Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Stan Norman?

I'm very grateful for all the support our fast-growing and far-reaching movement has received in just a few short weeks.  However, it's going to take a long time -- years -- for the idea that OBU needs independence and autonomy from the BGCO to become the obvious way forward for each entity.  I'm quite sure I can't keep up the daily blog postings for that long -- something my faithful Baptist Building readers are certainly grateful for.  (Hi, guys!)

But, short of a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees, there is one solution that almost everyone I've talked to believes would solve all the problems brought on by fundamentalist encroachment at OBU over the past 18 months: Removing Dr. Stan Norman as chief academic officer.  I'm skeptical, but many people strongly believe this.

I don't know if his position was just a consolation prize because Norman didn't get the SCS deanship, or why anyone but the most ardent fundamentalists ever thought he would be a good fit at OBU.  But even for OBU's conservative tastes, I think it's safe to say that he overreached and mistook his hiring as a mandate to remake OBU into a fundamentalist Bible academy.  Perhaps the president could send Dr. Norman on his way with a sterling recommendation, noting the provost's zeal and effectiveness at censoring course readings, ignoring Faculty Handbook policies, keeping female lay leaders in their place, spinning ideologically-motivated firings as contract-related resignations, and generally being Arbiter and Enforcer of Truth.  As heartbreaking as it is, I'm sure there is a Southern Baptist college or "seminary" out there that is looking for a hatchet man.

As much as I hate to admit it, such a move would put Save OBU out of business and help restore thousands of people's lost faith in OBU.  Students and faculty would immediately throw President Whitlock a ticker-tape parade on the Oval.  And if Anthony Jordan didn't like it, this could be the moment Whitlock finally realizes, like Mark Brister finally did, that Anthony Jordan isn't his boss.  The faculty, who are near the point of open rebellion because of administrators' incessant hostile actions, would finally have a champion.  Students, too, would rally around their president.  Dozens of retired faculty would withdraw their concerns, and nearly everyone who signed the alumni petition would be satisfied that their concerns were heard and acted upon.

Now, I coud be wrong, but I maintain that ultimately, nothing short of total independence from the BGCO will make these problems disappear forever.  I believe that even if we get a chief academic officer that students and faculty can support, eventually fundamentalism will rear its ugly head in OBU's affairs and/or governance.  Sure, we might enjoy a multi-year respite from the attacks on integrity, academic freedom, liberty of the conscience, and soul competency, but one day soon the fundamentalists would be back to do battle again.  They will not tolerate anything they can't control.  It's just their nature.

Still, given how many problems a personnel change in the provost's office would solve and the massive amount of confidence it would restore, it's hard to see the downside.  Speaking just for myself, I don't think this solves the most pressing problem.  But a lot of people believe it does.

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