Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fine Arts Fiasco: Intro

Fine Arts Fiasco Series
Part 1 -- Intro
Part 2 -- Getting What We Didn't Ask For

In 2010 and 2011, when anger about OBU administrators' unethical actions and obvious lurch toward fundamentalism was building to a crescendo, most of the focus was on two forced dismissals of religion professors.  There were also widespread concerns about the provost's over-zealous glee in attempting to remake OBU in his own image.  We were concerned about academic freedom and the quality and integrity of OBU's core strength -- its rigorous Christian liberal arts curriculum.

But there have been other problems festering in the background.  One involves widespread student and faculty anger over the treatment of a well-loved administrator who found herself demoted to make way for the new provost.  We've been silent on that situation because that administrator is still at OBU and we simply don't want to make things worse for anybody.

Another problem concerns OBU's Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts.  Here we find evidence for many of our criticisms of the administration: ignoring search committee recommendations, low faculty morale, censorship/academic freedom concerns, and a vision/mission imposed from above, against faculty and student wishes for the department.

After getting off to a pretty rough start, I sincerely hope Fine Arts Dean Ken Gabrielse is doing better.  Like Provost Norman, he quickly alienated a lot of people.  But with experience, new administrators can avoid repeating rookie mistakes.  When they are brought in as part of a dramatic overhaul agenda, they naturally feel pressure from above to enact the agenda swiftly and efficiently.  If they are wise, they soon realize that the agenda is actually quite out of step with the character and legacy of the institution.  Hopefully their misplaced zeal subsides.  In fact, my hope for this kind of improvement is what convinced me to hold off on telling this story.  A year ago, some students and faculty were not happy with how things were going in the Angell College.  But Save OBU had hit hard on a number of other fronts and were hoping for encouraging signs, some of which came to pass and others of which did not.  It just didn't seem like the right time to introduce another broad set of concerns.

But we are committed to being a watchdog for ethical administration and academic freedom at OBU.  We haven't documented problems in the fine arts area until now.  Many of our concerns have been related to the religion and philosophy areas.  But students in music, theater, art, and communication also deserve excellence.  Their experience should not be degraded by a change of orientation and mission that no one asked for.  While some students in the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry are themselves fundamentalists and are quite pleased with changes like the promotion of creationism, biblical literalism, apologetics, etc., relatively fewer students in the fine arts are quite so dogmatic.  Most of them came to OBU for its studio/conservatory-like atmosphere and/or its outstanding music/arts education program. Thus the problems in the Angell College may seem even more strange, out-of-character, and unnecessary to fine arts students than to other students in the university.  Also, fine arts alumni will want to know what is going on at their alma mater.

In the days to come, we'll report on recent happenings.


  1. PLEASE do look more into this!!! As a future student I am very concerned about my experience with the music program. Every time I visit OBU, everything about the school seems to line up exactly with OBU'S mission statement...except the music department. Every time I visit the music department I leave with a very bitter taste in my mouth...which doesn't seem to fit with OBU...

    1. We will. Read this:


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