Imagine: a professor has just left (to teach at Oxford, no less) and now that professor must be replaced. You have two candidates. Candidate A obviously has the more impressive resume, including an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton. Accordingly, the faculty committee recommends candidate A, unanimously.
But here’s the problem: the position is to teach theology. Candidate B is a man and also supports your fundamentalist agenda more closely so you must choose him because you are both trying to make the faculty more conservative and your theological imagination does not have room for a woman to teach the scriptures.
That’s exactly what happened with a recent hire at OBU. Obviously, this makes me angry. It makes me angry that faculty recommendations are so easily ignored. It makes me angry that interviewees are being discriminated against because of gender. It makes me angry that better professors are being rejected for less qualified professors.
But maybe I am not the one receiving the worst end of this deal.
What must it feel like to come on campus to start a new job, knowing you are not the one that your colleagues wanted?
Surely, if I know that the recommendation was unanimous for another, he knows. And, after all, you apply for a job you are qualified for, you hope you get the job, you get the job, you take it. You don’t think, “Wait! There is another who is better than I! Take her instead!” Academic jobs are few and far spread these days.
So what does it feel like to embody all of the tensions in your new workplace? Is it fair to walk into work everyday knowing that you are being compared to another who honestly may or may not have done a better job, but in the collective minds of those who surround you would’ve taught perfectly?
The new professor is not a bad guy and not a terrible professor. Obviously, he’s a little reformed for my taste and teaches from a pretty conservative bias. But don’t we all teach from our biases? These are forgivable because he is able to see that there are views besides his own which are viable. He’s downgraded the Greek textbook, which is frustrating, but it’s got to be hard to follow someone who left for Oxford. And he was always pretty nice to me, so I feel like I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But for many with ties to OBU, he will always be, at best, second choice. As I met many moderate alumni and supporters when I moved to Texas, the question they always asked was, “What do you know about this guy from Liberty?”
It’s got to be a hard place to be. I know when he came many upperclassmen felt they shouldn’t like him on principle. Surely we are not alone. And frankly, that is unfair all the way around-- for us, for the one who was passed over, for the faculty, and especially for the one who was hired.
When appeasing the BGCO hurts the Academy, we all suffer.