For 139 years, Shorter College stood on the top of a hill in Rome, Georgia. From its inception as the Cherokee Baptist Female Seminary, to present day, it has always reflected its motto “Lux et Veritas” – “Light and Truth” – by serving as a beacon on the Hill, where students were nurtured in a Christian environment, to discover for themselves the light of loving, compassionate professors and the truth which is the true purpose of higher education.
Though conceived and begun in 1873 by Luther Rice Gwaltney, the pastor of Rome Baptist Church, later to become First Baptist Church of Rome, Shorter’s relationship with the Georgia Baptists was always rocky. It was not until 1902 that Dr. Azor Van Hoose officially affiliated the college with the Georgia Baptist Convention. By 1914, President Van Hoose separated the college from the Georgia Baptist Convention, due to the Convention’s lack of financial support. For more than half of its existence – 73 of its 139 years – Shorter remained free from Baptist control while still espousing Baptist principles and values in a Christ-centered environment. Then, in 1958, under the presidency of Dr. Randall Minor, Shorter re-affiliated with the GBC.
On May 23, 2005, Shorter College lost a lawsuit against the Georgia Baptist Convention. Dr. Ed Schrader, then president of the college, and the Shorter Board of Trustees had sought to separate the college from GBC control, after a warning from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that it was their opinion that there was too much outside interference by the GBC in the affairs of the college – specifically, the Board of Trustees. SACS had warned Shorter that failure to create an autonomous Board risked accreditation by SACS.
While the court decision recognized that the Shorter Board of Trustees had complied with their governing documents, the Georgia Non-Profit Code and their fiduciary responsibility in dissolving the college and transferring its assets to the Shorter Foundation, it had, in essence, used the wrong method for trying to separate itself from the GBC. Furthermore, the court held that the Baptist Convention of Georgia was a member of the non-profit corporation that held Shorter’s assets. As a result, the GBC gained control of the nomination and seating of the Shorter Board of Directors. With that decision, many faculty saw the handwriting on the wall and left Shorter to avoid being under Fundamentalist control.
The next few years were relatively quiet. Dr. Harold Newman, who had served for 20 years as Shorter’s Provost, was first named interim president and then elected President of the College. While there were positive changes under Dr. Newman’s leadership – restored financial stability, growth in enrollment and new programs, and a move to designate Shorter as Shorter University were hallmarks of his leadership – there were unsettling undercurrents that were precursors of the current untenable situation in which Shorter faculty, staff and students find themselves.
There were shifts in the Department of Christian Studies, as well-respected moderate professors were transferred to administrative positions on campus or were quietly urged to leave. Shorter faculty were asked to affirm that they were of the Christian faith. The University became members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. While on the surface, none of these moves were cause for much furor, the Georgia Baptist Convention was quietly setting the ground work necessary to change the heart and the nature of this well respected liberal arts college.
On June 21, 2o1o, Dr. Newman announced plans for his retirement on or before the end of his contract, which extended through June 2012. By May of 2011, Dr. Newman was gone. With him went the hopes and dreams of many of the faculty and staff.
On June 1, 2011, Dr. Don Dowless was named president of Shorter. Dr. Dowless, who came to Shorter from North Greenville College, set to work to change what had been a place of so much happiness for so many into a place of fear and intimidation. Students sunbathing on the lawn, as Shorter students had done for many, many years, were told that their behavior was no longer acceptable, the opera, Elixir of Love, a repertoire standard, was banned because alcohol was a part of the plot. The Harry Potter novels were no longer allowed to be used for courses.
In October, 2o11, Dr. Dowless and the Shorter Board of Trustees adopted a Personal Lifestyle Statement, Statement of Faith and Biblical Principles of Faith and Learning, which all faculty and staff who intended to remain employed at the University would be required to sign.
This website was created to reveal the truth about what is happening on the Shorter campus and how the inept leadership by Dr. Dowless, Dr. Nelson Price and the Shorter Board of Trustees is slowly destroying the reputation of our beloved school and causing irreparable damage to the cause of Christ.