In general, it is not terrible to be a woman at OBU. There are, of course, two major exceptions to this rule.
First, it is not terrible to be a woman at OBU, unless you are an administrator. Then, it might be terrible to be a woman.
After all, David Whitlock is known to have said that he will not be alone in his office with a woman.
Well, that's one way of presenting himself as one with integrity. But it's also a way to say a woman can never be his number 2 or his right-hand-man-- pardon the phrase. Of course, then, it makes sense that in order to bring in a wingman, the easiest person to demote is a woman. After all, he couldn't have meetings alone with her anyway.
So what is the current female administrative situation at OBU? Right now, the two highest ranking women are in sort of a weird situation. One, the oft-referred to demotion, holds a double title due to the addition of a lower-level job without technically taking away her former job. So, is she a dean or a Senior VP? It's a good question.
The other, as the token yes-woman, has received a promotion, yet still holds her original title as well. So, is she a dean or the associate provost? Also, a good question.
In fairness, I don't know much about higher education administration, so some of this may not be what it looks like to me. But I do think the double title business is a little fishy. Is it too much to actually promote a woman within this regime? Probably. From my point of view it seems that a woman cannot be trusted to actually hold a position any higher than dean, although she may be given the illusion of such a title.
But before I find myself delving into the sexual presuppositions which support a system as such described, I will move on.
Because the second scenario is one I know much more about. It is not terrible to be a woman at OBU, unless you want to do ministry. Then it is almost necessarily terrible.
Once, after telling an administrator's wife that I was a biblical languages major, she asked me if I wanted to do missions or children's ministry.
I wish I was kidding.
You see, those are the only viable options for women at OBU. As a former chapel CREW co-chair, I can tell you that it's very true that women cannot preach in chapel on Wednesdays, unless it is women in missions and ministry day.
Once, when asked to preach at a student-led chapel on a Friday, I was told by an administrator to, "just speak, and not make a big deal that you are preaching."
I wish I was kidding.
But, you see, a woman cannot be trusted not to spew feminism anytime she is given a public platform. Every woman we ever put forward as a speaker in my two years on chapel CREW was assigned to a Friday chapel. And, who, you may ask, has the final say in these decisions? Why, it is the president's chapel-- and the president ultimately chooses who gets to come.
So, is chapel a place where we should all be led in worship? Because it looks to me like the only people asked to lead, except by students, are white men in suits.
It is interesting to me that OBU is going in such a direction that it discriminates against its own alumni. Both the overlooked theology applicant and the mistreated female administrator are former Bison. Upon walking across the stage last May, being hooded summa cum laude, holding the distinction of outstanding senior in religion, I knew that if I was walking into that same school with a PhD, I would not be hired. Or if I took another route and became a pastor of a large baptist church (not SBC, of course, but perhaps CBF), there is only one day per year in which I might be able to bring the good news to those who are in the shoes I once filled.
The truth is, I was almost always encouraged by my (all male) faculty. They surely believed in me and supported me in ways I'm still not sure I understand. With the help of one of them I ended up at the school where I study now.
Don't get me wrong. OBU still remains in my heart four of the best, call-defining, years of my life. Given the chance I would not change my alma mater. I do still love it.
But, the truth is also this: when I left OBU, parts of me were dead.
And that is what it's like to be a woman at OBU. It is to live between a tension of a community which is supposed to care for you as if you are all members of one body, but refuses you the agency to define your own spiritual gifts and calling. It is to be ignored and rejected by some-- working hard to receive deserved recognition, not just for yourself but for all the sisters who have been marginalized before you. It is knowing that no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, no matter how much more qualified you are than any man against whom you might compete-- you will not be asked to do certain things or hold certain positions, for these are not women's positions. It is knowing in your heart those are the exact things which make you feel alive, which God had in mind when crafting you. There's only so long when you must start every conversation with a justification for your voice to even be there before you just give up.
It is parts of you dying, and forgetting that there are indeed communities which encourage them to live.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have found such a community and I grew up in such a community. Slowly but surely, I am coming back to life. But four years at OBU nearly pushed me past the place of remembering the possibilities.
Is that the kind of University we wish to pursue in the name of Christ? Perhaps it's time to put BGCO politics behind us and be faithful to our own, caring for them and helping them grow.
I am very glad that Clayton's OBU experience prepared him for ministry-- but that is not everyone's story.