OBU announced this morning that it will relocate its graduate school in May. The university had leased space in a building downtown, but is now moving to the BGCO headquarters at 3800 N. May Avenue. After a 5+ year run downtown, it looks like OBU and the convention worked out a win-win to move OBU's graduate programs to the mother ship.
Now, ordinarily, this administrative decision is not something we would have an opinion about, since it apparently has nothing to do with any of Save OBU's concerns and it may, in fact, be a great idea. But given the recent unprecedented changes in OBU's academic affairs, this move has struck many people as disconcerting just in the few hours since the news was announced.
I don't really know the details of the BGCO's recent tenants or the amount of office space it occupies. But it seems reasonable to assume that OBU will pay a much lower rent since a) the new location is not in downtown and b) the new landlord pays no property taxes whereas the present landlord presumably does. So OBU's graduate programs can save on overhead and the BGCO gets a large new tenant.
Why, then, does this rub so many of us the wrong way? Probably because we are already highly suspicious of the BGCO's interference in OBU affairs. So much about OBU's governance and administration since even before the current president's election smacks of BGCO meddling. It's difficult to demonstrate clear and direct orders from the convention to University administrators, but we're working on it. And even without evidence of direct interference, we can still see that the BGCO's agenda to transform OBU is being enacted, incrementally but deliberately.
Think of all that has happened:
- President Brister's complaint that "Anthony thinks he's my boss"
- The presidential search committee's concerns about OBU sending too many of its graduates to moderate seminaries and too few to BGCO pulpits
- The president's plan to remake the School of Christian service
- The strained relations with Oklahoma City, First and Shawnee, First (two CBFO churches that the BGCO can't stand)
- The demotion of a moderate female administrator
- The creation of the provost position for a fundamentalist enforcer
- The dismissal of two religion professors in spite of tenure considerations and against Faculty Handbook policies
- The gutting of the philosophy curriculum in favor of "Christian apologetics"
- The early retirements of many moderate professors
- The installation of an avowedly fundamentalist bookstore that refuses to sell mainstream books
- The new practice of ignoring faculty search committee recommendations in hiring
- Refusing to admit mistakes in the forced dismissal debacles
- Dismissing student, faculty, and alumni protests and continuing to remake OBU in the BGCO's image
At the moment, we are only able to connect a few of these concerns directly back to the BGCO. We continue to document conversations and events, and are working tirelessly to paint a more vivid picture of BCGO meddling. But make no mistake: BGCO power brokers are overjoyed about every item on the above list and more. In their minds, President Whitlock is God's man for this hour. And Provost Norman is a godsend because they can get their dirty work done without even having to ask! He's enough of a true believe that he does all this stuff without having to be told!
So when OBU moves a new and growing part of its operation into the BGCO's own headquarters, it is clearly symbolic of a new dynamic that they love and we are rightly suspicious about. How wonderful it would be if the landlord-tenant dynamic was the extent of OBU's relationship to the BGCO!