As promised, SOS is turning its focus away from the Personal Lifestyle Statement. The statement has been a straw man, designed in part to distract the Board of Trustees and the public away from the more critical issues of academic freedom and faculty autonomy. Dr. Dowless, Nelson Price and the Georgia Baptist Convention have repeatedly declared that they intend to uphold Shorter’s reputation for academic excellence. As the letter below reveals, academic excellence is in great peril up on The Hill. We encourage you to share the below letter with every prospective student and their parents.
We deeply appreciate Richard Pirkle’s willingness to step out in courage and release this letter, so that we can more fully appreciate the insidiousness of the Fundamentalist take-over. It should be noted that Dr. Craig Allee, referenced below, was the Dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics, a Shorter alum and a 44 year employee at Shorter. He has also resigned.
April 9, 2012
Dr. Dowless, Dr. Shull, and Dr. Craig Allee,
It is with great sadness that I would like to tender my resignation for my position (Assistant Professor of Biology) as of August 1, 2012. I have accepted a position at Tennessee Tech University.
Though I have enjoyed my time here at Shorter and I feel as though both I and the students have benefited from me being here, the current changes in the administration and the policies that have been enacted has made it to where I can no longer work at Shorter. My concerns stem from two major implications of the policy changes. First, I disagree with being forced to be “in agreement” with the school’s statement of faith instead of submitting our own. Though I am Pentacostal and most assuredly a Christian, the public statements about this situation implies that I am not a Christian simply because I am unwilling to sign someone else’s statement of faith. It is insulting, appalling, and that attitude does more to turn away non-Christians from Christianity than seeing someone drinking a glass of wine at dinner or accepting those individuals who struggle with their sexuality (whether gay or straight).
Secondly, and more specifically to my discipline, I disagree with the undue influence that the Board of Trustees, Nelson Price, and Dr. Dowless have exerted on my ability to teach the best science available to the students of Shorter University. Specifically I am disappointed with being forced to teach Creationism or Intelligent Design (both of which are philosophical and religious beliefs) in addition to being forced to teach evolution as “just a theory” (which ignores the scientific definition of “theory” as a widely accepted and highly supported way of looking at multiple fields and levels of scientific evidence). These changes will most definitely affect the students here and their ability to get into graduate level programs. In my multiple job interviews, schools repeatedly asked for my reasons for leaving and voiced their concern for how science was to be taught at an institution that uses semantics and non-scientific explanations to explain how biology works. The concern is not unwarranted. Anytime these concerns were voiced to the current administration, they repeatedly would mention “other schools” that do similarly and boast of their acceptance rates. I wish they would have looked at other Christian colleges like Lee University that require all their science majors to take an evolution class and that encourage a discussion of how science and religion are simply two way of looking at the world.
Overall, the goal to make Shorter University a preeminent teaching university that is Christ-centered has missed its mark. The process of weeding out non-compliant faculty has created an environment where those that could leave (like myself) has uprooted their family and moved on. Those that couldn’t, whether they agree with the statement of faith or not, will sign it to keep their jobs and defeats the purpose of the documents as a whole (unless the purpose was to have a reason to fire the people with whom the administration “doesn’t like” in which case the documents worked swimmingly well).
As an aside, shortly after taking my job at Shorter 6 years ago, my wife and I both discussed the possibility that we stayed in Rome until we both retired. I never intended to leave Shorter University. I was forced to go by the policies of this administration.