Saturday, February 16, 2013

Finding Parallels In Cedarville's Story

I've mentioned lately that one of our tasks moving forward is to build solidarity with constituents of Baptist and other evangelical colleges that are experiencing fundamentalist incursions.  OBU is not alone.  Some schools are in much worse shape, in fact.  Once-proud institutions have been taken over and are being remade from the inside out in ways that threaten their reputations, their academic freedom and rigor, and even their accreditation.

If you are an OBU alum saddened by recent changes, a faculty member who knows that academic freedom and respectability were more secure before the current administration arrived, or a student who perceives that things at OBU are not as they should be, I hope you know you are not alone.  In 2011, "The Norm" and the alumni petition showed how widespread the concern is.  In 2012, Save OBU explored many of the problems.  We examined the histories of a few Baptist colleges that managed to leave their state conventions rather than succumb to fundamentalism.  We watched Georgia Baptist fundamentalists ruin Shorter University.  But we're just beginning to make common cause with the students, faculty, and alumni of the dozens of other Baptist and evangelical colleges that are facing different versions of the same fight.

Next week, we'll closely analyze the case of Cedarville University in Ohio.  Cedarville's plight has been widely discussed in the evangelical blogosphere.  Today, the New York Times has a story on the school's recent changes:
Even by evangelical standards, nearly everyone at Cedarville is theologically conservative. But some conservatives have a greater willingness to hear dissident views. The departures of William Brown, the president, whose resignation is effective June 30, and of Dr. [Carl] Ruby, who left suddenly last month, are widely viewed as strengthening the hands of the most conservative trustees, fearful of a more open Cedarville.

Cedarville alumna Sarah Jones, a freelance journalists who recently completed a graduate degree in the U.K., accepted my invitation to write a series of blog posts.  Cedarville has a different history than OBU and a different relationship with Baptists.  As we hear of the administrative blunders, trustee politics, and attacks on academic freedom, we can hopefully learn from our friends' experience.

In the coming months, we'll examine the goings-on at Louisiana College, Union University, and other institutions.  But for now, please join me in welcoming Sarah Jones to Save OBU!

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