family to have to pack up and move when they really did not want to? Who would coerce anyone to sign a ridiculous lifestyle statement and subjugate those who remain? Who are those who allow a sickening flash dance song with sickening lyrics played to a dance by faculty and staff?

They will soon burn books and art that have stood the test of time. Who are they?

THEY ARE the fundamentalists who took over the Southern Baptist Convention decades ago. They bring the message of inerrancy and the infallible word. They espouse and advocate a philosophy that subjugates women to a level less than men. Only men can be pastors. Women may be qualified, but men must be the pastors of the churches. They refuse to have fellowship with anyone who might not believe as they do. These same people approve of pastors having sole authority in the church. (I always thought that Christ was the sole authority.) In order to have a place of leadership in the denomination, one must adhere to their beliefs only. These same people accused Jimmy Carter of “secular humanism”, urging him to return to Christianity. They also had the audacity to question the faith of messengers to the SBC from Bill Clinton’s church. Even missionaries in the field had their faith questioned. Are we surprised to see what happened at Shorter? They have left in their wake a trail of disenfranchised people including pastors, associates, faculty and staff of Baptist colleges, universities and seminaries — and the list goes on.

What saddens me most in this dilemma is that I know and believe that there are members of SBC churches who are not true fundamentalists.

IT IS DIFFICULT to believe that anyone would want to see a school like Shorter destroyed. It was a beautiful liberal arts college. There were graduates who became teachers, principals, pastors, lawyers, doctors, opera singers, gospel singers, and other professional people. These graduates have made and are making our world a better place. Go to http://www.saveourshorter.com to read more about the Shorter dilemma.

Kenneth E. Hill of Rome is a 1964 graduate of Shorter College and a former member of the college’s Alumni Governing Board

 

Read more: RN-T.com – GUEST COLUMN Shorter’s alumni want more administrative accountability

THE FULL STORY ABOUT THE MAYOR AND SHORTER

In response to many inquiries concerning whether Mayor Evie McNiece of Rome, GA, was elected to the Board of Trustees of Shorter University in the fall of 2011, an account of the sequence of events follows.  This conversation took place on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in Mayor McNiece’s office, with John Howell and Betty Zane Morris, both alumni of Shorter, and was written up in detail by Mrs. Morris the following morning. Mayor McNiece was very friendly, open and willing to discuss the issues, and said her door is open for person-to-person conversations but that she will not answer the “anonymous” comments such as those that have appeared online. 

Here is her story, as was told first to Rome’s City Manager, later relayed to me, and then relayed to John Howell and me in our meeting with her.  The stories are exactly the same.

Mayor McNiece told us that Dr. Dowless called her last June or July (early in his term) and he and his wife took her out to lunch in a very convivial, friendly encounter.  Before lunch was over, Dr. Dowless asked her if she would be interested in serving on the Shorter Board of Trustees.  She did not say yes; she told him that she’d have to think about it.   She didn’t hear anything more from him after that, and still had not heard from him as of May 23, when we met with her.

She went on to explain that when the Personal Lifestyle Statement came out in October, 2011, she said she knew she couldn’t sign it, and figured that they had decided they didn’t want her on the Board. She heard nothing else from Dr. Dowless or anyone else connected to the Board until 2 or 3 days before the March Board meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Marietta campus.

Dr. Dowless’ administrative assistant contacted her and asked her if she planned to attend the Board meeting. Mayor McNiece replied that she didn’t know she was on the Board.  The assistant told her she was, and urged her to attend.  She decided to go just to see what was happening. 

 When she arrived, someone told that she had been assigned to a committee, most of whom were Shorter staff members, and she met with them.  She said they were very nice to her but that she felt lost, as she didn’t know what they were talking about since she’d been in no previous committee discussions. She said the people on the committee were friendly and welcoming to her but in the entire time she was at the meeting, they were the only ones who even spoke to her. 

 Neither the Board Chairman nor Dr. Dowless or any other member recognized or introduced her to the Board of Trustees.  At lunch time, she picked up her box lunch and went to one of the rooms to eat. She spoke as she entered the room, but was not greeted in return by anyone.  She said the people in that room were all Trustees with the exception of one woman she didn’t know. 

On reflection, she said that she shouldn’t have gone to the general meeting after lunch, but she decided to go since she had driven that far.  Again, no one spoke to or recognized her as a new member and that, to this day, the Chairman of the Board, Joe Frank Harris, Jr. has never contacted her. 

She was extremely puzzled by the whole situation and sometime after the meeting, she wrote Dr. Dowless and “resigned” from the Board.  She said it was very strange to resign from something she’d never been notified she was on.  She couldn’t remember exactly when she wrote the letter because tax season was upon her (she owns an accounting firm), but knew that she had done it before the time her name “Mayor Evie McNiece” appeared on the Shorter Commencement Program on May 4, 2012. 

She seemed convinced that they had just used her for her position as Mayor which, of course, the commencement program listing would imply. She felt that the listing would be used to suggest that she supported what Shorter was doing.  She was very angry about it. 

She knew little about how Trustees are chosen, so we explained the process, whereby the Nominating Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention selects a slate of candidates, recommended by GBC churches, and those candidates are voted on at the annual convention. Any vacancies are selected by the GBC Executive Board. We explained that GBC has the final say on all trustee appointments. 

At the time of our meeting, she was reluctant to make a public statement such as the one she had just given us, reiterating that her door was always open to anyone with questions. We left her, with cordial feelings all around, believing that we’d ascertained the truth about what had happened. 

On July 11, 2012, the Rome News-Tribune carried a story about Mayor McNiece.  In it, she was quoted as saying “Yes” to the question of whether she would be interested in being on the Board.  Nelson Price was quoted as saying that it was just a “misunderstanding…that could easily be resolved”.

After the Rome News-Tribune story appeared, I talked with Mayor McNiece once again on July 11, 2012.  Her story of what happened remained exactly the same.  She continued, furthermore, that she still—one year later and after all that had transpired—had not been contacted by Dr. Dowless or Mr. Harris.  Dr. Dowless had not spoken with her in more than a year—the year in which he asked her if she might be interested, the year she was supposedly elected and the year in which she resigned from a board she didn’t know she was on. 

She continues to claim—and we believe her—that she said she would “think about it.”   Dr. Price’s claim that it was a misunderstanding defies belief.  How is an appointment to the Shorter Board of Trustees a “misunderstanding” when the supposed appointee is never notified of her appointment?  The lack of notification appears to be negligence in follow-through if, indeed, she was ever elected.  Had she been elected by the GBC in November, 2011, wouldn’t she have received some kind of notification of it prior to mid-March, 2012?  If, indeed, it was a “misunderstanding between two people of admirable character that could easily be resolved”, as Dr. Price claimed, then we call on him to document an explanation for us.   

We believe that this is an accurate picture of what happened, and hope that it answers the questions that have arisen. Again, Dr. Price, we call on you for your explanation of this “misunderstanding…that could easily be resolved.”

Betty Zane Morris, alumna and Professor of Communication (Ret.) 

John Howell, alumnus 

 

MATCH NOT MADE IN HEAVEN

The Rome News-Tribune has written an interesting article on their blog that we recommend to all of our readers. Be sure to thank them for their efforts. The RN-T needs to know that Shorter is still of interest to many people.

We are working to get more information on the Mayor and the Hill encounter.

EIGHTY TWO DEPARTURES AND COUNTING

UPDATE – YET ANOTHER LOSS:

Shorter University Departure # 83
Ms. Sandra Terry
Asst. Vice President for Intercultural Services & Programs
10 years of service

Shorter University Departure # 82
Ms. Cynthia McGehee
Director of Student Engagement & Success
3 years of service

Shorter University Departure # 81
Ms. Sallie Samples
Administrative Asst. (Education)
22 years of service

Shorter University Departure # 80:
April Allen, Administrative Asst. (Nursing)
4 years of service

Shorter University departure # 79:
Nathan Young, Head Coach, Lacrosse
2 years of service

Sallie Samples was fired today for not being a “team player” and having “a bad attitude”. After 22 years of working for Shorter, after helping hundreds of students and faculty, Sallie was deemed unsuitable by a Dean of Education that has only been on the campus a few weeks.  Dozens of posts on the Save Our Shorter Facebook page attest to Sallie’s wonderful attitude, her helpful ways and her knowledge of the School of Education. Surely she deserved better than to be given an hour to pack her personal belongings and being escorted off campus. The actions of this administration are not only shameful in the extreme, they reflect a careless attitude toward the integrity of the university. We will miss you, Sallie. You were a much-loved fixture at Shorter!

________________________________________________________

Thirty days. Just thirty days until classes begin at Shorter. 

Let’s assume for a moment that Dr. Dowless can replace all of the faculty that Shorter has lost. How prepared is the rest of the campus for carrying out the business of the university? Parents, what sort of difficulty will your child face when trying to get information or help from half-filled departments? What is the margin for error when ill-equipped individuals try to run the institution effectively? 

Core requirement 3.2.9 of the SACS Standards demands that “The institution has qualified administrative and academic officers with the experience, competence, and capacity to lead the institution.” Most of the administration’s recent hires have come after the reaffirmation committee visited the Shorter campus. We certainly hope the recent hires fulfill the requirements imposed by the Standard.

We feel sure that all of the following individuals are good people. Many may come to the Hill with good intentions and a fervor for spreading the Georgia Baptist word.  They are, however, poorly qualified for the job that they have taken.  Wayne Phipps had a reason to be worried and so should anyone dealing with Shorter these days.

In December 2011, James B (Bert) Epting Jr. accepted an offer to become Shorter’s Vice President for Advancement.  He replaced Suzanne Scott, who had departed Shorter after serving as Acting Vice President for Advancement.  If the name “Epting” rings a bell with our readers, perhaps it is because James B. Epting Sr. Is president of North Greenville University, former home of Don Dowless.  After less than two months on the job, Bert decided that he needed to fire some people.  And so he did.

Institutional Advancement –

Mark Tunnell – Director of Alumni Relations; 6 yrs at Shorter, and a Shorter Alumna

Replaced by:

Sheri Ransome – formerly Director of Annual Giving at Samford University. No ties to Shorter which is unfortunate, because she has a very large number of alumni that are not too happy with the new regime.

Jamie Clements – Associate Director of Alumni Relations; Shorter class of 2005. According to the announcement of Jamie’s hire, Jamie brought social media and digital technology experience to the department.

Replaced by:

Neely Raper – Director of Development. Neely is a graduate of Shorter, and has been general manager of an industrial products company. Shorter’s announcement also touts Mr. Raper’s involvement as a volunteer with Ducks Unlimited and his military experience.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Dr. Debra Faust – 20-plus years at Shorter. Dr. Faust was transferred to the Atlanta campus and stripped of her title.

Replaced by:

Mr. Corey Humphries – Mr. Humphries came from Charleston Southern University, where he held the position of Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Life. It is important to note that the position at Charleston Southern is not the equivalent of the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. As noted in a previous post, Mr. Humphries graduated from Charleston Southern in 2004 and received his Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Charleston Southern in 2009. We hardly think that a criminal justice degree qualifies Mr. Humphries for the position that he has been given, however in Shorter’s defense, it does eliminate one more female from an upper level management position. Again, we are sure Mr. Humpries is a good man. It’s just our impression that he’s just ill-equipped for this job.

And then there’s the case of the new Executive Vice President.

According to the announcement about the appointment of Mr. Donald “Skip” Martin,” his responsibilities will include oversight of the institutional strategic planning process and the integration of faith and learning.” Yet in less than a month after he was employed, Skip was promoted to Provost AND Executive Vice President.

Dr. Martin may be qualified as chief academician at Shorter, however we find it strange that after Dr. Craig Shull signed the Personal Lifestyle Statement, after he took the heat for firing Michael Wilson, he, too, was demoted to the Atlanta campus.

 As we have previously noted, Dr. Martin came from Charleston Southern as well. It is customary for a candidate for Provost to appear before the full faculty during the interview process. It is also customary for there to have been a nationwide search for an individual that is second only to the President in the university hierarchy.  Did Shorter advertise the position? Did they interview for an Executive Vice President or did they interview for a Provost?  Why was Dr. Martin named Provost within a few weeks of coming on the Shorter campus? 

There are far more questions than answers here, and perhaps that is at the heart of why Wayne Phipps left.

NEW H.R. DIRECTOR LEAVES

Almost six weeks ago, Shorter hired Mr. Wayne Phipps as director of its Department of Human Resources. Wayne came to Shorter from Oglethorpe University, where he had spent 5 years in the human resources department. Prior to working at Oglethorpe, Mr. Phipps had worked in human resources in the corporate environment.  Mr. Phipps was well-liked by his colleagues at Shorter and there was hope that he would be effective in keeping proper hiring procedure in place. All in all, it seemed like a good match – until last week.

Mr. Phipps has turned in his resignation at Shorter.

Why would someone who had already been on the job for six weeks turn in their resignation? Possibilities abound, but several reasons come to mind.  He could have resigned because he was having trouble with relocation. But in this economy, six weeks is a very short amount of time to expect a home to sell and a commute from Atlanta, while difficult, was something he surely considered before accepting the job. He could have been offered a higher salary by Oglethorpe or some other institution, but Mr. Phipps impresses us as a man of integrity. He might have changed his mind and accepted another position prior to actually beginning at Shorter, but once there, one would think he would honor his commitment.  He is a youth pastor at a GBC church, so surely he would have felt honor-bound to help the GBC and remain at Shorter.

We have heard from numerous sources that the current hiring practices at Shorter are, to say the least, unconventional. We understand that Mr. Phipps was intent on doing things the right way – the LEGAL way. We suspect that Mr. Phipps found the administration’s hiring practices downright unethical.  Background checks have been waived (does no one in administration understand the implications of that?), the “mandatory” interview with Don Dowless to ascertain the “Baptist worthiness” of candidates, candidates, no matter their experience and aptness for jobs, have been hired.

Shorter’s faculty handbook clearly sets forth the procedure for hiring new faculty. All candidates’ information goes through the Human Resources Department. Faculty candidates are to be reviewed by the Dean and faculty of the department. The candidates are interviewed by the Dean or Chair, faculty within the discipline, the Provost, and (when he desires) the President. The candidates present a teaching demonstration for interested students and faculty. Observers are encouraged to complete an evaluation form. As we understand it, many of the steps above are being ignored.

 The President of Shorter is responsible for the hires of all administrative personnel. It is the responsibility of the president to ensure that any hires are done with the highest and best interest of the university in mind. One can reasonably assume that procedures for hiring would follow, at least in form, the written practices for hiring faculty. Positions should be advertised in a variety of newspapers and professional journals, candidates should be vetted for suitability and accuracy of information by the human resources department, qualified candidates should be submitted to the president and selection should include the exposure to, if not the counsel of those individuals whom the position will most directly affect.

When we were in school, one of the most dreaded assignments in any class was to “compare and contrast.”  When comparing and contrasting the credentials of the individuals who have left the university with those of Shorter’s most recent hires, we observe a rather startling gap.

While we are sure that all of the new hires are fine individuals, in the case of the two professorial hires, their education and experience in the teaching field falls far short of their departing colleagues. The new Dean of Education compares favorably in credentials, however she seems to have changed employment far more frequently than most academics do, and we find that troubling. She was at Brewton-Parker from 2004-2008, moved to Charleston Southern Certainly, there is good explanation for such frequent changes. Tenure track usually does not begin at an institution until a professor has taught for at least three years and has been reviewed by their peers.

Faculty:

Only two hires have been reported publicly. It is Shorter’s practice to name all incoming faculty at the beginning of the school year, however we are aware of two individuals.

Communications:

Departing faculty – Allen Dutch 

See Mr. Dutch’s credentials here.

Incoming faculty –

Matthew LeHew We learned of Mr. LeHew’s hire via a tweet on Twitter “I’m excited to announce that at the beginning of August I will be moving to Rome, GA to join the faculty at Shorter University!”  He describes himself on Twitter as “Preacher. Web Designer. BCF Grad. FSU Grad” According to the information on the Baptist College of Florida website, Mr. LeHew graduated from Baptist College of Florida in 2009. He received his Master of Arts at Florida State in 2011. His profile reveals limited teaching and/or field experience in his discipline.

English:

Departing faculty –

 Dr. Sarah Kathryn Cantrell  -assistant professor of English and French. Dr. Cantrell earned a doctoral degree in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received a Master of Arts degree in French languages and literature from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in French and Elementary Education from Centre College.

Dr. Renae Applegate House – assistant professor of English; Writing Center Director. Dr. House  earned a doctoral degree in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Master of Arts in Women’s Studies from State University of New York at Albany, Master of Arts in English from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and has 9 years of teaching experience.

Incoming faculty – Renee Emerson – You may find Ms. Emerson’s credentials here. A Master’s degree and tutoring experience hardly replaces the credentials of the professors who have departed.

Education:

Departing faculty –

Dr. Sandra Leslie Dean of the School of Education Dr Leslie’s academic background includes a B.S. from Pennsylvania State University in Secondary Education (Latin), M.Ed. in Middle Grades Language Arts; and an Ed.D. from the University of South Carolina in Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Leslie taught Latin in the public schools (middle and high school) for many years. Dr. Leslie taught in the Department of Education at Belmont Abbey College (BAC) in Charlotte, North Carolina for eight years before joining the Shorter faculty. She served as Director of Secondary Education and Educational Technology at BAC and taught undergraduate and graduate level education classes. She has worked with the Board of Examiners for Georgia Institutions of Higher Education and served on several institutional review teams for National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). She served Shorter for six years.

Incoming faculty –

Dr. Norma Harper – Rome News Tribune article here.  We hope Dr. Harper will remain at Shorter for a longer period of time than she has at the numerous colleges where she has taught.

Tomorrow, we will look at the administrative replacements at Shorter. It only gets more interesting.

SAVE OBU ADDRESSES SHORTER’S ISSUES

Bruce Prescott is Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptist.According to the Mainstream website:

Dr. Prescott, born in Colorado and raised in New Mexico, has long been active in Texas Baptist affairs.  For the past twelve years he has pastored Easthaven Baptist Church in Houston.  Prescott has served as a member of the Executive Boards of Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist General Convention of Texas as well as on the Coordinating Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  He has also served as an Adjunct Professor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at the extension on the campus of Houston Baptist University.  While in Houston, Dr. Prescott’s service was recognized by listings in Who’s Who in Religion, Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World.

Baptist distinctives has been Dr. Prescott’s area of greatest expertise.  He has served on the Baptist Distinctives Committee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Chaired the Baptist Distinctives Partnership Team of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  He is a contributor to the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible and has written several articles for Baptists Today, the Texas Baptists Committed Newsletter, and several other periodicals.

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptist describes itself as a mainstream statewide organization combating fundamentalism in Baptist life. You can read more about the organization here.

Jacob Lupfer is the founder of the Save OBU (Oklahoma Baptist University) website. His thoughtful and considered posts about the struggles with the attempted fundamentalist takeover at OBU have been an inspiration to those of us at Save Our Shorter.

We encourage you to watch the whole series that Bruce Prescott has taped with Mr. Lupfer. The following video should be of great interest to SOS readers. Thank you, Jacob, for so clearly stating the concerns attendant to the Shorter takeover.

MAYOR EVIE MCNIECE AND SHORTER

On May 4 of this year, approximately 500 Shorter students, their parents, friends and family, the Shorter Board of Trustees and selected “friends of the university” gathered at Barron Stadium for commencement exercises.

Each attendee was given a commencement program that listed the Shorter Board of Trustees Included in that list was Rome mayor Evie McNiece.  McNiece, who has been very active in the Rome community, and who has served Rome well was not in attendance as a Board member. Perhaps that is because she was not, in fact, on the Board.

This begs the question, “Was Mayor McNiece’s name used to further the appearance of legitimacy of the GBC takeover of Shorter?” Today, the issue is finally addressed in this article in the Rome News-Tribune. 

More updates to come.