Responses are still coming in from our last post. We have posted some of them below.
For those of you who may wonder, the Board of Trustees meeting went exactly as we predicted that it would. Though we hoped for someone to stand up and ask the hard questions, no one did. The Pied Piper played his siren song, and like the rats over the cliff, they followed mindlessly along. The enrollment is fine, Shorter is in excellent financial condition, donations haven’t dropped and we’re in the NCAA – Go Hawks!
Many of the board members have been on the board a number of years. They have in their possession the statistics from years past. It is their responsibility to do their own statistical comparisons. It is clear to us that they did not, nor did they avail themselves of the statistics we have presented on this site.
We have to ask why, when questions are posed, when students and faculty leave in such large numbers, when enrollment numbers are demonstrably down and when donors walk away from an institution which they have long supported, the Board of Trustees would desert their responsibilities to the institution they have vowed to sustain. Is loyalty to the GBC more important than their duty to Shorter University? It appears that it is.
To the Shorter Board of Trustees – we hold you personally accountable for your actions or lack thereof.
To our friends on the Hill who suffer in silence – we are with you, we pray for you and we will not be moved.
I think that my first experience at Shorter typifies my 6 years there. I was sitting in my office working on preparing my lab manuals and getting things ready for the first week of class when two students walked in and set down. Coming from big schools where students didn’t really interact with the professors often, I assumed they needed something and asked if I could help them. Their response was “Nope. We work for you. And we’re probably going to hang out in here so we figured we’d get to know you.” From that day until the day I said my goodbyes, my office was a revolving door where students not only came to have the material clarified, but to laugh, to cry, to discuss their lives and their beliefs. I will treasure the friendships I made there. From students to my fellow faculty…I made lifelong friends who have influenced my ability to teach and have enriched my life by sharing theirs with me.
I know that God has taken this “mess” and turned it around for me. I am blessed to be at a school where my administration supports me and where my opinion is valued. I am appreciated for my ability to teach and give my students the academic rigor they deserve and I am not asked to give up the integrity of my classroom. But my heart aches for those left behind…students, faculty, and staff…that must now endure a Shorter that is not like the one I was fortunate enough to find in 2006. It was an incredibly special place.
Mr. Richard Pirkle
Asst. Professor of Biology
6 years of service
October 24, 2011 was the first day of the most difficult year of my life – professionally, personally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Just 7 months after a fantastic job interview where I was offered a job at Shorter and just 6 weeks after that job began, I was informed via email that my faith was no longer acceptable, that my love for my gay friends and students was no longer acceptable, and that the foundational theories of my subject area (Biology) were no longer acceptable. The Hill changed that day. Faculty were distracted, students were confused, and our personal safety was even threatened. So, six weeks after beginning a new job and eight weeks after moving 900 miles, my life was thrown into complete turmoil; however, despite all of this we taught, we formed relationships with our students, and we represented Christ. We constantly heard “If you don’t like it leave” straight from the President’s mouth, but we still taught. We spent late nights preparing job applications or worrying over finances, but we still mentored. We cried and screamed at home, but we still took our students on field trips. We went to counseling or saw our doctors because of the stress we were experiencing, but we still gave a listening ear when our students needed it. Eventually many of us accepted new jobs and moved away, but do you know what has happened? We are still mentoring and supporting our Shorter students. Our students are now experiencing a complete lack of leadership and they have lost the experienced faculty they love and trust. In the place of the departed faculty are inexperienced individuals who are unavailable to students, accusatory, and lacking in knowledge in their subject areas. How does this benefit the students I love?
I have had a difficult time recovering from the past year. My body and my spirit have taken a toll that I never thought possible, but I cannot say that I regret my year at Shorter. I met colleagues who quickly became some of my best friends, I was mentored by truly amazing teachers with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I had students who truly desired to learn and use their knowledge to advance the Kingdom. Thank you SOS and my former colleagues for continuing to the fight the good fight. Please know that while some of us may no longer be on the Hill with you that you are never far from our thoughts.
Name Withheld by Request
On October 24, 2011 (one year ago), the administration that had assumed control of Shorter released a group of documents pushing a controlling and fundamentalist agenda under the pretense of “bringing Shorter back to its Christian roots,” which it had never left in the first place. This precipitated the massive exodus of dozens of faculty and staff, many of whom had intended to remain at Shorter for life and many of whom had already been there for years, as well as the massive transfer of dozens of students. To those who have been scattered abroad, and also to those who remain at Shorter working at the attempt to restore the decimated performing arts program: you are in my thoughts today. Kyrie eleison.
Thomas Hobson Williams
Former Shorter Student
One year ago today, a fundamental (no pun intended) series of events began to unfold in my life. Dear Shorter University – thanks for pushing me out the door so that Reinhardt University, with all of its magnificent students, faculty, and staff, could welcome me with open arms. I’ve made friends for life. There is no doubt I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Former Shorter Student
I read these with an ache in my heart for my Alma Mater. B. Woodward ’55
Apparently, the board has a leadership sub-group similar to a committee at a Baptist church. They set agenda and the whole board just votes yes, just like when a pastor,etc is selected for a church and congregation raises hands. I think Shorter deserves SO MUCH MORE. A fully informed and interactive board that asks questions and cares. Not bleeting sheep!
I am sad about the events at Shorter College since the courts awarded the college to the Georgia Baptist. A similar situation happened when I was employed at another college. There were uproars, lawsuits, and a newsletter that went around for years lamenting the situation. All this because “a remnant” had to be kept alive. There was never any change and there was no going back to the way the college was. It was one of those historical moments in the history of an institution that happens because those in charge want to go in a particular direction and the hell with anyone who does not agree with the new direction. Our response can be to fight (lawsuits, newsletters, and yearly meetings to mourn what was) or move on.
When I realized that my emotional energy was being sapped by anger, hurt, and grief, I knew it was time to let go. When I knew that nothing was ever going to change back to “the good ol’ days,” I needed to let go. I appreciate the many gifts the college gave me intellectually and spiritually. But, I had to move on and put my emotional and spiritual energies into new areas where good could be done. I have done that and I feel that I have done it successfully. I took my part of the “remnant” and moved on.
What Shorter College gave us will never be taken away from us. We are the remnant and we don’t need classrooms, laboratories, and dormitories to hold onto what Shorter meant to us. Most important were the relationships among the people who were touched by the college for whatever reason. The people who were at Shorter as students, faculty, and staff were the ones who made Shorter College. Shorter College is still alive in each one of us.
It is now time to let go of Shorter College. It is gone forever. We would like to think that the current Trustees, alumni, and others would end what is now Shorter University, but it will not happen. The fundamentalists own it, and they are making a strong effort to create their own traditions, experiences, and intellectual understandings that they feel are important to them. They will have alumni, faculty, and staff who will love Shorter University as the fundamentalist institution it has and will become. It is time to let go.
One way to let go is to forgive. Forgive them for taking away a distinguished institution of great value to so many people who had been touched by Shorter College over the years. Part of forgiving those who run Shorter University is giving up our anger. In fact, our forgiveness may be more for us than for them. From their perspective there is nothing to forgive. We need to forgive them for the hurt, pain, grief, and anger their actions caused us to experience. However, it is time we forgive so we can move beyond our hurt, pain, grief, and anger. For whatever the reason, God is teaching us something important. I think that the something important is learning how to forgive under dire circumstances.
God bless Shorter University and I hope it will ultimately do as much good as Shorter College did.
I agree with you completely. It’s time to “get over it” and move on. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I have been thinking for some time. Make no mistake, I still believe what has happened to a fine liberal arts college is a tragedy but it is fruitless to continue expending effort to revert to it’s previous days of glory. “Ain’t gonna happen!”
Trustee answers to pastor, pastor answers to GBC. How does SACS overlook this influence? During the summer hiring blitz I often scratched my head and thought: If they were hiring a surgeon, would they hire the best and most experienced? Or would they hire a mediocre surgeon who was either Baptist or knew how to write a Faith Statement in line with their core values? It also strikes me peculiar that so many of this new administration lives in rented houses. Most of my colleagues, including myself purchased homes and committed to Shorter. There seems to be an air of anticipation as we wait for them to go back to where they came from or on to another victim. Shorter will survive this. My concern is the true victim population: the students. The upperclassmen understand what is going on. The freshmen seem to have no clue. At the end of the day parents have to decide: Am I getting my money’s worth at Shorter? Is my child’s exposure to pseudo-Christianity more important than their education?
To Randy and Brenda, I must say that I appreciate your comments and concerns. I agree that Shorter is not going back to the good old days. However, the reason I want to continue to fight is to ensure that a NEW era can be molded for students that at least gives credence and draws from the well of the old Shorter. The “fundmentals” of the Shorter tradition need to be the basis of the NEW Shorter, not the “fundamentalism” that eschews any appreciation of the faculty that devoted decades to build a legacy. Peace to you my friends!
I do appreciate that it’s healthy to choose what battles we will spend our time fighting. I’ve certainly spent more than my share of time fighting battles that couldn’t be won. But that’s what idealism is about, isn’t it? I’m not ready to believe that the ideals of Shorter College aren’t worth fighting for..
In my line of ‘ministry’, I often have to remind myself that where I plant my feet in ideological battles matters. I’m a public high school teacher, and at the end of the day, standing on the side of what’s right—academic freedom, respect for individuals, the value of an education driven by open inquiry—is always the right place to be. The same runs true for Shorter, even in the case of a hostile takeover–or certainly a top-down takeover that failed to engage stakeholders in planning and implementing change.
Public schools have their own share of that kind of hostile takeover, misguided mandates from People Who Do Not Get It (most recently, the flavors have been No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top program) that may be well-meaning efforts to improve the institution of education, but all in all, they often are roadblocks in the way. It’s all too easy as a public school teacher to see roadblock after roadblock and believe there’s just no point trying to move forward. I could ditch the whole project and leave, teach at a private school, go back to university instruction. But who would fill my shoes? I’ve spent a great deal of my life building and sustaining the institution where I work, and I’m not about to give up on it—not only because of what I’ve put into it, but because decades and decades of the work of others have made my school what it is, and I am standing in those people’s footsteps.
As a single public high school teacher, I cannot change the world myself. But I do find that I can effect change—even small changes—by being a squeaky wheel. And with a few intelligent colleagues fighting with me, we’re a louder squeaky wheel that gets heard.
Save Our Shorter, don’t you forget it: you are fighting for academic freedom, respect for individuals, and the value of an education driven by open inquiry, and you, too, are standing in the footsteps of students, professors, administrators, and staff who have given and continue to give decades and decades of their lives to build and sustain Shorter. Until the wrongs you see become so powerful that there is no changing them, keep speaking out against them. Those wrongs need a few tried and true squeaky wheels calling attention to them, even if you find you are calling attention over and over to wrongs and bringing them before yet another set of People Who Do Not Get It.
Shorter’s current administration’s motto seems to be “Put Up or Shut Up.” Do neither. What’s happening on Shorter Hill is not merely to be ‘put up’ with, and until it is, please do NOT shut up.
Good fights are worth fighting. This is one of them.
Wonderful thinking, Melissa ~~~ inspiration to others who refuse to stop insisting that Shorter return to ideals of the past: knowledge, truth and a strong faith shown by good will toward all who come through its portals.
Well stated, Ms. Rogers. Thank you. I can’t imagine throwing in the towel, completely forgetting what has happened, and closing the Shorter University chapter in my life. No way! And while I may forgive those who have trespassed against me and against the R-E-A-L Shorter University, I do believe what HAS happened must be kept in the consciousness of people everywhere. Will someone please give me one good reason why we should NOT expose those who have perpetrated such underhanded and unethical actions against Shorter University and against the countless people whose shoulders she was built upon? Go on – give me one good reason!
Melissa King Rogers, I loved your letter. I do agree Shorter is probably never going to be restored to its former beloved self but I still have to speak up.