Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Makes a Good Administrator? (Part 3)

Maybe these posts would be better called, “What Went Wrong.” But, I’ve already titled the first one and Jacob wrote the second one, so this is where it stays. My hope in this mini-series is to chronicle the changes I witnessed as a student at OBU which have brought us towards the current situation.
My intention for this second post was to catalog the ways that the administration ran afoul of the current students/recent alumni. But another underlying assumption at OBU is that the faculty and students are in cahoots. Really, if the faculty had loved the new administration the students would have trusted them. So before we can say what went wrong with students, we must explore what went wrong with the faculty.
Many people think that firing a beloved professor was the first misstep. But it actually started much earlier than that.
One of Whitlock’s first actions as president was to hire the new dean of the (then) School of Christian Service. Now, there had been two front runners for this position which had been reviewed by the faculty committee.
The first was a man who seemed a little reformed, but overall a nice guy who would make a competent administrator.
The second was a man who, frankly, scared the committee. He seemed like a fundamentalist with a heavy agenda looking for a power trip. The entire committee reviewed him saying something to the effect of, “I don’t trust him at all,” or “He kind of gives me the creeps.” Of course, I’m sure they were professional. But I do know that the person on the committee who was responsible for delivering the findings of the committee to the president toned down their words a little bit because he knew that Whitlock and this man were very good friends.
In fact, they were old friends from college... and in their time at the BCM, this man had been responsible for David Whitlock’s conversion experience. 
So, it’s impressive to me that a faculty committee could review the president’s best friend and still give a terrible review. Did they know? I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t. But if they did, it shows they really did not like this candidate.
A meeting was scheduled to announce something to the whole school.
At that meeting when the new dean was announced, it came at no surprise to the faculty. And, I will agree-- he’s a pretty good administrator.
But in that same meeting it was announced that this man whom the faculty has not liked one bit, this man who had made them nervous, this man who seemed like he had an agenda before anything else, this man, Stan Norman, was going to be the new provost.
Remember that guy y’all thought was crazy?
He’s your new boss. Oh, and we’re basically demoting one of your favorite female administrators, who has dedicated her life to OBU, in order to create this position for him. (Perhaps more on this later.) And, he doesn’t have to go through any sort of reviews where you get to contribute feedback.
I suppose it makes sense that  Norman would be a provost, with his PhD in education administration systematic theology (Southwestern, post-takeover, no less!). Also, the OBU website has done a great job of covering over the fact that he has usually only spent 2-3 years at several institutions (although it looks like he did teach at a post-takeover NOBTS for about 7), by saying first that he has 13 years of experience total.
Understandably, the faculty was quite upset. They have been growing more and more upset ever since. And it turns out their first impressions were right on target.
Since coming to OBU, Stan Norman has been a micromanager. He has instituted a wildly invasive, fundamentalist-litmus-test of hiring questions. It makes sense; I don’t want anyone mowing the grass at OBU who is an egalitarian. He has intervened in students’ discipline.
Best of all? Somehow, magically, since he has been at OBU the Christian History professor was fired without due process guaranteed in his contract. Luckily, Dr. Norman was prepared to start teaching Baptist history and make his own book the textbook. (Talk about ideological motivation coincidence.)
Of course, it is reasonable for a new president to bring in some of his own people. But it’s a little strange to bring in only one person-- especially when that person is greatly disliked. Not to mention that when the first attempt to get him into the University went sour, (remember, a university is not a business-- you can’t just do whatever you want like you’re a CEO) the president found a pretty sneaky way to force his friend’s presence to the very top and give him even more power.
Sounds to me like someone’s loyalties lie outside of our beloved school.

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