Saturday, August 18, 2012

Welcome Week 2012: Move-In Day

Dear New OBU Students and Parents,

It's hard to believe move-in day has finally come!  Congratulations to each of you on your decision to commit significant time, effort, and money to Oklahoma Baptist University.  The OBU experience can be life-changing, and we're hopeful that it will be wonderful for you.  We are a diverse coalition of students, alumni, and other OBU stakeholders whose own lives have been greatly enriched by OBU's tradition of distinctively Christian liberal arts education.

Some of you won't have heard of Save OBU before, so we'd like to introduce ourselves.  In the past two years, two extremely dedicated and well-loved professors were forced to resign from OBU though they had done nothing wrong.  Because they were not accorded rights guaranteed by the Faculty Handbook, their colleagues, students, and a host of OBU alumni and friends became concerned about the administration's unprecedented actions.  Students' protests were largely ignored, and they remained very confused about what this turn of events meant for OBU.  Faculty morale sunk to an all-time low and last fall, the president barely dodged a no-confidence vote in the Faculty Council.  Concerned alumni circulated a petition.  A group of retired faculty and staff (who had collectively committed many hundreds of years of service to OBU) demanded an explanation, but none was forthcoming.

Last December, the Save OBU blog emerged.  We've reached tens of thousands of people with our concerns about OBU.  Some things have improved.  For example, the provost (chief academic officer) was finally forced to undergo a performance evaluation that included faculty input (which was no doubt scathing).  Most departments have been allowed to fill faculty vacancies without undue administrative meddling, which had become a huge problem.  And a lot of other things on campus are going well. OBU's athletic programs are stronger than ever.  Enrollment continues to be strong.  An ambitious capital campaign is underway.

But many concerns remain.  Faculty morale continues to be low, and this will not change until there is change in the Provost's Office.  While the president is trying to mend fences with the faculty, there is obviously a huge amount of distrust.  The bookstore, though visually appealing, is inadequate for a university.  It does not sell any books from mainstream publishers in the areas of history, literature, social science, natural science, etc.  OBU administrators have spent unprecedented time and effort cozying up to elites within the Southern Baptist Convention, many of whom prefer indoctrination over education and have been extremely hostile toward Baptists who happen to be moderate rather than fundamentalist.

Though hugely unpopular in the executive suite, Save OBU will continue to cast a shadow over Bison Hill until our concerns are acknowledged and resolved.  Many current students (as well as hundreds of alumni) are part of our coalition.  But faculty are not.  They could be fired for publicly supporting Save OBU.

We believe many of the problems are the natural result of broader changes in Baptist politics at the national and state levels over the past 30 years.  But when it comes to OBU specifically, we believe Provost Stan Norman is primarily at fault and President David Whitlock is primarily responsible for the unethical dismissals and chipping away at academic freedom.  Under their tenure, OBU has dropped from #109 to #390 in the Forbes college rankings.  Whether your six-figure OBU tuition bill is being paid by cash or credit, you should be concerned about the downward trajectory that could devalue the degree you will earn.  Other Baptist schools with extreme administrators are already flirting with loss of accreditation.

Fortunately, OBU still has wonderful and caring professors and a great student body.  We want you to be aware of the problems detailed above.  But above all -- today and every day -- we are so grateful that you are now a part of the OBU family.

-Save OBU

1 comment:

  1. OBU faculty and students are great. Why isn't Forbes impressed? Can the OBU leadership turn the corner and avoid the downfall experienced at Louisiana College?


We invite you to join in the conversation. However, anonymous comments are unwelcome.