For 5 months, Save Our Shorter has endeavored to share with our readers what we perceive to be an assault on the traditions, Christian values, and academic excellence at Shorter University. Our intent has been to bring you factual information to help you understand what is happening on the Hill.
We have been accused by supporters of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s actions at Shorter of disseminating lies about the status of the current situation. Sadly, we have been accused by some who should be our strongest supporters, of being angry bullies who should just say a prayer over the bones of a once-great Shorter, and move on. We have been labeled as left-wing liberals intent on destroying Christian values. We have been dismissed as the voice of an angry few.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are many. You know our names. We have stood before you in a classroom or helped you as you worked your way through your degree. We sit beside you in church. When we see each other, we share memories of “how it used to be” on the hill. We say hello to you in the grocery store, while pumping our gas, as we stand in line to vote. We know each other. And we are devoted to telling you the truth.
When we began this blog, we told you we were dedicated to telling you the truth; here is what we told you:
- Shorter has NOT always belonged to the Georgia Baptist Convention. Time and again, the GBC has failed to financially support this institution. For over 73 of Shorter’s 139 years, the GBC had no control over the administration of the school. Every falling out between the school and the GBC has been over the lack of financial support and/or the demand for too much control. Contributions of 4.2% of Shorter’s annual budget should not give the GBC license to determine the academic direction of the school.
- Shorter is NOT owned by the GBC. The GBC is the sole member of the corporation, and therefore has control of how the school is operated, but no group or individual owns Shorter. It is a non-profit corporation, which has its status because it provides a service to the community.
- Shorter faculty and staff were angry about the imposition of the Personal Lifestyle Statement, the Statement of Faith and the Biblical Principles on the Integration of Faith and Learning. Issues included but were not limited to 1) Avowing Biblical inerrancy 2) the demand for conformation to a specific fundamentalist viewpoint 3) academic freedom.
- A survey revealed an intent by faculty to leave the institution rather than conform to the above three documents and a vote of “no confidence” in Dr. Dowless by 89% of those responding to the survey.
- We told you that prior to their March meeting, the Shorter Board of Trustees each received a packet of information with survey results and other documents that should have been of grave concern. The board chose to ignore the information that was sent to them.
- We have also reported and in some instances, printed the dozens of letters and emails that were sent to Dr. Dowless, Dr. Price or the members of the Board of Trustees.
- We warned of a massive faculty exodus and that has occurred. We did not address the issues of staff resignations, but those, too, have been staggering and will have a profound effect on the students
- .Reported incidences of restriction of academic freedom. We have also explained the necessity of academic freedom within higher education.
- We have told you of the firings at least three individuals for no greater reason than their perceived incompatibility with the new regime. One was a 22-year employee of Shorter and was much loved and respected by faculty and students alike. Two were Shorter alumni who despite any misgivings they may or may not have had, gave Shorter their best. We have reported the demotion of the chief academic officer (Provost) and the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, both of whom had served Shorter well.
- We reported the questionable practices in the hiring procedures for new members of the administration and faculty.
- We reported the resignation of a Human Resources Director, who had only been on the job for 6 weeks, reportedly because of those hiring irregularities.
- We reported the conflict between the Rome Mayor’s version of her involvement with the Shorter Board of Trustees and the administration’s contention that there was a “misunderstanding”. Shorter administration never addressed the use of the mayor’s name in the commencement program, despite the fact that the mayor had explicitly said that she was NOT a member of the Board of Trustees, prior to the commencement program’s appearance.
- We have expressed our concern about the multiple hires from Charleston Southern, the lack of substantial (and in some cases, appropriate) credentials of some of the recent faculty hires and our concern about the quality of education that will be offered on the Hill under the GBC’s control. (We have copies of an email sent from a current faculty member telling the students that all quizzes and tests will be “open book”.)
These are the issues we have presented on these pages. Neither Dr. Dowless, Nelson Price nor the Board of Trustees has adequately addressed these issues to the satisfaction of donors, alumni,faculty, many GBC members and the public at large.
There are many more issues of which we are aware. When we have verifiable documentation, we will reveal those as well.
Are we bullies? Bullies, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, use their strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. We are observing what is happening on the Hill and telling you what we see. Our strength is used to those call attention to those who have abused the power given them to take advantage of others. We are speaking truth to power and speaking truth to you.
We have been told by some that Shorter is dead, but she is not. Yesterday, students full of bright promise began their classes at Shorter. They did not see banners with LUX VERITAS flying from the street lamps. They were not greeted by a full complement of staff to help them through the myriad tasks necessary to be a student. Their classes had fewer students and too many of their professors, who understood that higher education was a business of collaborative learning in an open environment where questioning was encouraged and science embraced, were gone.
Donors: Are you satisfied with the way your dollars have been spent? When you gave your donations for the library, were you satisfied with it being named after Nelson and Trudy Price? Are your dollars furthering the cause that impelled you to give in the first place? Are your scholarships giving the students who receive them the type of education that you have come to expect from Shorter?
Alumni: Do you feel any obligation to pass on the legacy that you inherited? Do you feel any commitment to the teachings of your Shorter professors? Are you concerned about the welfare of the young people who enter your alma mater as students?
Former faculty: Are you willing for your reputation to be smeared by those who call you a “cancer,” whose work is contrary to the teachings of Christ? Do you feel any responsibility for those who remain on the hill though their hearts are torn, who battle every day to keep doing the right thing for their students?
Members of Georgia Baptist Convention churches: Can you reconcile what you’ve read here with the glowing reports about Shorter you’ve read in the Christian Index? Do you feel comfortable in asking questions and demanding answers about what is being done with your Cooperative Program donations?
Shorter Parents: Are you concerned about the quality of education and the fallout from this turmoil that your child will receive on the Hill? Are sports rankings enough for you? Are you comfortable with the idea that your precious child may be short-changed in their education and indoctrinated in fundamentalist views?
Romans: The quality of that school that sits up on the Hill reflects your values too? Are you willing to lose the reputation of having two highly respected institutions of higher learning in your town? Is one really enough? Does having the nation look at Rome as a backward, bigoted community who fosters fundamentalism sit well on your shoulders? How does that reputation affect your chances of drawing industry and growth into your community?
How great is your commitment to Shorter? We need you to join us. We need for you to stand up for more than a memory of times gone by; stand up for what created that memory. We need your commitment to action. In the weeks ahead, we will be calling on you to respond in tangible ways. We will ask you to demand that balance be restored at Shorter so that it can resume its legacy of being a light on the Hill and a teacher of truth – an example to the world of a tradition of academic excellence nurtured in a truly Christian environment.