Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Will Not Be Silenced (Part 1)

As I mentioned in the last post, suspicion arose for most upperclassmen upon arrival to Welcome Week, August 2010. After many lengthy discussions of where the students' voices properly fit into the university atmosphere and what sorts of actions should be taken, the first action came by the brave pen of one student as a letter to the editor of the Bison.

This letter mentioned concerns for the University's future, citing that although the 2020 plan seemed to propose a lofty vision of University prosperity, the means to that end seemed to be "relieving [professors] of their professorial duties," as well as demoting a beloved administrator "masked behind a simple, titular change." The dates and figures for the student's knowledge came from his leadership in the Welcome Week Steering Committee, something openly discussed in the letter. In short, this letter asked for more information, specifically, asking the Bison to write stories which would address what this student perceived to be the concerns of the student body.

This letter came out in v. 94, issue 6, of the Bison on October, 20, 2010. This issue of the newspaper came out the day before Fall Break. Upon return to Bison Hill (10-25-10), the student received a call from Dr. Whitlock's secretary on his cell phone, expressing an urgent desire that he meet with the president. It was understood from that conversation that the meeting would be that day. After all, the secretary seemed to have his schedule in front of her while conferring with the student about a time to meet.

After spending the morning looking up words used in the letter to make sure that the time between Welcome Week and Fall Break in which the letter had been crafted, had indeed been sufficient time to make sure that every word was the correct one, he felt sure in his decision to put his name on such a letter in such a forum.

After taking a test, the student arrived at Dr. Whitlock's office and was told it would be just a moment before the president would see him. When he walked into the front door of the president's office, Dr. Whitlock was walking in the side, a copy of the Bison in hand.

Dr. Whitlock positioned the two on two chairs which were placed parallel to one another, the national championship basketball between them. This made eye contact very difficult as the two were either facing the same way or separated by a basketball.

After a handshake, initiated by the student-- not the president, Dr. Whitlock began the meeting with a series of statements which revealed clearly the hostile nature of the meeting. This involved statements like: "I was wrong about you." "I thought you would come to me if you had concerns instead of writing a letter like this." "This kind of information is not for students to know." "I was out of town last week, I just got a copy of this this morning." As well as a repetition of the statement, "I misjudged you."

When Dr. Whitlock finished with this invective, he looked to the student for an answer. Having realized that this diatribe contained no question, the student calmly began to state, "My purpose in writing the letter..." But he was never able to finish explaining his thought. In his first opportunity to speak in this meeting he was interrupted by Dr. Whitlock reading the expressed purpose as written in the letter. Dr. Whitlock then looked to the student for an answer.

He tried again. "I wrote the letter because..." At this point, he was again interrupted. Dr. Whitlock stopped him from speaking and demanded, "The only thing I need to know is, do you think everything written in this letter is true?" Obviously, confronted with such a question, the student began to second guess himself. But he remembered that all morning he had rechecked every word of that letter, not to mention that he had spent two months writing it in the first place (a fact mentioned in the letter itself). Feeling empowered by these things, the student replied, "Yes." At this point he was attacked with another onslaught of "I misjudged you." etc.

At this point, Dr. Whitlock put the paper down on the table and stood up; he was now literally talking down to the student. Here he asked a few questions, putting the burden of administrative secrecy onto the student. "Why didn't you talk to someone?" "Don't you know who you are and what it means to put your name on a letter like this?" It was very clear that Dr. Whitlock thought the letter was written unthinkingly, in a fit of rage-- perhaps like the one which had inspired this meeting.

Finally, Dr. Whitlock asked, "Do you think every hiring decision needs to go through students?" To this, the student responded, "No, and I said that in the letter. I was only asking for more information." To this, Dr. Whitlock replied by laughing at the student and asking, "Oh, so if you don't know about something, then no student does?"

Of course, at this point in time, that student was currently reading every single post which appeared on the OBU website. So the answer was probably, yes. But that is beside the point.

After laughing at the student, Dr. Whitlock walked to his desk-- perhaps 8 or 9 yards away, sat down, and started writing. Feeling dismissed, the student stood up, got his backpack and walked to the door. At this point, Dr. Whitlock started talking again.

"Admissions is probably a hard place to work for you with such a duplicitous attitude towards the university."

The student recalls that at this point he had little to say to the president. He had been literally talked down to, laughed at, and now, Dr. Whitlock was making it clear that he did not know what a student worker did in the Admissions office. Student workers are not on the front lines convincing students to come to OBU, they are most often in the back folding t-shirts. Furthermore, this student had been doing this job quite competently for nearly 4 years.

From here, Dr. Whitlock managed to mention that the issues with an ex-professor, whose name he said incorrectly, did not concern the student. Already sitting at his desk, he turned to face his computer.

Certain he was now dismissed, the student again walked to the door and managed to open it this time. Again, Dr. Whitlock resumed speaking.

"You should talk to the head of admissions about position reassignment."

In shock, from the doorway, the student simply responded, "My job?"

"Yes. Something with the same wages and the same hours, but a different job because it must be hard for you to work in Admissions when you hate the University so much."

Unable to stand anymore, the student nodded and left.

Click here for Part 2 in this series.


  1. I am confused about this post. It sounds terribly close to gossip out of righteous anger. Was this Dr. Whitlock ever approached after this confrontation to attempt a communicative resolution? Is this post to show how much one student suffered?
    It seems that some of these posts are well written and properly delivered, while an increasing amount are not Christlike. Let us share a story about how mean someone is to stir the pot of bitterness and that truly what we are called to do?
    I completely agree with many of the complaints mentioned in this blog. However, having an argument, passion, and academic prowess is not enough. These delicate matters must be approached and discussed with humility, love, and respect. Even - no, especially - if the party of OBU does not respond with love and respect.

    1. The point is that a middle aged man in a position of great responsibility came unglued over a 21 year old asking honest questions about a dramatic and unprecedented change of direction at OBU.

      We have stayed far from personal attacks and ruminations about Christlikeness. God knows I have missed the mark in word and deed on more occasions than I care to admit. But ask the two wrongfully dismissed professors whether they received Christian grace and charity when they were forced out for nothing more than holding different opinions on non-essential maters.

      Frankly, the subdued, evenhanded manner in which Veronica told the story was the most mild version of it I've heard yet. Kudos to her for showing restraint I probably could not have mustered. I think it's beyond outrageous. And I think the administration needs to just come out and say, "Yes, we are trying to doctrinally purify OBU" and let the chips fall where they may. They can't just unilaterally change OBU's mission, norms, and policies and then be angry when people call them out on it.

    2. Amen! This blog can get a bit ridiculous/over zealous at times.

  2. I don't think the intention of the post is to spread gossip. It is to illustrate that the student went in search of information and was not given a fair chance. The administration at OBU is constantly belittling students and their opinions. That should be enough to be considered "un-Christlike".
    The article states that Whitlock refused to participate in an open discourse with the student, which did not pave the way to communicative resolution. How else will this be resolved if it is not known?

    1. Is the aim of this post really to resolve that conflict? I think I agree with first anon (I do not know the university first hand, but I am a Christian) that this post is meant to incite anger or make the student seem a martyr. Either this Veronica girl knows the student or is acting on hearsay. I would like to think the former. What is the goal resolution? Change the former generation by way of awareness? That doesn't seem to have a great track record, or be very biblical in its approach.

    2. Wow. "this Veronica girl". I don't think sexist statements like that have any place in the dialogue of someone appealing for "biblical approach"es.

    3. Sexist? While the phrase is clearly and disrespectfully speaking down to Veronica, it is also simply stating a fact. Veronica is a girl. Her karyotype would clearly indicate this fact (Two copies of the human X chromosome=female). Perhaps my statement is eugenic descrimination? Oh no, genetics!

    4. We're getting a bit far afield here, but thus far none of our anonymous critics has said, "This Jacob boy is getting too emotional" in his writing. Veronica is doing a yeoman's (yeowoman's?) job and everything she's written is true.

    5. Vern is a friend of mine. I just thought that was ridiculous. You have chosen to be the voice of a controversial group with an agenda; I would be more surprised if the authors weren’t personally attacked.

    6. True enough. But remember, we stand for what was for decades an honorable status quo. Reverends Norman, Jordan and Whitlock constitute the controversial group with an agenda. Let's not forget that.

  3. As an OBU alum I appreciate this blog post as it illustrates exactly the kind of attitude this administration espouses. Bizarre and completely unprofessional interactions such as this are the norm (no pun intended) not the exception.

  4. As soon as one of these "Anonymous" detractors will stand up and call out the perceived power brokers at the university (those called out by Save OBU), then their critiques of "Christlike"ness and "biblical" approaches MIGHT carry some water. Until then, the hypocrisy is showing.

    Let's talk about Christlikeness. How about the Christ in the Gospels who sided with the marginalized and called out the powerful. The One who highlighted abuses of power. Let's talk about Christlikeness.

    Great job, Save OBU.

  5. I know this student, and I know Miss Veronica knows this student. How could such a story be hearsay? I was in class with this student the day this meeting occurred. In any event, there was no slander involved. This is merely a recounting of a story. And if we are to speak of Christ-likeness, Christ told stories, both live stories and parables, which were so un-flattering (especially of those who treated others poorly, abused power, or were self-righteous) that the powers-that-be had him (and others like him, e.g. John the Baptist) killed.
    I know that this student's experience with this administration was not unique, as I am sure this week's posts will reveal. The type of changes the administration is pressured to bring on the campus does not want to see the light of day. And that is what this story illustrates. But may the light of day illuminate this fear and abuse of power to lead to truth, understanding, and change toward a better way.


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