Monday, February 6, 2012

Money Monday: BGCO's OBU Subsidy Drops as Its Influence Skyrockets

On Mondays, we usually look at the financial implications of the OBU-BGCO relationship.  In light of last week's trustee meeting, a bizarre disparity deserves our attention: Even as the BGCO's fundamentalist influence on Bison Hill is felt more and more acutely, the convention's annual subsidy continues to decline.  When you measure the subsidy as a percentage of OBU's operating budget, the BGCO's declining investment is pretty stunning.

In the 2009-10 academic year, the BGCO contributed $2.8 million toward an annual budget of $41 million, a subsidy of 6.8%.  Last week, OBU trustees approved a $53.1 million budget for 2012-13.  Assuming the BGCO continues to fund OBU at the current level of $2.5 million per year (a 11% decline in real dollars from 2009-10 to 2011-12), the convention's subsidy will only cover 4.7% of OBU's budget next year.

That's a 30% decline in just 3 or 4 years.

One might think that if the BGCO is investing so much less in OBU that the university would gain autonomy over its own affairs.  But in the twisted world of Baptist power politics, logic is nowhere to be found.  Instead of reasonable steps that might accompany such a precipitous decline in convention support such as allowing OBU to elect some of its own trustees, the BGCO has only tightened its grip on OBU.

Indeed, BGCO elites realized a part of their long-awaited dream in 2010 and 2011, when OBU administrators forced out two impeccably qualified professors who would not kowtow to today's increasingly fundamentalist Baptist party line.  With new administrators who seem happy to wage war on academic freedom of their own initiative (forcing out professors, using tenure as a weapon, ignoring faculty search committee recommendations, disregarding Faculty Handbook policies, gutting core curriculum areas, censoring course materials, renaming academic divisions after people who be appalled at these disastrous changes, etc.), BGCO power brokers don't even have to nudge them or remind them who's boss like they did under previous administrations.

Once again: The current arrangement is a great deal for the BGCO power brokers, for whom a fundamentalist OBU has long been the elusive jewel in their crown.  It's a bad deal for Oklahoma Baptists, who fund Falls Creekcollegiate ministries, and evangelism at lower levels to make room for annual institutional welfare checks to OBU (which has an endowment of $80 million and raises 95% of its revenue on its own).

And, as we have repeatedly documented here, it is a horrible deal for OBU.  Once again: If OBU had autonomy and independence from the BGCO, literally none of the problems we've chronicled would exist.  None of them.  Maybe we couldn't afford to bail out failing fundamentalist Bible academies, but we would get by just fine.

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