On the Horizon: A Prediction of the Future of Shorter University
As a 2009 graduate of Shorter College, and having documented the routine dismissal of religion faculty for various affronts of “liberalism” in thought, deed, and ethic, I now would like to submit my prediction for the future of Shorter University. As in math, when one has two defined points, that person can draw a line in certainty of its path, we too can take two related events, with the same exact cause, and accurately predict a future direction that, unless the Divine deems it necessary to intervene, is bound to come to pass. The two events mentioned are the “cleansing” of the Shorter College religion department and the new administration’s Personal Lifestyle Statement.
In 2008, a fellow student and I attempted to raise awareness of a trend of terminations or “promotions” in the religion and philosophy department. The list presented then, follows:
- Dr. Steve Sheeley was professor of religion at Shorter and was moved into an administrative position and eventually became Registrar. He left Shorter two years ago.
- Dr. Robert Shippey was professor of religion, mainly theology, at Shorter and was moved into administration as Vice President of Development. He was later removed very suddenly.
- Dr. Rob Nash was a professor of religion and head of the department and was offered a position as Dean of International Studies, which he turned down and left Shorter College.
- Dr. David Fillingim was professor of religion and philosophy at Shorter, and after publishing an article which did not sit well with Southern Baptists, he was moved out of the religion department into the psychology department. The only reason he was not removed completely was because he has tenure at Shorter.
- Dr. Robert Wallace was professor of religion and biblical languages at Shorter and has recently been “promoted” to Asst. Vice President of Programs and Services at Shorter College. (He now teaches at Judson University.)
In a department that has not usually had more than 5 or 6 professors in the recent past, this is a significant series of events. Further information and discussion is still available for review on “The Truth Behind Teacher’s Removal” Facebook group page.
Our attempts to raise student concern were met with general apathy. After all, we were only about 30 students on a campus of over a thousand others (a statistic that is very telling in itself.) It was not until this movement affected a larger group of people that the community, alumni and a small group of students got involved. But how many martyrs must we see before we act? No choice was given the aforementioned teachers in regards to their “promotions.” They were forced out of the classroom, sometimes on nothing but hearsay of “liberalism.”
The faculty and staff currently affected and endangered by the Personal Lifestyle Statement also have no choice in the matter. As a local priest in the Episcopal Church pointed out one Sunday morning, they are victims of “economic bullying.” The fact that jobs in academia are scarce, as are jobs in any field at the moment, only exacerbates the matter. All arguments about the moral ramifications of the Personal Lifestyle Statement aside, how can the school foster any sense of collegiality under threat of expulsion over mere suspicion or hearsay? How does a liberal arts education thrive in such an atmosphere? Alongside such strict ideology comes censorship. In the fine arts, classic works which view alcohol, tobacco, or homosexuality in a favorable light are forbidden. Censorship should be anathema in a liberal arts environment.
What is on the horizon for Shorter University? With the decline of the liberal arts focus and what will only be an increase in censorship, Shorter will likely face accreditation issues, leaving current students and recent graduates in a bind concerning the integrity of their degrees. These events will also ensure that a reasonable understanding of faith, tradition, and religion will be neglected and replaced by dogmatic authoritarianism. Not that the belief system itself is dysfunctional, but that its basis is by fiat, and not through experience and reasoning and thoughtful prayer. These trends will neglect logic and reason in all other fields of study as well, leaving the students without the logical faculty to answer their generation’s ever-growing list of challenges. Shorter will survive, but as an institution with little cultural relevance.