Friday, August 24, 2012

New Hires at OBU and Elsewhere

Happy new academic year!  You might have come expecting analysis of the Princeton Review report that noted a "glaring complaint" from students: "Lack of communication" from administration.  (Looks like students are unhappy with administrators' answers to questions like "Why are our favorite religion professors disappearing?")  You might also be expecting a continuation of our series on the 2012 Forbes rankings (in which OBU has declined from #109 to #390 during Rev. Dr. David Whitlock's tenure as president).  These posts will be coming soon.

Today we're looking at some items related to new faculty and the search/hire process at Baptist universities.

OBU Announces New Faculty
One of our initial concerns was widespread faculty anger that search committee recommendations based on achievement and promise for future success were being overruled by administrators who prefer to hire based on adherence to fundamentalist dogma.  We received encouraging news in April from sources who predicted that the English department would be able to fill its vacancies without undue pressure from administrators who would impose doctrinal/social/political litmus tests (link to MS Word document) in hiring, which past OBU job candidates faced.

Credit where credit is due: We have received no reports that any of these searches (three in languages, two in teacher education) were tainted by fundamentalist meddling.  Given the outsized impact OBU faculty have on their students, and especially considering the fact that the two English hires are replacing retiring legends, these new Humanities and Social Sciences colleagues have large shoes to fill.  We wish them the best.

Likewise, we were pleased to see three new hires in the Hurley College of Science and Mathematics.  As a person who studied religion, I'm particularly sensitive to the kinds of litmus tests new Bible, theology, and ministry faculty face with Mark McClellan as dean and Stan Norman as provost.  But let's not forget that science faculty could be the next targets.

There was an announcement about new faculty in nursing and fine arts as well.

In the coming weeks, we'll have more to say on the new Hobbs College hire and the process (or lack thereof) used to select him.

Shorter Begins Filling a Bazillion Vacancies
At Shorter University in Rome, GA (about which we've blogged here before), the situation could not be more different.  Shorter is filling dozens of vacancies due to the mass exodus of faculty this year in protest of the university's "lifestyle statement."  The devastation there is the work of Dr. Don Dowless, the puppet president installed to appease the increasingly fundamentalist Georgia Baptist Convention.  I'll let our friends at Save Our Shorter explain the new hires.  Short version: A lot of adjuncts and part-timers got promoted, at least one lesser fundamentalist college faculty got raided, and several handfuls of desperate and/or fundamentalist junior professors signed on.  The accrediting body will let the lifestyle statement slide.  But it might not smile on such an amateurish faculty.

Looking at Shorter and other Baptist schools helps us remember two sobering and related facts:

  1. Things could get worse.
  2. They probably will.

Yet as some Baptist schools begin their year with elaborate ceremonies where new faculty are forced to sign creedal statements, we can take comfort in the fact that OBU is still a place where students are free to learn and teachers are free to teach.  But we are mindful of the recent problems and the threat of future encroachments.

Best wishes to everyone on Bison Hill for a great 2012-13 academic year!

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