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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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