Monday, March 5, 2012

A Look from the Other Side

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.


  1. To criticize OBU's hiring policy and its blatant discrimination against females teaching religion is one thing, but to label Dr. Bandy as "second-rate" is purely ridiculous. I proudly oppose the Whitlock/Norman regime, but I will adamantly group Dr. Bandy with Mullen, Kelly, Hall, and Faught as the top professors that are at/were at OBU.

  2. I am reposting a comment that I hope is no longer here due to some electronic error rather than being deleted. Stating that candidate A obviously has a more impressive resume while listing said candidate's degrees without listing anything about candidate B other than the opinion that he more closely supports a fundamentalist agenda does not reflect the academic integrity for which this blog is advocating. The faint praise that this man is not a terrible professor is poor form. Please make an effort to give fair weight to issues on which you report. This will be a great aid to me and other alumni who are not geographically close to OBU and are not familiar with all the goings on at Bison Hill. Thanks for your efforts to educate, but please take your efforts to a higher level. I am confident that you, fellow Bison, are well equipped for this challenge.

    Hoping for no further electronic errors & confident in no discriminatory efforts.

    BBA '90

    1. Candidate B has a Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (post-Takeover) and taught at Louisiana College and in Liberty University's distance learning program.

      Candidate A, who the faculty search committee unanimously recommended, ended up doing a short-term gig at Indiana Wesleyan before being hired at Wheaton. OBU has been able to attract faculty who are truly outstanding and highly sought after in evangelical higher education. We are losing them to premier Christian colleges so that we can hire people who are ideologically closer to the new regime.

      What's truly in poor form that the administration, in case after case, ignores search committee recommendations and brings on new faculty who everyone knows were not the first choice. Aside from the horrible dynamic between the senior faculty and the administration, we are increasingly seeing a divide between the senior faculty (who have given many years of their lives to OBU's mission) and the junior faculty (who owe their positions at least as much as their doctrinal proximity to Stan Norman's ideal than their own academic/research/teaching qualifications).

  3. This is subjective writing at its finest, seasoned with conjecture and inaccuracy. The writer of this blog never had the Oxford prof. (Hardin) in class, and to compare him to another professor based upon his credentials or academic employment is ludicrous. So if a student from OBU goes to Duke Divinity while another student goes to TCU, then the latter is "second-rate" as well? Write with class and intelligent research, not veiled feminism seeking to amputate a member of the institution instead of beheading the culprit.

  4. Let me suggest, if I might, that we keep our eye on the ball here, friends. Veronica's post is hardly feminism. In fact, it has very little to do with Candidate A's gender. As a current faculty member I am quite pleased to have Candidate B on campus. He has added tremendously to the university's ethos and is a terrific colleague. What is important here is the issue of trust: why are faculty search committees -- with their collective wisdom and expertise -- not trusted to find the best candidates? This is a systemic problem, in Language and Literature, Music, Business, the former SCS, all over.

    1. Well said. Thank you for your post.

  5. Please let me clarify a few things.

    I have nothing against Candidate B. I tried very hard in my language to indicate that I think he's a fine professor. This is really only a post about the faculty recommendation being ignored. If that did not come across, I apologize for not taking better care with my writing. "Not terrible" was not the best choice. So, for this, I will take the blame.

    May I mention, briefly, that I did not call him second rate, but only second choice. Again, perhaps I could've chosen my words more wisely. But I do feel that second choice is a fair description of the circumstances of his hiring.

    I did, in fact, have Hardin in class my freshman year.

    I do not argue that this is not subjective and laced with feminism. Of course it is. But if my crime is standing for the equality of women, then I stand proudly with my name on it. That a woman was turned down for this job on the sole consideration of her sex is an outrage. And I gladly list my voice in opposition to that movement.

    I hope that Jacob's comments clarified the credentials situation.

    And, speaking of credentials, I see that Duke may sound more impressive than Brite (I do not go to TCU), but I actually chose Brite over Duke because I think it stands for things that are important to me, including gender equality and diversity. Thus, hopefully, when I am looking for jobs in the future, these things will be taken into consideration as well. In that same vein, I think that Liberty and Princeton stand for two different things. However, it is up to the interpreter of symbols to decide which is better.

    I am sincerely sorry if I hurt anyone with this post. Please know it was not my intention to do so.

  6. (Let me prefect this by saying that I'm sure Candidate B is doing a fine job and that I have nothing at all against him). Speaking as a friend of Candidate A, I'd like to congratulate her for her new job at Wheaton. I still feel angry that the administration rejected the faculty recommendation(from all the scuttlebutt that I heard) for her to join their ranks at OBU because she is 1)a woman and 2) very young. While it would have been wonderful to serve alongside her former professors as an esteemed colleague after earning her degree from one of the top universities in the nation, her new post at Wheaton proves her merit. Good job, Wheaton, for recognizing one of the most brilliant young women in academia. And good job, Candidate A, for landing such a sweet gig at the top Christian university in the country. You definitely ended up winning this one.


We invite you to join in the conversation. However, anonymous comments are unwelcome.