Instead, I want to highlight some achievements since the Save OBU blog went live December 6.
While there is obviously unprecedented unrest among OBU students, faculty, retired faculty, and alumni, Save OBU exists to unite disaffected stakeholders and advance the argument that all the recent problems arise from one fundamental problem: BGCO ownership and control. Without the BGCO, none of the embarrassing and misguided issues related to faculty dismissals, academic freedom, sexism, the bookstore, or the administration's incessant pandering to fundamentalists would exist. On that front, I am pleased to report:
- Oklahoma Baptists are beginning to be informed about their $2.5 million annual OBU subsidy and its disastrous effect on their missions and ministry priorities. Hopefully that information will spur OK clergy and laypeople to start conversations in their churches about the futility of owning and operating an institution of higher learning that, in spite of fundamentalist-inspired changes, is leading more students away from literalism and fundamentalism than toward it.
- OBU's senior leadership is on notice. For too long, they have advanced BGCO elites' agenda at OBU quietly and without much pushback. "The Norm" raised some issues that were never resolved to students' satisfaction. The alumni petition raised many of the same issues, but elicited no meaningful change. Save OBU will persist and continue to grow. We are here to encourage and support administrative actions that are consistent with OBU's proud liberal arts heritage. We will provide all the cover administrators need -- more than they ever knew existed -- should they decide to stand up to the fundamentalists. We will work tirelessly to support them if they lead OBU back to its former greatness as an academically rigorous, intellectually rich, moderate Baptist university. Even now, we acknowledge the immense courage that will be required for the task. We are prepared to honor that courage to the greatest degree possible.
- We have heard from dozens of current students and very recent alumni who regard the slide toward fundamentalism as tragic. We are also building a broad network of alumni and moderate Baptists who are determined not to sit idly by while a cherished institution devolves into a fundamentalist Bible academy.
Right now, our two biggest needs are publicity and information. Organizational and strategic questions will begin to be settled later this year. For now, here is how you can help:
- First and foremost, if you are upset about the recent negative policy and personnel changes at OBU, please join our movement.
- Whether you are a student, an alum, or an Oklahoma Baptist, tell as many potential supporters about Save OBU as possible. Start a conversation with friends about whether you want OBU to be a proud, moderate liberal arts university or whether you want OBU to purge all non-fundamentalists and become a strict, authoritarian, unaccredited Bible academy.
- Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. I have been shocked at how dramatically our web traffic spikes whenever someone retweets us. Likewise, when you join Save OBU on Facebook and comment on our posts, write on our wall, or share one of our stories, hundreds more people find out about us. Invariably, we get more people on board through social reach. (Note to current students: A few of you have emailed and said that you support Save OBU but are afraid to join the movement because you think OBU administrators can retaliate against you somehow. They can't. Take a look at how many students have already joined and engage with us on Twitter all the time. The only people who could face retaliation are faculty -- they are the only ones who can be punished for their opinions. You and your parents are free to support Save OBU.)
- We need information about the new bookstore and whether you think it is working out well for OBU students.
- We need people who want to tell their personal OBU stories. For older alumni, what was OBU like before fundamentalists took over Southern Baptist life? How has OBU's slide toward fundamentalism affected your feelings toward OBU over the years? For more recent alumni, what was your OBU experience like? For current students, how do you feel about the campus climate these days? We want to feature these stories on the blog. But we also want to be an outlet if you just need to talk or vent about your feelings toward OBU given the changes.
- Finally, I need help with the blog. I've been posting almost daily for close to 5 weeks, as well as engaging with dozens of people via email and phone. But it was a relatively slow period for me and I had time to do it. I am prepared to continue for a couple more weeks, but I really do need people -- maybe you can do a one-time guest blog or maybe you can contribute regularly. While we will welcome all the help we can get, we are particularly in need of people who live in Oklahoma and/or are Southern Baptists. I am neither an Oklahoman nor a Baptist, so this is not really my crusade. I just have a wellspring of affection for OBU and I am passionate in my belief that BGCO control is at the root of all these problems.
In the coming weeks, we want to expand on our first month's success.
- With the upcoming start of the spring semester, we will invariably bring more current students into the movement. (Though we definitely thank our J-Term students who, in spite of class and homework, read the site faithfully every day!)
- The Sunday School series will resume and continue to chronicle Baptist colleges that have split from their state conventions. So far, we've profiled William Jewell College and Stetson University. Unsurprisingly, the splits have been hugely beneficial to both the colleges and the conventions.
- We will continue to tell the story of fundamentalists' takeover of Southern Baptist life. We've talked about heroes like Grady Cothen and Joe Ingram who stood against fundamentalism. But there were plenty of losers and victims of the fundamentalist takeover, and we will tell their stories as well.
- We will begin our outreach to OBU parents -- significant stakeholders who invest heavily in OBU but are largely in the dark about encroaching fundamentalism on campus.
- We also have an obligation to prospective OBU students, and we will soon provide information for them as well. OBU does not advertise that it fires moderate professors and guts core curriculum areas. But prospective students and their families have a right to know the truth and decide for themselves whether OBU is worth a six-figure investment given its direction and decline.
A Word of Thanks
Due to the overwhelming support and encouragement I have received from so many people across the country and across the denominational/ideological/doctrinal spectrum, the past month has been a joy rather than a burden. Please contact me at SaveOBU@gmail.com.