Friday, April 27, 2012

"The Norm" -- One Year Later

Today is a pretty momentous day in the history of spirited defense of academic freedom, integrity, and rigor at OBU!  Exactly one year ago, a small group of concerned students created and circulated a publication called "The Norm."

As faculty, alumni, and retiree groups raised their voices in protest against the bad policy and personnel changes at OBU, each drew strength from the fact that students had courageously and passionately raised many of the same issues.  I can't speak for the whole alumni petition movement last fall, but I suspect that it might never have gotten off the ground if not for The Norm.

I can certainly say that Save OBU would not exist without The Norm, and here's why:  While it's clear that a lot of OBU constituents have been badly disaffected by the disastrous actions taken by administration since around 2010, there was initially very little appetite for looking at the big picture -- BGCO ownership and control.  Plenty of people are willing to stand up for academic freedom and protest the absolutely shameful treatment of two well-loved professors (whose professional accomplishments and Christian devotion are beyond question).  But the idea of independence from the BGCO is a leap that some -- even some friends concerned about fundamentalist encroachment -- have been unwilling to take.

The reasons are fair enough: "It's always been this way" is an idea that powerfully bolsters the inertia of the status quo.  Given the BGCO's unique ownership stranglehold, separation may not even be legally possible.  Faculty are generally free to stand up for their Handbook rights (they've restarted a long-defunct AAUP chapter in the wake of the administration's assault), but are not free to publicly argue for BGCO separation, so Save OBU has had to go along without them officially on board. Retirees depend on pensions and benefits, and there is sadly actually precedent in Southern Baptist life for stealing retiree benefits after a fundamentalist takeover.  (Who cares if a few aging liberals die prematurely, right?)

Rather than just complaining about one of the many OBU governance/administration issues gone awry, The Norm connected the dots and pointed to the conclusion that the norms of a true liberal arts university -- even a Baptist one -- are no longer in concert with the Baptist state convention due to that body's dramatic lurch toward fundamentalism over the past 20 years.

Thanks to their foresight and leadership, the protest they inaugurated is alive and growing one year later.  The Class of 2011 has been indispensable to Save OBU's efforts thus far.  We look forward to welcoming more friends from the Class of 2012, as well as underclassmen, to join us in standing for a stronger OBU.

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