May 21, 2012

Faculty Leave Georgia Baptist School Over Lifestyle Statement

Shorter UniversityDrawing on my experience in academia, I can safely say that a mass exodus of faculty from an institution is a clear sign of serious trouble. Faculty leave one institution for another regularly, but when they do so en masse, it signals real trouble to anyone paying attention.

The Religion News Service is reporting that over 24 faculty have resigned from Shorter University in Georgia, a Baptist school, after it informed them that they would be required to sign a statement condemning public drinking, premarital sex, and homosexuality.

Shorter is a Baptist university, so the fact that they would have some sort of lifestyle statement like this is not terribly unusual. Many religious colleges and universities have similar statements, but they usually require them as a condition of one's initial hiring. I discovered for myself that many institutions include statements like this in the application materials for persons applying for jobs. Not surprisingly, I decided not to apply to work at any school with such a requirement.

What is unusual about this case is that Shorter is so small that the number of faculty leaving translates into something like 25% of their full-time faculty. That is astounding and cannot be good for the students.

Evidently, the Board of Trustees, all appointed by the Georgia Baptist Convention, realized that this might happen and decided that it was still worth doing.
In a Wednesday statement, Dowless said he and the university board recognized there are “strong feelings on both sides” about the new employment rules but the board decided to “reclaim our Christian roots” even if the consequence was a loss of faculty and staff.
Destroying the core of your institution must seem like a small price to pay in order to appease Jesus.

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