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One year ago, I went to a meeting at in the Chapel at 4pm in the afternoon. I was prayed at, prayed over and sarcastically thanked for my years of sacrifice and service. Then I was told to go and watch for an email. An email: That is how we all found out that Humpty Dumpty was falling down. This has been the most tumultuous year of my academic career. Watching students who once thrived in their scholarship start to wane and wander – dazed and confused. Listening helplessly as students told me of suicide desires and attempts. Seeing cut marks on a student who seemed to always have it together. Experiencing breakdown after breakdown in classes – wondering how parents would react if they knew this needless suffering. Encouraging students to go to counselors and understanding when they feared any notation on the records. Watching students go in vain to the administration with concerns, questions and ideas – thinking they had a real chance at reconciliation. Watching my colleagues was a different matter entirely. I never knew the stages of grief until I watched so many go through each stage. Watching as back-up plans became amazing opportunities for them.
May God have mercy on this administration and the havoc they created on all of our lives…
My God is a mighty warrior and He will smite those who persecute others and work evil in His name. The continued hypocrisy is astounding: “Pretend to be what we say we are, not what you see for yourself.” Believe me. It does not go unnoticed by the students. There is an air of pseudo-positivity met with smiles of under-qualified and fresh out of the classroom colleagues who are alienating students who know to expect more. I have to wonder now how parents reconcile spending their hard-earned money to send the children to Shorter. There is another faculty and student exodus coming. It will not include me. I refuse to be scared away from the Hill that I have come to love. I am encouraged to continue to go to the Hill everyday and continue to be a rock for those students who remain. I refuse to give up my home and community but understand those who felt compelled to leave already. Every day I wonder: when will the Board of Trustees wake up and take on the responsibility they committed to so eagerly. When will they realize their responsibility to these students which is much more important than the prestige they think they have. Are they even aware of the continued troubles on the Hill? They seem to be much more concerned with their delusion of what Christ-centered education means than the academic experience of our students. They are here this morning on campus. I will smile broadly when I see them – maybe even wave – then pray for the Lord to work a miracle on the Hill.
A Proud Professor
My time at Shorter was not as long as many others. I was a student from fall 2006 through spring 2009. I then worked full time from fall of 2009 through April of 2012. A total of about six years. I never got to experience Shorter before the days of the GBC takeover of the Board of Trustees. What I do know about is the transition of Shorter from a great place to work to a life draining home of the “frozen chosen.” When I first came to Shorter, it was generally a peaceful place where ideas could be shared without fear. People of liberal and conservative beliefs could come together in harmony . Now you cannot work there if you do not have the right brand of Christianity.I had Christian education from middle school through college and I have learned that such rejections of people because they believe a different way only creates hate. The Personal Lifestyle Statement pretty much says that if you are homosexual or drink alcohol that you are not the right brand of Christian. The administration of Shorter has given young people the impression that people who do not believe the same way are inferior. I remember a teacher telling me about how two of his students were berating homosexuals in class. The students have been given a license to hate others. Love would be accepting others even if you do not agree with them. If Christ wants us to love our neighbors, how much more are we to love those who disagree with us?
Name withheld by Request
My name is Bolling Thompson. I taught in the Department of History, Political Science, and International Studies for 3 1/2 years ending in 2010. I resigned as a matter of principle in response to many of the issues that later intensified as reported in SOS. My years teaching on the hill were very enjoyable. I found the academic community to be stimulating and the students to be receptive and a pleasure to teach. I look on the experience as one of the most rewarding of my life. I am pleased to be able to keep up with a number of my students and former colleagues. In the midst of this wonderful academic environment I became increasingly aware that its foundations were being slowly eroded by an insidious assault from very rigid members of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Like many, I tried to ignore the gathering clouds of academic and personal intolerance. I saw concern, distress, and even terror in my colleagues as they contemplated the ultimate implications of what the takeover by the GBC would mean. I became increasingly concerned about the fate that awaited Jewish colleagues not to mention Gay and Lesbian members of the community. Many of us hoped common ground could be found with the GBC to honor the Christian Gospel as well as personal and academic freedom. My whole life I have endeavored to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I mistakenly thought that since I followed the same Lord Jesus as the GBC that some positive resolution was possible among people of good will. Sadly, I came to the conclusion the GBC was intent on undermining all the good things that Shorter represented. As a professional I could no longer associate my name with an institution that was not committed to academic freedom. I realized that the GBC regime was intent on materially hurting fine teachers and administrators. Many of these individuals had given their whole working lives to the cause of Shorter and its students. I was lucky that my financial status allowed me to make my small protest and resign. I regret that my leaving and all the sacrifices made by others seem to have had little effect. However, I do believe that ultimately it does make a difference when people stand together and speak the truth. I can only hope that one day Shorter will become again the wonderful place of light and learning that it was before. SOS has my respect and support.
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
On the eve of the Fall 2012 Shorter Board of Trustees meeting, we would remind the Board of what has transpired over the past year. We would like to think that someone, somewhere, is listening.
On October 24, 2011, Don Dowless and Nelson Price announced that at the Board of Trustees meeting, which had just recently occurred, the trustees had voted to approve a set of three documents – a Personal Lifestyle Statement, a Statement of Faith and one document entitled “Biblical Principles on the Integration of Faith and Learning”. The bombshell of those documents reverberated through the hallowed halls at Shorter and the Hill as we knew it began to crumble.
What they did not tell the public is that this was a hastily crafted set of documents, not drawn up by the entire board, but only a select few – with the help of outside churches and the GBC. They also failed to tell the public that the entire board had only received the documents a few days before, with their board packets and were not given the opportunity to review or discuss them.
Evidently, among the thirty-odd members of the board, no one asked if the faculty and staff had been told about or consulted in the creation of these documents. No board member challenged the Personal Lifestyle Statement or questioned the multiple different fonts on the statement. No one pointed out that Shorter employees for years had submitted their own Statement of Faith PRIOR to their being hired, and had been accepted as employees based on the merits of those statements. No one asked how the Biblical Principles stacked up to proper academic learning. They evidently voted unanimously to approve the documents. Since that date, not one man or woman on that carefully stacked board has had the character or temerity to stand up to Nelson Price, Don Dowless and Bob White and say “NO!”
Over the ensuing year, the Provost, who had been pressured into agreeing to the statements, has been demoted, the paper gun that was the Personal Lifestyle Statement was held to Michael Wilson’s head, and the trigger pulled, the faithful Shorter graduates who had begun leading the Alumni Department so ably were summarily dismissed, two Mormon employees were told that their religion wasn’t acceptable to the “new” Shorter, the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students who had listened to the pleas and cries of the students was banished to the Atlanta campus, a beloved administrative assistant of some 22 years was told she was not a “team player” and was fired. Some 90 individuals have felt it necessary to leave the hypocrisy and bigotry that now rules our beloved Shorter. The University has hemorrhaged students from the CAPPS program and the traditional students on Shorter’s Hill.
A Shorter faculty member, Ben Harris, wrote an eloquent response in the Rome News-Tribune to some rather obtuse comments by Joshua Arnold, Shorter’s Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct, who had become the shill for the Dowless regime (we expect to see a promotion in the offing for Arnold for his defense of the administration) Harris’ response spoke to the heart of the issues faculty and staff had with the documents and unlike the trustees, who hid behind the carefully coached phrases they had been given, he had the integrity to give voice to the concern and distress of his colleagues. You may find the full text of that response here: Ben Harris Letter3,
On the anniversary of the full take-over of a college/university that has stood for over 100 years, an interesting thing has happened. Those who truly cared for and understood what Shorter has meant to the world began to send comments, reminding all that we have not forgotten, and that the true Shorter’s light still beams brightly. In memory of those who went before us, in honor of those whose hearts are with us, but who stayed to care for our students, in remembrance of the darkest day in Shorter’s history we have requested that those who were there when the light was hooded and truth distorted remember with us.
We say to Don Dowless, Nelson Price, Bob White and the Board of Trustees of OUR Shorter, OUR Shorter still lives! We are not going away, we will not be deterred in our determination to restore OUR Shorter to her former glory, WE WILL NOT BE MOVED!
The following is what those who were there during the last tumultuous year are saying:
The Shorter College we knew for over thirty years was a place where the search for knowledge and the quest for a right relationship with God were both valued. Faculty members like Philip Greear, Wilson Hall, Meighan Johnson, Jenny Davis, my husband Peter DeWitt and so many others taught students to use the brains that God gave them and broke new ground themselves. Religion faculty like Joe Baskin, Robert Nash and Rob Wallace taught out of generous hearts that put Christian love ahead of Pharisaic legalism. Faculty enjoyed freedom of thought, from Wilson Hall, the self-proclaimed “Daoist Christian”, to Steve Krosner, the observant Jew, to various people who eschewed organized religion. Students were encouraged to progress through natural stages of moral and intellectual development by a classroom environment that promoted the free exchange of ideas. Shorter was not a place of rigid rules limiting thought and practice.
All that changed formally on October 24, 2011, when the Board of Trustees approved the statements of faith and lifestyle that faculty and staff would have to sign in order to be employed. Although I was stunned into silence at the time by the Provost’s remark that we should have seen it coming, I can now say, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Actually, he would have been right if we had been privy, as he was, to Board discussions. But we were helpless to prevent it once it had gained momentum. Some of us tried, but to no avail.
Shorter is a closed book now for me, but I pray God’s blessing on those who left and those who stayed, and especially on those who continue to teach and work in an inimical atmosphere.
Assistant Vice President
Planning & Institutional Effectiveness
24 years of service
I have been thinking of the ‘old Shorter’ since I attended Philip Greear’s memorial service on October 12, 2012. Philip Greear served as chair of the Natural Science Department from 1962-1985. A number of his former students were present, which speaks volumes for their regard of Dr. Greear. There are many such ‘former Shorter students’ who have the same regard for many other ‘former Shorter professors’. And thus the influence of the ‘old Shorter’ lives on. That is the hope and comfort for the future.
Professor of Biology
Shorter (College) University, 1976-2012
It is difficult to describe the feelings I had about the statements at the time they came out. They each represented such extreme departures from academic norms that they did not quite register as real to me at the time. My initial shock has mellowed, if that is an appropriate word to use, into dismay. It is still difficult to believe that the school I once knew, the school to which I dedicated a considerable portion of my professional life, would abandon its principles and succumb to fear-based thinking.
At a time when many are rethinking cultural and religious values, it may be tempting to those who are fearful of change, and who wish to preserve the status quo at all costs, to create static intellectual environments into which they can withdraw and feel safe. To establish such an environment, they believe, it is necessary to eliminate all threats, real or perceived, from within. Part of this process of threat elimination involves ensuring that no one in the environment harbors any thought that might challenge the accepted orthodoxy.
This is exactly what has happened at Shorter over the past year. Orthodoxy has been established, heretics expelled, received truth is never challenged, and faith reigns supreme. The great irony, which few seem to perceive, is that in doing all this, the administration has unwittingly revealed its own lack of faith in its own principles. Think: would a person who truly has faith in the Bible and in the words of Jesus run away with his fingers in his ears anytime he heard a contrary opinion? Obviously, these are the actions of one whose faith is tenuous. Yet this is what the administration has done; this is the testimony it has presented to the world.
It is said that fear is the opposite of faith. I would urge the administration of Shorter University to face down its fear of ideas, and to have enough faith to believe that Christianity is strong enough to withstand an encounter with the modern world.
Librarian – Professional Studies
14 years of service
So much of my life has been influenced by my years at Shorter as both a student and professor. I will always be grateful for the wonderful students and colleagues that have become a part of the fabric of my musical and spiritual journey. No actions or distance will ever separate me from the love and support that I experienced there. I am grateful to my teachers, my beloved students, and my colleagues and administrators for showing me the full love of Christ. It is in their honor that I celebrate the love, joy, compassion, acceptance, and hope that is the centerpiece of the gospel of Christ. May God bless them and grant them peace.
Dr. Martha Shaw
Director of Choral Activities
Professor of Music
13 years of service
Professor of Music
I spent 7 wonderful years at Shorter. I loved my students and my coworkers. Now, looking at what has happened, I can only say “I love my new job”. I pray that Shorter may survive and once again be a welcoming Christian College.
Dr. Robert Turner
Asst. Professor of Spanish
7 years of service
Shorter was such an exciting place and a rewarding job for me. I LOVED getting to know the faculty, staff, and students. Watching our students move from classroom status to graduates, to working adults was such a treat. Most of the relationships I built at Shorter will remain intact for a long time. I prayed about my departure from Shorter and although my decision was not easy, it was the best decision for me. I no longer had faith in the leadership at Shorter. It broke my heart to see the demise of countless numbers of co-workers and to continue to hear the stories of fear from so many students. Although I have moved on and have gained fulfillment elsewhere, I think about Shorter and the students on a daily basis. It is my prayer that someone, someday will recognize what is going on and help bring Shorter back to where she used to be.
Name withheld by Request
One year ago today, my decision to attend seminary was solidified when my employer, Shorter University, announced that all employees would be required to sign a lifestyle statement that I could not endorse. May God bless my colleagues who made the difficult decision to leave, as well as those who remained.
Director, Shorter University Museum & Archives
4 years of service
Remembering October 24, 2011, and thinking about all his former students and colleagues at Shorter College and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. May God bless you wherever you are today.
Dr. Matthew Hoch
Asst. Professor of Music (Voice)
6 years of service
My Shorter was a place where the love of Christ truly did transform lives. It was place where all were welcomed, appreciated and respected even when there was profound disagreement. I am thinking about my former colleagues today, those who are gone from The Hill and those who are still there. May God’s peace be with us all.
Name Withheld by Request
I was at Shorter as a student in the early 70’s and, much more recently, as music staff and adjunct faculty. As a student, I found Shorter to be a place rich with its own traditions, a place where I was challenged academically, and most of all, a place where I was loved by distinguished faculty and great students. Over 30 years later, I returned. Though there naturally were many changes, I rediscovered that familiar warmth of a loving family blessed by our Heavenly Father and by the wonderful heritage that was Shorter. I miss her greatly.
Warren Kennedy, ’71
And from our students –
One year ago, my life was turned completely upside down. At the time, I saw no light, and no positive outcome, but God had a plan. I can honesty say that I am thankful for the events that unfolded. Because of the events at Shorter, I was able to find my new home. I have never been happier, and more confident in my abilities as a person, and as a performer. God has a plan for my life, and it is a great one. He has me in the palm of his hand, and for that I am so eternally thankful!
Former Shorter Student
And from the bitter tears of a year ago, comes a statement which inspired this post. Here we see that the light still shines ever bright and truth can still move us all:
As I reflect on this past year, I am amazed. We created magic in the midst of such darkness and hatred. A year ago today the Lifestyle statement was released at Shorter. We faced a difficult time in our lives with a tremendous amount of courage. My faith was challenged, and I am stronger because of it. I believe that a relationship with God is about love and acceptance.
Thank you to the 90+ faculty and staff members who stood up for their beliefs, left Shorter, and uprooted their lives. Thank you to those who stayed and are fighting to give students the experiences they deserve. Thank you to my friends and family who encouraged me through the past year.
To Shorter and all of my beloved friends I made there, I miss you every day. I carry you with me always. Thank you to Reinhardt for providing a new home for so many people I love and for welcoming us with open arms.
with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.
Former Shorter Student.