I am a proud graduate of Shorter College, class of 1988. My years spent there were very special to me. I grew so much as a student and as a person because of the professors, classmates, and overall environment I was subject to during my time on the “hill”. Over the years, I have watched Shorter grow and evolve. New buildings, renovations, satellite campuses, online courses…UNIVERSITY STATUS! However, no matter how much it grew, when I would go to visit the campus and check in on my professors and Gary Davis in the post office (no trip would be complete without seeing him), the heartbeat of the original intimate learning atmosphere was strong. I felt at home!
I also began to observe another occurrence that I was not quite sure how to comprehend: the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) / Shorter Trustee battle and subsequent takeover of full authority by the GBC. At first I thought it would not be a big deal, after all it is a Baptist school. Well, as events unfolded, especially over the past year, it is a VERY big deal.
As an entity to govern local churches in the Southern Baptist denomination in the state of Georgia, the GBC is well organized and useful. Many strong Christian leaders perform ministerial duties that are important to the local Baptist churches and outreach ministries under the Baptist wing. However, viewing what has transpired at Shorter recently, I question whether running an institution of higher learning needs to be included in these outreach ministries. While the governmental structure of a local church (with GBC oversight) works well in that particular context, governing a university requires a much more diversified approach. There should be a willingness to listen to and merge multiple and sometimes divergent viewpoints that will create a strong educational chord that uses these viewpoints as its fibers. This environment of different ideas should be devoid of single-minded dogma.
While “Transforming Lives Through Christ” is a wonderful concept, the methodology of having President Dowless in a pastoral role with the Board of Trustees serving as a choir of Deacons and the GBC providing supreme authority seems to be transforming Shorter into a missionary preparatory academy. This is not the purpose of Shorter University. The purpose should be to provide a strong diversified education for students that prepare them for the diverse educational/career opportunities that will follow their years on the “hill”. Not every student has missionary or pastoral aspirations.
It is my wish that a congruence of ideas and beliefs can occur at Shorter that will allow students to return to their alma mater in years to come and be able to hear the same heartbeat that I once heard on my visits, not the drumbeat of single-mindedness that is echoing throughout the Rome area and beyond that is being pounded at this time.
Submitted by an alumnus who wishes to remain anonymous.