Richard Pirkle

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.


Richard Pirkle

18 Responses to RICHARD PIRKLE

  1. Wow. I don’t think I’d actually known until reading this letter that the administration and Board were actually forcing the faculty of the Science Department to teach creationism as a anything other than a philosophical supposition. I am grateful for Mr. Pirkle’s courage in sharing his letter of resignation, and my heart is heavy at the loss of another excellent faculty member because of the actions of this misguided Board and administration.

  2. What an intelligent, sad, well written letter. As Mr. Barton said, it is shocking to hear that creationism is being taught at the college level. And it is shocking that fundamental religion is trumping all things scientific and intellectual, in addition to The Golden Rule.

    • GOD is the Creator, in six literal 24 hour days. If you don’t believe and embrace this now, one day you will. Did GOD really say…………….? Well yes, HE did, it’s called The Bible. I am glad this college is taking a stand. GOD Bless Shorter

  3. Thank you for your bravery and openness! I wish you all the best in your new position, and appreciate your years of dedicated service to academic excellence at Shorter.

  4. I bet science classes at Shorter are über easy.

    Q: What era came after the Pleistocene?
    A: The Pleistocene didn’t exist.

    Q: How many moles of water are formed after three mL HCL and one mL Sr2(OH) solutions are mixed (ignore water already present and imputurities)?
    A: That stuff is moot because God made the whole world.

    I mean, I’m a Christian and all but I couldn’t help but see just how foolish their approach happens to be. Also, I hope the typos aren’t in the original, like “people with whom the administration ‘doesn’t like’”, which makes meaning is difficult to discern. Nevertheless, what’s going on at Shorter is ultra dumb and I’m glad I thought it was a dumb head university when I chose were to go. At least my diploma will still be worth the paper it’s printed on in twenty years.

    • Concerned Biologist | May 22, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply | Edit

      I apologize for the grammatical errors. I was told to “hurry up and write my letter of resignation” because “we need to post your job”. It made me feel like I was really going to be missed…

  5. Thank you, Richard, for allowing this letter to be shared. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in your letter. I wish you the best in your new position. You and your family are certainly a great loss to the Rome community.

  6. Donna S. Chambers | May 22, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply | Edit

    I wish you the best in your new endeavor. Thank you for taking the time to clearly state your reasons for having to leave Shorter University in your resignation letter. I hope you will keep up with what comes in the future for Shorter and remain one of the supporters of what Shorter College was and what Shorter University can be. Please continue to voice loud and clear what is happening in Rome at Shorter University.
    Best Wishes,
    Donna S. Chambers

  7. Thank you for exposing more folly on the part of the GBC, Nelson Price, and Donald Dowless. My best to you on your transition.

  8. Forgive me if you have already taken notice of this, but I came across today a May 19 posting in the religious right’s Americanvisionnews website a posting on Shorter with 176 comments and counting. I thought some of you would want to be aware, while I agree with you, the focus here should be on resistance to Dowles and Price regime.
    I like the tacking away from the Lifestyle statement to the real issue which is the indadequacy of a fundamentalist adherence to the 1st 11 chapters of Genesis as History and Science. That just don’t scour for a liberal arts institution with Shorter’s History as a place of Light

  9. Here is an article up today at that goes to the heart of what is at stake at Shorter with Creationism and Intelligient Design; the Weakening of the Christian Faith. Written by pastor of FBC Auburn, Alabama among whose parishioners is the Sunday School Teacher and Pulitzer Prize Nominee Wayne Flynt often called the conscience of the State of Alabama, approaching the incarnation of Atticus Finch as Judge Frank Johnson did in the 60′s. Point bein you don’t shape the likes of Atticus Finch in the world view Dowles and Price are authorizing at Shorter. Just click on my name for this article, very worthwhile and timely. The Shorter Resistance has a world of support.

  10. Shorter College needs to clean its house of autocratic ignorant people at the top. Let professors with real degrees teach not Dowless.

  11. Teachers have no freedom to misinform and mis-educate students. It is scientifically inappropriate and educationally irresponsible to present ID under its own name or in any other guise as scientifically credible. And it is unconstitutional to do so in the public schools. You want to teach creationism in your university, have at it. You have ZERO scientific proof of your magical designer.Behe, dembski and the other science attackers proved nothing with their improbablity and irreducible complexity. The science comunity has unilaterally rejected their work as non scientific. Attacks on well established and tested scientific theory proves nothing.
    Creationism is fraud and deceitfu, this is not the message contained in scripture. For those interested, go to NCSE and read up on why we don’t do supernatural events in science. I recommend the president of the university just change the title of your science classes to fundamentalist theology for the hopelessly deductive.
    Will Fraser
    Oil and Gas Geologist
    Conservative, Lutheran
    Just stating the obvious. For the oblivious who can do whatever they want in their private collge w/o a science department of any credibility outside the evangelical community..
    Enjoy drinking that Kool-Aid guys.

  12. has a story up today about Prof Pirkle’s resignation at Shorter. And I have posted on Rachel Held Evans facebook page.
    60 minutes cannot be too far away. Will be interesting to see how Mitt Romney’s Tea Party base navigates this creationism as science aspect of Shorter; not to mention Romney and his vision for America.

    As the great essay on Literary Baseball in the Atlantic mused: The Centerfielder Cannot Hold

    Before this mess hit the fan so strongly the Furman Alum mag last summer praised the former Shorter administration, even including Nelson Price commendation of the former President. In a companion piece of another Furman grad ascending administrative status, CBF of SC Posey Belcher’s son going as chancellor of WNC in Cullowee; would be interesting to have some Furman folks recalibrate Shorter, as Furman went through its trial by fire in early 90′s

    RAchel Held EVans Facebook site has been notified of Shorter’s fiasco as well. Rachel, in the hometown of the Scopes Monkey Trial, Dayton, Tn should have a special word for Dowles and Price. What is it Pat Robertson called it: “a word of knowledge”?

  13. Nelson Johnson | May 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply | Edit

    I’m sorry, I don’t care if the letter was written in haste. Quite simply, the grammatical errors are inexcusable. If this quality of writing is indicative of the quality of faculty at Shorter, I think I’ll go to a heathen school.

  14. Charlie The Tuna | May 25, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply | Edit

    Entrepreneur Alert!!!

    Sounds like a good opportunity for someone to start a home-delivery business delivering alcohol in plain brown wrappers!

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