Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Multiple Storms Brewing on Bison Hill

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Our run of good fortune/divine blessing may be ending.

Regarding academic freedom and respecting the institution's norms and heritage, the past year has been pretty great at OBU compared to the 3 years before that.  Last April, Provost Stan Norman finally underwent a performance evaluation that included faculty input.  (And notice how quiet he's been since then...)  Last spring, most departments were allowed to hire their candidates of choice for faculty positions.  As far as we know, the candidates did not face the provost's fundamentalist litmus test questions that previous years' job candidates reported facing.  There were no ideologically-motivated firings last summer.  The new trustee leadership seems as great as the last.  This winter, a well-respected professor was granted senior faculty status --- a victory, given that some faculty feared that the administration may use the tenure decision as a weapon.

But the news has not been all good.  OBU continues to fall in the Forbes rankings, losing ground to Southern Baptist peers and to other evangelical colleges.  And we were disappointed that the usual faculty search procedures were once again ignored in the College of Theology and Ministry, this time so that a young-earth creationist could be brought in from Southwestern Seminary.

Two current developments:

College of Fine Arts
As we began to see encouraging signs last spring, I thought it best not to open yet another line of criticism against the administration.  But there was widespread student and faculty anger about goings-on in the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts.  Last week, I explained why I neglected to bring these issues up last year and began writing about some of those concerns.  It looks like there may be some developments to report soon, so I'm holding off on finishing the "Fine Arts Fiasco" series.  The Angell College of Fine Arts has a hard-earned reputation for excellence, and it's heartening to see people standing against unasked-for changes that threaten to degrade the College's quality and reputation.

Alumni Respond to Christopher Yuan Sermon
A group of several dozen alumni wrote an open letter to the OBU community in response to "ex gay" evangelist Christopher Yuan's April 3 chapel sermon.  The letter can be found here.  Note that Save OBU has not and will not endorse any outside issues or causes.  I suspect our supporters hold a wide diversity of opinions about human sexuality and the place of homosexual persons in the life and ministry of the Church.  We remain committed to two issues and two issues only: 1) Preserving academic freedom at OBU and 2) Insisting that the institution's norms and heritage be honored.

A recent poll indicates that 51% of white evangelicals aged 18-34 support same sex marriage rights.  Given those numbers, it follows that a significant number of students were troubled by Yuan's message.  I figure a campus-wide conversation is underway about how OBU should treat the gay and lesbian members of its own campus community.  The alumni letter speaks to that issue.

I hope all is well with each of you,

P.S. I have been very busy with work lately, and have not been able to devote much time to Save OBU.  I have family in town this weekend as my bride and I celebrate our daughter's first birthday.  I'll try to keep you updated on OBU happenings as I'm able.

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