As a graduate of Shorter College, I have written before of my strong feelings for my alma mater and of those who nurtured the college over the decades. It was those individuals who worked to make Shorter a superior institution of higher learning. I am turning my attention today – All Saints Day – to some comments that have been made in response to recent posts on this website, and the thoughts that have occurred to me.
While I noticed numerous comments of warmth and support for those no longer on the Hill as well as for those that remain, I have also read comments that convey the opinion that we at SOS should forgive, let things go, and move on. While these were made mostly in a friendly context with no hint of ill will, Let me share the reaction that those comments stirred up in my own heart and mind.
I forgive those who are now in charge at Shorter; who have wreaked havoc on the lives of so many Shorter students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and supporters. I forgive the ignorance revealed by their insistence that the school had “strayed” and needed to be whipped back into shape. I forgive their insistence that there needed to be a new beginning for Shorter, a sort of “Baptist-ism”, if you will. For Don Dowless and his administrative cronies and trustee emeritus Nelson Price, this entails backstabbing, unjustified firings, half-truths, non-truths, and all sorts of cunningness, all disguised behind the righteous cloak of Christianity. I do not like this, but I forgive. The ever present photos of Don Dowless with a half-smirk – half-frown with arms folded, as though he has conquered our world, I forgive also for the Baptists need a hero to laud. Remember, we are not to hate the sinner, but hate the sin, and that, I truly do.
There is an old slogan used on memorabilia that celebrates the old rebel South: “Fergit hell!” That is what I feel as I ponder the notion of letting this go. I think of so many men and women of strong moral fiber –those who set the course of Shorter long before the current administration and Fundamentalist GBC came along; leaders who taught us the way through true Christian higher education, recent leaders who chose to stay at Shorter to try to help steer the ship through these choppy waters. I think of how so many of them have been fired because of the “different direction” that was being taken – or whatever the excuse was for that particular week.
I think of a renowned music program that has been almost leveled, and I think about the faculty and the few students that are charged with keeping the shambles of the program that remains moving forward. I think of the theater program that has been neutered by censorship, yet the handful of students and a battered but determined faculty trudges forward.
I remember some alumni who expressed grave concern about the new direction of their alma mater until they were appointed to the Alumni Governing Board. I cannot forget how quickly they were charmed into falling in line behind the “new direction”. It no longer seemed to matter that the new direction either ignored or worked to squelch any voice that dared to speak out in opposition. Nor does it seem to concern them that the old alumni – their classmates and friends who helped to build Shorter’s traditions, are the ones that were giving voice to that opposition.
I know that if I visit the campus I will be reminded of the “new” Shorter because of the library addition that bears the name of Nelson Price. Never mind that this man has no academic ties to Shorter, who despite being a Georgia Baptist preacher for over 35 years at a church only an hour away, actually had to ASK FOR DIRECTIONS to the campus the first time he visited Shorter…after he was appointed as a TRUSTEE! I am told that our degrees will be of greater value because of all the things this man has done. But it is hard to believe this because I know so many things that have transpired behind the scenes – things in which he had a hand – to make these changes, this new “Holy Shorter” possible.
I read a comment about the “new” Shorter developing traditions that will be important to future students. I also recall a current Alumni Governing Board member alluding to “our” old Shorter and “their” new Shorter. There is nothing wrong with new traditions being created. What is wrong is the way the school has been taken over by ultra-fundamentalist dogma that seems to condone private sins as long as the public persona seems pure. You can get drunk as a skunk behind closed doors, but don’t be seen having a glass of wine in public, and for heaven’s sake, don’t come on the Hill with liquor on your breath. Those men on the Hill have not earned the right to set traditions. Even old traditions are being cast aside along with the old faculty/staff. The tradition of Halloween trick or treat on the residence halls has been cleansed from the Hill, since it is a pagan tradition. (Why could they not sanction TRUNK-or-treat? It can be found at many Baptist churches.)
It seems that one of their new traditions will be holding Trustee meetings in the buildings of the departments that have been hardest hit by the new regime. A sort of “hail the conquering hero” move is afoot. The BOT recently held their fall meeting in the Fine Arts Building. Will the spring session be held in the Science Building?
OF DUE DILIGENCE AND MOVING ON
I went to Six Flags with friends recently. We waited in lines for the roller coasters. One line in particular had us waiting for over 2 hours. We would stand still, walk a few steps, stand still, walk a few steps, and it crossed our minds more than once that we ought to get out of line and do something else. We chose, however, to stay in line, and were rewarded greatly.
Pointing out the misdeeds at Shorter, and fighting for a better Shorter that does not operate unethically is similar to standing in that line. Our work here might be slow, it might sound crazy, it might get boring, but the reward at the end may be an exhilarating ride! It could be a ride that watches Shorter move away from the current unethical behavior that will ultimately cripple an influential university. It is our belief that Shorter could become an institution that borrows from the past, integrates an inclusive, loving Christian atmosphere in the present, and has a healthy leadership structure that will allow her to soar like the namesake of the ride we rode at Six Flags…Superman! In any case, SOS is not going away. While we ask God to help us forgive, we are not going to forget and we are not going to move on. Nelson Price told the Board of Trustees that the negative response to their actions on the Hill would blow over in a few weeks. It did not. He then promised that we would come around in a few months. We did not. A year later, we’re still here, we’re still watching, and in memory and in honor of all the saints from the Hill that have gone before us, on this All Saints Day we declare that we are here for as long as it takes and will be documenting what is happening to our Shorter every step of the way.
Wonderfully written and it echos my thoughts perfectly, and it helps me formulate things in my mind that I was not able to before. THANK YOU SOS!!!!
I am “old school” Shorter–Lewis Lipps, Philip Greer, Betty Zane Morris, Wilson and Thelma Hall, Minor, and Lanier. So, may I say “Huzzah!” and “Bravo!” on this articulate, pained essay. Compelling questions and issues…
I’d like to make a distinction between forgiving in the divine sense that God forgives sinners, and forgiving the Shorter usurpers for the damage done to Shorter and its former community.
SOS exists to not forgive what the usurpers have done to the faculty, students, and former qualities at Shorter, but to restore and mend the damage done by opposing the current regime. So, in the non-divine sense, forgiveness is not an issue, and SOS wants Shorter to be restored, not to us, but to its former self for the benefit of all current and future students. This is not going to happen by divine intervention, but by continued and growing resistance to the policies of Price, Dowless, and the Trustees. So I would leave it to God to forgive or not (is there a choice?), and treat the current dispute as political, and act politically to oppose it. Leave religion out.
It should not be difficult to come up with a list of the usurpers’ actions that SOS opposes. Many victims who have stated their experiences here know what needs changing, and what should never have happened. Make a flyer clearly stating SOS’s complaints and goals. Leaflet the trustee meeting and any other public place where the current administration is officially engaged in a forum. If you get chased away, get some friendly students on campus to post and distribute the flyers. An extension of this action would be to leaflet the SBC and how about Nelson Price’s many public institutions, and even his church on Sunday. I would also schedule leafleting the churches of trustee pastors. That will get their attention. I don’t believe that all of their church members agree with everything their pastor says. Right now, those church members only hear how wonderful the Shorter changes are. Right now, SOS has no equivalent voice.
Are emails going out to alumni? I have the most recent CD of former students, and I assume that SOS does too since I was notified some weeks ago. Send PDF versions of the leaflet to alumni. What about funds? I’ll give to SOS what I withhold from Shorter. With funds you can use the mail to reach out to many who don’t use a computer.
If you do public action, you need to tell the press (local and state) with a press release so they’ll cover it, and you need to tell the police you’re going to do it and negotiate the rules with them (traffic, blocking the sidewalk or doorways, etc).
Oops, Egg on my face. SOS protested in front of the Shorter entrance on April 18, 2012, and got a decent turnout even in the rain. The news of this, with video, was buried so deep in this website that I only saw it today. All i got to say is Good for You, and Shut my Mouth.
The Roberts haunted house is still one of my favorite memories from my time there. Right when football came on the hill, there was a little division between students, but everyone came together and pulled off something that everyone enjoyed. Great times.
By now, it is clear I heartily support SOS. However, in this case, how and why did the “Bluto” comment above make it onto the website? In battle, those under duress are not wise to ship a boat-load of ammo to the other side! ‘Nuff said.
As to forgiveness, it is both Biblical and healthy to forgive. To do otherwise is to swallow the poison and expect the other person to die. To shut up and move on is another issue. In the Bible, long after God is revealed as a Forgiving Father, He does not shut up nor move on.
Thank you, Larry. The offensive comment has been removed. It has been the practice of SOS to permit all posts with the exception of those that endangered those who remained at Shorter or those that were attack driven from opposing websites. This one slipped by us.
I think it is important for me to make a distinction between forgetting or “getting over it” and moving on. I only spent one year at Shorter. My first year as a professional was under the worst circumstances possible. A mere 6 weeks into my new job I knew I would have to look for another. Last year took a HUGE toll on me mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, and professionally and while I know I cannot forget that year I do have to choose to move on. For the sake of my sanity, I must move on and give my current students the focus and attention they deserve. Will I ignore what is happening? No. Will I ignore my former students when they call or email for assistance or letters of recommendation? No. What I will do, is stop allowing the changes at Shorter to engulf my life. I am taking back the power that Don Dowless, Nelson Price, and the Board of Trustees so effectively stole from me. I pray for the best at Shorter, but for me I cannot become bogged down and bitter any longer.
One thing seems obvious to me. That is that the issue of homosexual rights will not be going in the direction that Nelson Price and the Shorter usurpers want. And later,I think the time may come when it will be unlawful or actionable enforce some of the policies they has adopted to enforce their dying viewpoint. I offer this synopsis from today’s New York Times:
November 7, 2012
“A Big Leap for Marriage Equality
Progress on civil rights can occur in bursts. The nation’s march toward full equality for all took an important step forward on Election Day with groundbreaking victories for same-sex marriage across the country.
Until Tuesday, no state had ever legalized same-sex marriage through a ballot referendum. This cause has been rejected more than 30 times at the ballot box, though six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage through court rulings or legislative measures.
In a move that shows the shift in public opinion, voters in Maine and Maryland approved measures giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry by decisive results. Early returns in Washington State also show that voters there have passed a same-sex marriage initiative. With these victories, opponents will no longer be able to argue that the movement for marriage equality is something imposed by radical judges and legislators, who are out of touch with the popular will.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have enshrined the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriage in the State Constitution. In Wisconsin, voters elected a Democratic House member, Tammy Baldwin, to the United States Senate, making her the first openly gay person ever elected to the chamber.
In Iowa, voters decided to retain a State Supreme Court justice, David Wiggins, rejecting a campaign by the State Republican Party and other conservative forces to oust him because of his participation in the court’s unanimous ruling in 2009 allowing same-sex-marriage on equal protection grounds.
Justice Wiggins’s retention, like Florida’s vote to retain three State Supreme Court justices singled out by the State Republican Party and others on the right, was a victory for judicial independence. It was also a remarkable turnaround from two years ago, when three other Iowa justices who joined in the 2009 ruling were defeated for retention, after groups opposing same-sex marriage campaigned against them. Predictions that President Obama would be politically damaged by his support for same-sex marriage did not come to pass. Instead, by standing up for equality, he energized his base and retained the broad coalition that won him a second term.
Even before these victories, the principle of fairness for gay people and their families has been gaining force in courts and statehouses. Half of Americans believe their states should recognize marriages of same-sex couples.
There is still much work to do to secure the freedom to marry in every jurisdiction and end the odious Defense of Marriage Act that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in places where it is legal. It is a moment for the opponents of civil rights for all Americans — including Congressional Republicans, who are still defending the marriage act in court — to decide whether they want to continue to stand against justice to court a dwindling share of voters.”