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.