Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Future Bison?

On April 18 at 11:23 p.m. in Washington, D.C., my beautiful bride, Cara, gave birth to our fist child, a perfect baby girl named Amelia.  Though it's not relevant to Save OBU, please allow a point of personal privilege for a proud daddy:

Having started the Save OBU blog in the 5th month of Cara's pregnancy, I want to thank her for indulging my passion for helping protect OBU's heritage.  It's still not entirely clear to me why I've devoted so much time to this, but Cara has tolerated my activism with grace and good humor.  Most of the time.  My initial commitment of 6 weeks has stretched into the spring months, and I'd like to remain involved at least until we have an advisory committee in place and formally reach out to OBU trustees.

I also want to thank Veronica specifically for her fine series on Baptist freedoms that ran on the blog over the past six days, and generally for joining me as a Contributing Editor to the blog and providing so much leadership and vision for our movement.

On last fall's alumni petition, I stated rather dramatically and hyperbolically that I'd never let my child anywhere near OBU, given the current crackdown.  (I was the 216th signature.)  But since that time, I've grown nostalgic for Bison Hill.  I would love for my daughter to attend a small liberal arts college with a residential campus.  The truth is, there are a lot of people who no longer recommend OBU to young people in their spheres of influence.  I've received literally dozens of emails to this effect since Save OBU's inception.  Our association with the BGCO raises significant and legitimate doubts about OBU's commitment to academic freedom, integrity, and rigor.  The recent negative changes confirm the suspicions that a non-trivial number of OBU friends and alumni have had ever since the Takeover.  Already, we have OBU parents concerned that maybe their children should transfer.  At some Baptist colleges, students are transferring by the hundreds.  Other colleges are so obsessed with appeasing state convention fundamentalists that they no longer even pretend to be legitimate academic institutions, to the extent of throwing away their accreditation.

But setting aside the issue of transfers for a moment, think of how many bright and capable young students are not being encouraged to go to OBU.  This is a real shame, and the only way to change that dynamic is to make sure that OBU is a place where academic freedom and open inquiry thrive, not a place where they are actively eroded (at worst) or merely tolerated (at best).

Save OBU's argument -- that independence from the BGCO is the only necessary and sufficient safeguard against fundamentalist encroachment at OBU -- would be much easier if we were, like Shorter University, in the throes of an all-out assault.  But the truth is, while there are some aspects of OBU's management and governance we don't like, things have stabilized on Bison Hill after a year of widespread protests.  Our constant vigilance is what will deny BGCO elites of their long-elusive dream: remaking Oklahoma's only Baptist university in their own post-Takeover image.

If we succeed, OBU may once again be an attractive college option for my daughter, Amelia, and literally thousands of other young people.  Most of us had a fantastic experience at OBU.  But we can't in good conscience recommend OBU to our children, students, and friends if we harbor serious doubts about the experience they would have under the new regime.  Disillusioned friends and alumni represent a massive untapped reservoir of support, enthusiasm, and recruitment for OBU.  Since the Takeover, and especially in the past two years, trust has been broken.  I welcome any efforts by top OBU administrators to repent of their mistakes and begin the hard, slow work of repairing the broken relationship.  That laborious effort would bear fruit in time, and it is an honorable path to take.  But a wiser, quicker, more efficient, and, frankly, more authentically Baptist solution is to break free of BGCO control and be the rigorous yet faithful Christian liberal arts university we all knew and loved.

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