Thursday, May 2, 2013

"You're Fired!" Are Students Routinely Fired from Campus Jobs for Disagreeing w/ the "New" OBU?

We've heard two very disappointing stories this week from students who were fired from their on-campus jobs for expressing disagreement with administrators at the "new" OBU.

Is this what it's come down to?  So they're under orders to purge certain departments... I get it.  But do they really need to fire students who are working part-time at minimum wage jobs to help put themselves through college?

The Questionable Faculty Dismissals
Until recently, we had only heard of three questionable firings on Bison Hill (in recent years).  People had concerns (many privately and some publicly), but only three had lost their jobs over it.  The first was a well loved and pretty conservative philosophy professor who had the audacity to believe that maybe, just maybe, the earth wasn't created in 6 24-hour days 6,000 years ago. All administrators will say, aside from "We can't comment on personnel matters," is that student demand for philosophy classes was declining.  The truth is that they want to replace philosophy, an ancient and core discipline in the liberal arts, with "apologetics" -- itself a legitimate branch of Christian theology that, in evangelical circles, has sadly become a Sunday-school like line of reasoning popularized by insecure, defensive fundamentalists.

Next out the door was another religion professor.  This one had tenure, but that apparently was insufficient to overcome the strikes against him.  First of all, he was a moderate in an academic division they are trying to turn fundamentalist (either of their own volition or under orders from the BGCO).  Second, as Faculty Council Chair, he stood up against the unethical actions taken against his ousted colleague the previous year.  And third, he was just too nice a guy to play hardball (get a 7-figure settlement, sue the university, drag it through an embarrassing public spectacle, etc).

The Questionable Student Worker Dismissals
There was a close call in 2010.  President Whitlock went ballistic when a 21-year old student committed the unpardonable offense of writing an honest, thoughtful letter to the editor of The Bison in October 2010.  But even then, the student did not lose his campus job.

Though infrequent and relatively small in scale, student protests have been effective.  "The Norm," an underground newspaper published twice in 2011, was particularly insightful in connecting the dots between the ever-rightward drift of the BGCO and the unprecedented changes at OBU.

So, even in the very rare instances when students did protest against the unprecedented policy and personnel changes, at least their on-campus jobs were safe.  But that apparently is no longer the case.  In recent days I've heard from two students who can trace their disagreements with the "new" OBU directly to their being terminated from campus jobs.

I hope there aren't others, but maybe now they will come forward, too.

The message is pretty clear.  If you disagree with us, well, shut up and smile anyway.  We don't want unhappy workers.  Maybe this works in business and the church.  But a Christian liberal arts college isn't a business.  And it isn't the church.  Freedom of thought, belief, and expression is a cherished value.  Freedom is bigger than the person exercising it.  You can try to "win" by stamping out an individual or two.  But you can't really stop freedom from being exercised in a university.  And the harder you try, the worse it makes you look.  Until you squelch all freedom of expression and you cease being a university at all.  Is this really where you want to take OBU?

New administrators: Play your ideological games with faculty if you feel you must.  But please, don't make students victims any more than they already are.  God knows students have suffered enough these past few years: seeing beloved professors cast aside inexplicably; experiencing the effects of all-time low faculty morale (I trust it's getting better, but still...); seeing their $100,000 investment lose value before their eyes as OBU has plummeted from #109 to #390 in the Forbes college rankings.

The BGCO and the upper echelon of administrators are hoping you won't notice or care.

We hope you will.

Pray for OBU.  It may look good on the outside, with a football program and gleaming new buildings.  But all is not well.


  1. Unfortunately one of my best friends has joined the group of student worker dismissals. She was fired from her on-campus job after sending an anonymous survey to her Fine Arts peers. Her intent was to see if she was alone in her frustrations with the department before presenting her concerns to the Administration. Less than twenty-four hours after the release of the survey, she was called into a meeting with the Dean (who tracked the survey to her by hacking her email account) during which she was unable to explain or defend herself. She was then forced to meet with the Dean of Students and write an official statement of her intent. After following all of their "requests" she was told that she would not be fired but should not return to work for the duration of the semester (the end of her senior year).

    1. I didn't receive this "survey", even though I'm a music student, although all of my friends who are perhaps a little more frustrated than me did. You know what that means? It means that not only was the survey poorly written, and the questions blatantly intended to shake out certain answers, but that only students who would respond the way this individual wanted received it.

      This, frankly, is insulting - almost as insulting as this badly written, slanderous website. I see a shocking amount of allegations and shockingly little proof of anything tangible, aside from petty gossip and foolhardy claims. I am ashamed to be associated with Mr. Lupfer, and with the individual who constructed the fine arts underground "help-me-make-things-worse" form, and will do my best to fight the sick message of hate and disrespect this blog puts forth as long as I can.

    2. To clarify, Anonymous, there is no message of hate or disrespect here. This effort is an act of love for OBU -- one that has been affirmed by personal notes, calls and emails of thanks from many dozens, if not hundreds, of students, alumni, faculty, retired faculty, and constituents of other evangelical colleges. If anything, we contend that the disrespect is coming from the new regime, with its disregard of institutional norms.

      Reasonable people can disagree.

      This site contains plenty of opinion and commentary, of course. But not a single thing that I or my coauthors have reported as factually true has been disproven. Though one OBU administrator -- himself a lawyer -- considered advocating for legal action against us at one point, there are no grounds to do so, and they know it. It's not libel if it's true.

      Best wishes in your studies.

    3. Anonymous, perhaps the survey was sent by random selection or maybe your name was skipped accidentally because, I believe, the survey was sent to others outside the music department, too.

      Really, the point is, as you said, others are more frustrated. If the feedback had been positive from happy, content students, then the issue would have been dropped. But it has blown up into this.

      Personally, I love OBU as much or more than anyone associated with this blog. I would not trade my time on Bison Hill or my education for anything. But isn't this the point of our education, to think critically? Didn't our professors (who we love and respect) teach us to ask questions and test the things we're told with our beliefs? Now students are slapped on the wrist or told to stay quiet for doing this very thing. So we're fighting for this freedom, and essentially, for the good in OBU, the good we all know and love.

  2. Jacob:

    "The truth is that they want to replace philosophy, an ancient and core discipline in the liberal arts, with "apologetics" -- itself a legitimate branch of Christian theology that, in evangelical circles, has sadly become a Sunday-school like line of reasoning popularized by insecure, defensive fundamentalists."

    You note that nothing you've presented as "true" has been "disproven". Unfortunately, it's impossible to disprove statements about other people's intentions. Just like you cannot disprove Freud's contention that you've got a hankering after your mama, you cannot disprove statements like the above. All you can do is note that the facts and the history do not support your contention and it is, in fact, blatantly false. And spiteful, I might add.

    1. Obviously I do not hold Christian apologetics in high regard as an academic discipline.

      But if you want to talk about spiteful, let's look at what the administrators did to the philosophy division and to John Mullen. They hassled him for doubting the young earth hypothesis. Then they denied him the opportunity to stand for Senior Faculty Status even though it was his right under the Faculty Handbook to do so. They unilaterally redirected the division toward apologetics without the customary (required?) consultation of faculty in the department. They said that, in spite of overall enrollment growth, interest in philosophy classes was low. Then they canned Mullen and replaced him with a specialist in Christian apologetics.

      Three recently retired OBU professors complied a huge dossier documenting these and other missteps in the Mullen fiasco.

      So the administration's intentions are actually pretty easy to prove, in this case.


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