Obviously, I am probably not the most qualified person to talk about women at OBU. I graciously welcome any students, faculty, or alumni who would like to use this forum to tell your OBU story.
I grew up in a denomination (United Methodist) that has been ordaining women since 1956. When I was 7, a very capable and talented woman came to serve our church as pastor. I was raised in a very traditional family. My mom did not work outside our home after I was born, and we followed a very traditional division of labor with regard to gender roles. But until I arrived on Bison Hill at age 18, it had never occurred to me that Protestant churches should be sexist. How quickly I learned. Men telling women what to do and how to think is a twisted dynamic that pervades a lot of religions, and evangelicalism is one of the worst offenders.
At OBU, I was surrounded by young men who had grown up believing a lot of things about gender that I was simply never taught. It was just one of the many areas where I thought I was conservative, then I came to OBU...
The first thing that struck me was the lack of women teaching in the religion department. It took some time before I realized just how few opportunities there are for women in Baptist academia, such as it is. The next glaring disparity I noticed was the intentional exclusion of women from the pulpit in Raley Chapel. Once a year, we had a "Women's Day" chapel. Usually it was a seminary president's wife gushing about how she met her husband the first week of college and couldn't be more giddy and elated to support him in his ministry. It really made me sick. Once in a great while, there might have been a woman who spoke on a non-compulsory Friday chapel service. But when it came to women in Raley Chapel, they were always "speaking," never "preaching." I even learned that the Holy Spirit, which I always assumed was an "it" is actually a "Him."
Once a year, we men were encouraged to participate in "OBU Day in the Churches." We wrote sermons that made some use of our newfound biblical scholarship, but mostly we were supposed to thank Oklahoma Baptists for contributing their hard-earned offering plate dollars to OBU through the Cooperative Program. What did female students contribute on OBU Day? Usually they sang a solo or taught Sunday school. I don't remember them being welcome to preach on OBU Day. Maybe I'm wrong and things have changed, but I doubt it.
What made all this sexism so ironic is that women were (generally) so much more advanced in scholarship than we men. Women routinely outpaced their male classmates in Bible and theology classes. They earned higher scores on Greek and Hebrew exams. They won departmental honors and served as assistants to the faculty. Yet where were these bright young women supposed to go? Options in Southern Baptist academic and clergy life are almost literally nonexistent.
(In later years I learned that the SBC seminaries make a ton of money off women who enroll in "Christian counseling" degree programs. It's a total win-win for fundamentalists. They can boost enrollment in the seminaries, have a stock of young ladies on hand to marry the yet unhitched seminarians, rake in revenue, give women a place in a more typically nurturing kind of field, and populate church counseling centers with people who practice the quack science of "Biblical counseling." But I digress...)
At first, I thought "ring by spring" was just a bad joke. But then I realized it pretty much represents the ideal embodiment of what fundamentalist Baptist elites want for women. OBU sells itself to parents as a safe place for their daughters to go. (Though, from the stories I heard, way more girls were deflowered at Falls Creek than at OBU.) But at the end of the day, there is simply no place for women in church leadership. "Gracious submission" to a husband is the stated ideal.
This sexist dynamic has become worse over time. We were all told about the legendary Rowena Strickland, a great woman of God who taught Bible at OBU from the 1950s to the 1970s (I think). She even left an endowed professorship in her will. So far, two men have held the Strickland Chair, but under the current leadership, no woman ever will. It wasn't until 2000 that the fundamentalist SBC finally added deliberately sexist language about "submission" to the Baptist Faith and Message. By then, Baptists had already clarified their opposition to women in church leadership "because men were first in creation and women were first in the Edenic fall" (1984). And what if a woman believes she is called by God to be a Southern Baptist minister? According to W.A. Criswell, it's simple: "She is mistaken. God never called her."
Personally, I believe all these sexist men are mistaken.