What is Going on at The Master’s University and Seminary?

MacArthur

John MacArthur, president of The Master’s University and Seminary

The Chronicle of Higher Education is calling the WASC Senior College and University Commission’s report on The Masters University and Seminary, a conservative evangelical Christian institution in Santa Clarita, California, “one of the most scathing accreditation reports in recent memory.”  As some of you know, the founder and president of the school is evangelical clergyman John MacArthur.  Here is a taste of the piece at The Chronicle:

Over the summer, students at Master’s University and Seminary found out their institution had been placed on probation by its accreditor. To quell the controversy, the college’s president did what he does best. He preached to them.

During an hourlong address, the Rev. John F. MacArthur warned seminarians that the accreditor’s action was the result of an attack “orchestrated, if not by any humans, by Satan himself.” The Chronicle has obtained a recording of the speech, which was delivered in late August.

MacArthur downplayed accreditors’ concerns and alluded to unnamed enemies who coveted his authority. “If somebody wants your position, somebody wants to make the decisions that you’re making, it’s not the ground troops that start those things,” he said. “It’s people with ambition.”

As he spoke, he railed against social justice and compared those who complained about the university to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. And he told students that the accreditor, the WASC Senior College and University Commission, didn’t understand places like Master’s.

Plenty of small private colleges have religious affiliations, usually through a Christian denomination. Those colleges can present a particular challenge for accrediting agencies, which must apply a broad set of secular standards to the institutions while respecting their religious missions. That challenge is raised to a whole new level at Master’s. The college is linked to a single, independent church and its pastor, MacArthur, whose strong personality and influence have benefited the college — but have now put it at risk.

In a report to the accrediting agency, a group of reviewers acknowledged that Master’s is doing some important things right. Under MacArthur, they said, the institution has engendered deep loyalty from faculty, students, and donors. At the same time, the report depicted Master’s as an accreditor’s nightmare: an insular and oppressive institution where loyalty to the president and his church has sometimes trumped both academic and financial concerns.

Officials at the accrediting agency declined to comment. But using the kind of blunt language rarely found in an accreditation report, the reviewers wrote that Master’s has “a pervasive climate of fear, intimidation, bullying and uncertainty.”

“The related reports of lack of leadership ethics and accountability that emerged was unmatched for members of this review team,” the report said. “It seems this has been part of the operation for so long that it is practiced without question.”

Master’s is unlikely to lose its accreditation, which it must maintain to be eligible for federal financial aid dollars. Very few colleges do. But the situation is an uncommonly acute test for both the accreditor and the college. How far can the accreditor push a singular college to change to meet its standards? And how much will that college be willing to change?

Read the entire piece here.

What’s the Most Influential Book of the Past 20 Years?

Rodgers

The Chronicle of Higher Education asked scholars to answer this question.  Here are some of the titles they chose:

Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Robert Putnam: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Jo Guildi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto

Jonathan Levy: Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in Modern America

Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

David Harvey,  A Brief History of Neoliberalism

Jessica Riskin, The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument Over What Makes Living Things Tick

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement

Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness

Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture

Read the entire list here.

2 Questions:

  1. How many have you read?
  2. What books would you add to the list?

Advice on Asking Good Questions

Question

Karen Kelsky, author of the Chronicle of Higher Education advice column “The Professor Is In,” answers a question from a new professor who wants to impress his/her colleagues by asking good questions in departmental seminars and meetings.

Here is the question:

Do you have any tips on how to ask great questions in a departmental seminar? I’m a new hire in a prestigious department, and this is the first way my colleagues size me up. The thing is: I’m not great at formulating articulate, pointed comments. Even with a precirculated paper, my comments often end up being … circuitous. I am trying to work on this skill and have always admired those who — in a few words — manage to distill a paper to its essence.

Here is a taste of Kelsky’s response:

…engaging questions can fit into the following genres. Think of them as templates of sorts and teach yourself to look for places in a talk or a paper where one of these will organically make sense.

  • Clarifying questions: “On page 13, you say X implies Y. Can you say more about how one follows the other?
  • Challenging questions (but be nice about how you ask): “Isn’t it possible that that passage/quote/dataset can be also interpreted in ABC way, which would imply XYZ about the larger argument?”
  • Suggestions disguised as questions: “Do you happen to know the work of this obscure and/or brand-new scholar? They look at XYZ in a way that resonates with your approach. You may find it of interest.”
  • Process questions (which people like because they like talking about their research):“Can you say a little bit about how you chose this particular example/case study/methodology?” (This is really a reliable fallback.)
  • Intellectual-team questions: As long as you are clear on the contribution of the work to a body of theory, you can ask something like, “So, obviously your work speaks to issues in the Big Polarizing Theory Debate. How do you see your research situated in relation to XYZ aspect of this scholarly conversation?

Read the entire piece here.

Does Higher Education Have a Negative Effect on the United States?

College classroom 3

Most Republicans and “right-leaning independents” believe this, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Clara Turnage unpacks the study in a recent piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here is a taste:

A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent.

By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States.

In an increasingly polarized culture, the drastic shift is the latest piece of evidence that institutions of higher education — along with labor unions, banks, churches, and the news media — have been plunged headfirst into a hyperpartisan war.

That war started a long time ago, though it’s intensified lately. “The divides between folks on the left and folks on the right are getting more serious,” said Neil L. Gross, a professor of sociology at Colby College and author of the book, Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? “I don’t think there’s any evidence that it’s going to subside anytime soon.”

Read the entire piece here.

What Happens When A Businessman Takes Over a Catholic Liberal Arts College?

Mount

You get what is happening at Mount St. Mary’s University.  Tenured faculty members get fired, critics of the president are accused of disloyalty, and a provost resigns.

Here is a taste of a recent piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Mr. Naberhaus, who has publicly criticized the administration but doesn’t consider himself a “rabble rouser,” said in an interview on Monday night that a campus security officer had delivered a letter signed by the president, confiscated his computer, and escorted him to his car.

The letter, a copy of which The Chronicleobtained, said that Mr. Naberhaus owed “a duty of loyalty” to the university and that his recent, unspecified actions violated that duty and justified his firing.

“Further, because of your conduct and its impact on the university, you have been designated persona non grata,” the letter continued. “As such, you are not welcome to visit the university’s campus or to attend any university activities or sporting events on the university’s property. Failure to comply with this directive will result in legal proceedings.”

The letter, which Mr. Naberhaus believes is identical to the one Mr. Egan received, accused him of causing “considerable damage” to the university and its reputation. It also warned him not to delete any electronic documents or communications on his personal computer that relate to the university, and said the university reserved the right to take legal action against him. Mr. Naberhaus, in turn, is considering his legal options.

“I raised some concerns at faculty meetings and posted a few articles online, but I didn’t realize that was illegal,” he said.