Exiles from Eden

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The Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University

Due to a few things going on in my life right now, I have been thinking again about Mark Schwehn‘s book Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America.  This book has been very influential in the way I have understood my academic life.  I return to it often.

When I read the preface of Exiles from Eden in 1999 I was hooked.  Here is Schwehn:

On a spring evening in 1982, I sat in a circle of my colleagues from the University of Chicago and from other institutions of higher learning in the Chicago area.  We were meeting together  as the Chicago Group on the History of the Social Sciences, convened by Professor George Stocking of the Anthropology Department.  We had all read a paper prepared by one of the members of the group, and roughly eight of the twelve or so of us had arrived to discuss it.  The paper, like most of those presented to the group, examined some aspect of the professionalization of the social sciences.  I remember little else about the setting that evening, except that I was was sitting directly to the right of Professor Stocking.

While we were waiting for the remainder of the expected participants  to straggle into our midst, someone (I think it was Peter Novick, but I cannot be sure) made the following proposal: “We’ve just recently filed our income tax forms; let’s move around the circle from left to right and indicate what each of us wrote under the heading ‘occupation'”  This simple exercise was thought to have potentially profound and self-revealing implications.  And so it proved.

The first person spoke up at once with a kind of brisk confidence.  “Sociologists,” he said.  And so it continued–“anthropologist,” “historian,” “psychologist,” “historian.”  At about this point (though I have sometimes been slow to catch the drift of things, I did discern this time a clear pattern emerging), I began to  wonder whether or not I had the courage to be honest in the company of so many of my senior colleagues.

Though trained as an intellectual historian, I had never once thought to put such a designation down under “occupation” on my tax form.  When I finally spoke up, I admitted (it certainly felt like an admission) that I had written “college teacher” under the relevant heading.  This disclosure was greeted with what I can only describe (thought it was doubtless a projection even then) as a combination of mild alarm and studied astonishment.  I felt as thought I had suddenly become, however briefly, an informant from another culture.exiles

The present book accordingly begins by unpacking one commonplace of academic life–the mysterious  complaint, “I don’t have enough time to do my own work“–and by engaging one of the most closely argued and most culturally influential accounts of the academic calling ever written, Max Weber “Academics as a Vocation.”  My study of Weber’s account of the academic calling led me to investigate  the larger subject of this book, the relationship between religion and higher education.  The logic of the problem of vocation impelled me in this direction, because Weber, in the course of his statement of the academic calling, self-consciously transmuted a number of terms and ideas that were religion in origin and implication.  Even so, my interest in the relationship  between religion and higher learning was and remains really more of a chronological matter than a strictly logical one.  Indeed, the title of this book Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America, is, as they say, another story.

Later in 1982 I resigned my position at the University of Chicago, after eight years of teaching there, and I accepted an appointment in the honors college of Valparaiso University.  I did this for several reasons, but perhaps the main one of them was that I found that I could pursue my own sense of the academic vocation more fully and responsibly at Valparaiso than I could at Chicago.  Valparaiso is a church-related university, and Chicago is not.  Valparaiso therefore strives to keep certain questions alive, such as questions about the relationship between religious faith and the pursuit of truth, that were then and still are close to the center of my understanding of the meaning of academic life.  In brief, I sought to think through the problem of the academic vocation in part by living through it. 

This story is the stuff of legend at Valparaiso University and, more specifically, in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts housed on its campus.  Schwehn, whose 1978 Stanford dissertation on Henry Adams and William James won the Allen Nevins Prize, spent the rest of his career at Valparaiso and Exiles from Eden became the unofficial mission statement of the Lilly Fellows Program.

The questions Schwehn raised in this book are still alive and continue to shape the careers of young scholars in the humanities and the arts.  Seventeen years after my  Valparaiso sojourn (2000-2002), I continue to try to think through academic vocation “in part by living through it.”

An Adjunct Instructor Reflects on How Much He Should Invest in the Mission of a Church-Related University

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This is an important post for those of us in church-related academia, especially administrators.   Jonathan Wilson discusses his experience as an adjunct history professor at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton, but his thoughts apply to any faith-based institution or any college or university with a religious mission.

Here is a taste:

My teaching season began today. The summer isn’t over, but for the next two weeks, I will be participating in faculty development seminars offered by the Jesuit Center at the University of Scranton.

These seminars focus on pedagogy and the vocation of a teacher. Most participants today said they came to learn how to teach better. However, there is also a larger institutional purpose. The University of Scranton encourages its instructors to think of our work in explicitly Catholic ways. We are not expected to be Catholics—although I suspect most participants in today’s seminar were at least raised that way—but we are encouraged to place our teaching within that tradition. We are asked to “support the mission,” in the typical language used on campus; these seminars are designed to help faculty members across different disciplines conceptualize what that means.

At this point, I’ll confess to mixed feelings, but not about Catholicism….

Read the rest here.

Alan Jacobs on White Christian Males in the Academy

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Jacobs is responding here to Rod Dreher’s post at The American Conservative.  I was struck by this paragraph in Jacobs’s response:

I’m not exactly a pollyanna about these matters. I have said over and over again that, thanks to my long career at a Christian college and the specifically Christian character of much of my writing, I am almost certainly unemployable in my field (English literature) outside the world of Christian higher education. And there’s bigotry at work there — no doubt about it. On the other hand, I have been able to publish at some of the best university presses in the world, which also shouldn’t be possible if Rod’s friend’s account of the academic humanities is accurate.

Read the entire post here.

Is Jacobs right when he says that white Christian males are “certainly unemployable” in humanities fields “outside the world of Christian higher education?”

What Does the Republican Dislike for Higher Education Mean for Christian Colleges?

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On Tuesday, we posted about the recent Pew Research Center survey that suggests most Republicans have a negative view of higher education.  Over at the Pietist Schoolman, Chris Gehrz has some “quick thoughts” on this survey and what it might mean for Christian colleges.  He writes:

I’m struck by this result from the Pew survey: Republicans are twice as likely to take a positive view of churches and religious organizations as of colleges and universities. For many on the left, I’m sure this will just bolster the assumption that Christians are anti-intellectuals. But it also suggests an interesting situation for those of us who work for Christian colleges and universities.

Here again, the data yields more questions than answers. Do Republicans have a higher view of private religious colleges than other institutions of higher learning? Or do they increasingly view institutions like my employer with the same skepticism they afford secular colleges and universities?

But as a perennially hopeful kind of guy, I still think that Christian higher ed can serve as a bridge stretching across the growing chasm between church and academy. If only among our students, alumni, and other constituents who are Republican or lean that direction, can Christian college faculty and staff persuade them of the value of the liberal arts, scientific inquiry, and the life of the mind?

Maybe not. There are days I’m not sure enough higher ed professionals share those values. And as I’ll explain next week, I’m struggling with how to be persuasive at all in a time such as ours.

Read the entire post here.  And, needless to say, I am looking forward to Chris’s aforementioned “I’m struggling to persuasive” post.

How Much Money Do Christian College Presidents Make?

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Over at The Pietist Schoolman, Chris Gehrz has the answers.

Here is a taste:

In 2013 I parsed some data from The Chronicle of Higher Education to see how well evangelical college and university presidents were paid. Since the Chronicle just released an updated version of the study, today thought I’d revisit that question.

Four years ago about a third of the presidents in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) were included in the Chronicle set, with the median CCCU president earning just a shade under $300,000 in total compensation — over $80,000 lower than the median for all private college presidents in the study. Just seven CCCU presidents were in the top half of earners. But if you expressed presidential compensation as a share of overall institutional expenditures, then the CCCU set exceeded the overall median. By that standard seven CCCU presidents were in the top 100, with Bill Ellis (Howard Payne) and Dub Oliver (East Texas Baptist, now at Union University) cracking the top 50.

And now? Thirty-five CCCU presidents appear in the newest version of the Chronicle exercise with data from 2014 (the most recent for which numbers were available). In general, they were paid much less than their peers (only 86.5% of the national median for private colleges). But eight were in the top half of the rankings, and presidential compensation again accounted for a larger share of institutional expenses at CCCU schools than at most other private colleges.

By two newer measures — ratios of executive compensation to average student tuition and to average salary for full professor — the CCCU presidents were right in the national middle, with earnings equal to the tuition paid by just over 12 students and the salary earned by 4.4 senior faculty members.

Here’s the full Google Sheet, if you want to see the full data. One thing to note: there are only three women on this list, and the highest-paid (Kim Phipps of Messiah College) earns 10% less than the median compensation for private college presidents.

Read the rest, including charts and rankings, here.  Thanks for your work on this Chris!

Teaser:  Jerry Falwell Jr. is the highest paid Christian college president in the country.  He makes about $896,000 a year.  Only the presidents of Arizona State, Texas, Texas A&M, Florida, Indiana, Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa make more than Falwell.

The highest paid president in the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities (Liberty University is not a member of this coalition) is Randy O’Rear of Mary Hardin-Baylor University.  He makes $549,165.  Philip Ryken of Wheaton is close behind at $516,148.

Baylor University Announces Its First Female President

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Kenneth Starr was fired as president of Baylor University in May 2016 for his poor handling of a rape and sexual assault scandal on campus.  He has finally been replaced. The new president of Linda A. Livingstone.

Here is a taste of the Baylor press release:

WACO, Texas (April 18, 2017) – Baylor University has selected Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., current dean and professor of management at The George Washington University School of Business, as the institution’s 15th president. Dr. Livingstone was the unanimous choice of the Baylor Board of Regents, following the recommendation of the 12-member Presidential Search Committee.

Dr. Livingstone, who will begin as president on June 1, brings a distinguished academic career to Baylor, a private Christian university and nationally ranked research institution with more than 16,000 students. Prior to George Washington, she served as dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management and associate dean and associate professor in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

“On behalf of the Board of Regents, I am both proud and honored to announce Dr. Livingstone as Baylor’s next president during this important time for the University,” said Ronald D. Murff, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “Dr. Livingstone brings an accomplished academic career to Baylor, combined with a strong appreciation and support of Baylor’s mission. A longtime Baptist and former Baylor faculty member, she has a passion for the distinctiveness of Baylor’s Christian mission in higher education.”

Dr. Livingstone becomes the first female president in Baylor’s 172-year history. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in the state.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 15th President of Baylor University,” said Dr. Livingstone. “I chose to begin my academic career at Baylor in significant part because of Baylor’s Christian mission. To return to Baylor to partner with the exceptional faculty, staff, students and administrators to fulfill the University’s vision to be a top-tier research institution, committed to excellence in all aspects of University life, while strengthening the Christian mission is an opportunity I look forward to with enthusiasm.”

Among her many academic and professional accomplishments, Dr. Livingstone previously served as chair of the board of the international Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in 2014-2015 and has deep expertise in accreditation issues. The AACSB is the professional organization for business schools and accredits 786 of the best business schools globally across 53 countries and territories. She chaired the AACSB Committee on Accreditation Policy in 2015-2016.

A scholar in organizational behavior, leadership and creativity, she has been extensively published and cited in academic and professional outlets. Moreover, Dr. Livingstone has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Capital Southwest Industrials, a public company traded under the symbol “CSWI” on the NASDAQ since 2015.

Dr. Livingstone has led The George Washington University School of Business since 2014, overseeing approximately 3,500 students in undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs and more than 57,000 alumni worldwide. Like Baylor, George Washington has a culture grounded in service, and Dr. Livingstone initiated a comprehensive strategic planning process for the school to capitalize on this core commitment. The effort resulted in establishing a strong financial operating base for the school and cross-university collaborations, enhanced teaching, greater research productivity and additional support through fundraising.

“Linda Livingstone has been a stellar dean and an excellent colleague,” said Steven Knapp, Ph.D., president of The George Washington University. “I am sure that our entire GW community joins me in wishing Linda all success in her important new role and that Baylor University will benefit tremendously from her leadership.”

Prior to her tenure at George Washington, Dr. Livingstone served 12 years at Pepperdine, similar to Baylor as a faith-based university, as dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management from 2002-2014. With a focus on excellence in teaching, scholarship and Christian values, she brought significant visibility and resources to the Graziadio School, including overseeing a $200 million expansion of its graduate campuses and the addition of an executive conference center. Under Dr. Livingstone’s leadership, the school also experienced significant progress in its full-time, executive and fully employed MBA programs, and in the area of entrepreneurship, as well as greater scholarship support for students.

Dr. Livingstone returns to Baylor after time on the Waco campus from 1991-2002. From 1998-2002, she served as associate dean of graduate programs for the Hankamer School of Business in which she was responsible for all graduate degree business programs. Dr. Livingstone was an associate professor in the department of management from 1997-2002 and an assistant professor in the same department from 1991-1997. She also was a member of the Faculty Athletics Council during her tenure at Baylor.

“My time at Baylor as a faculty member and associate dean was formative in my academic career and in developing my passion for academic administration,” reflected Dr. Livingstone. “Baylor’s unique culture of care and compassion – that I experienced personally from my colleagues and that I saw demonstrated among faculty, staff and students – continues to inspire and influence me as an administrator. Continuing to strengthen Baylor’s culture where faculty, staff and students are encouraged, inspired and cared for by one another is a priority.”

A native of Perkins, Oklahoma, Dr. Livingstone began her academic career at her alma mater, Oklahoma State University, where she earned her bachelor of science degree in economics and management, master of business administration, and doctorate in management and organizational behavior. A member of Oklahoma State’s Spears School of Business Hall of Fame, Dr. Livingstone was the first recipient of the Outstanding Ph.D. Alumnus Award, and she was recognized in 2015 with the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award.

While at Oklahoma State, Dr. Livingstone was a four-year letter winner on the women’s basketball team from 1978-1982 and was named a “Big 8 Scholar-Athlete” in 1982. Her husband, Brad, also played basketball at Oklahoma State (1978-1982), and their daughter, Shelby, recently completed her junior season as a volleyball student-athlete at Rice University. Brad Livingstone currently serves as the Dean of Students and teaches history at the Trinity Christian School, in Fairfax, Virginia, where Dr. Livingstone has served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2015.

Baylor’s Presidential Search Committee compiled feedback from more than 700 online input forms and listening sessions with more than 350 faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and others as part of the search process. Heidrick & Struggles, a worldwide executive search firm, was engaged in October 2016 to work alongside the committee. Chaired by Bob Brewton, B.B.A. ’74, the Presidential Search Committee reviewed more than 400 candidate backgrounds, contacted 150 individuals for screening conversations and held first-round interviews with 61 candidates.

“The Presidential Search Committee had a very strong candidate pool coming from the traditional academic fields as well as nontraditional candidates from government, military and corporate life,” Brewton said. “In the end, Dr. Livingstone’s experience uniquely fit the profile of the dynamic faith and transformational leader which Baylor needs at this point in time in our history.”

“We had strong interest in the position from accomplished candidates both inside and outside of academia,” Murff added. “Candidates admired Baylor’s significant growth over the past decade and saw tremendous potential in elevating the University’s academic profile even further while staying true to our Christian mission.”

“I was honored to serve on the Presidential Search Committee. We began with Baylor’s mission in mind and based our search on the Christian values that Baylor stands for. That set the criteria for the type of individual we were looking for,” said Drayton McLane Jr., Baylor Regent Emeritus and search committee member. “Dr. Livingstone met all our requirements. She, her husband and their family are outstanding, committed Christians. Dr. Livingstone has taught at Baylor and understands the Christian heritage which is so important to the University. I am very pleased with the outcome of our search and the strong leadership Dr. Livingstone will provide Baylor University.”

Dr. Livingstone will succeed Dr. David Garland, who has served as the Interim President during the last year.

Political Diversity at Christian Colleges

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I want to call your attention to a nice piece at Inside Higher Ed on Christian colleges and political diversity.  It is written by Thomas Albert (Tal) Howard, a historian at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana and former director of the honors program at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.

To get a fuller picture of the Christian academic landscape, one would need to visit institutions such as Bethel University in Minnesota, Calvin College in Michigan, Dordt College in Iowa or East Texas Baptist University, among hundreds of others. They “represent a slice of America that most secular liberals don’t know anything about,” according Molly Worthen, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of a much-discussed book on evangelical higher education.

As institutions that host many first-generation college students and are also replete with Ph.D.s from major universities, Christian colleges can provide a bridge between elite opinion and “red-state” America. How might they rise to the occasion?

First, they must practice what they preach. The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus as saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In an age when conservative intellectuals often find themselves “disinvited” to speak on prominent campuses, Christian colleges should make certain that they invite articulate and diverse voices, including liberals and secularists, to their own campuses. When I oversaw a center at my former (evangelical) institution, Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., our lecture series included the well-known atheist Bart Ehrman as well as Cornel West, John Kerry and Susannah Heschel — hardly icons of the right. We also regularly hosted Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim speakers. Charity begins by hearing what another is actually saying, not encountering it secondhand in caricature.

Second, Christian colleges can contribute to the common good by continuing to teach and even expand curricular offerings in the conservative intellectual tradition, perhaps one of the biggest causalities of the recent anti-intellectual insurgence. Authors whom one would find neither by Trump’s bedside nor trumpeted in the curricula of most elite colleges deserve a robust hearing: Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, Irving Kristol, C. S. Lewis, Adam Smith and Richard Weaver, among others. Liberals should welcome thoughtful young conservatives lest their own identity become deformed in obsessions against Trump. Beware, Nietzsche once warned, for you can easily become the monsters you seek to slay.

Third, in what some have dubbed our “postsecular age,” Christian colleges should point the way by teaching, through empathy and analysis, how religion functions as a dynamic and complex phenomenon in human affairs. At elite colleges and universities, too often religion is viewed strictly through the lenses of race, gender and class — or else through some of the grand explanatory schemes of the academy, including that of Karl Marx (religion as ideological superstructure), Sigmund Freud (religion as coping mechanism or neurosis) and Michel Foucault (religion as a mask for power). Some of these schemes have yielded valuable insights, to be sure. Nonetheless, as Brad S. Gregory, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame, has argued, they often come with the presumption “that religion is not something that can be or ought to be understood in its own terms.” As such, explaining subtly and sometimes readily yields to a more reductionist explaining away, denying students insights wrought by the messier, more difficult process of empathetic engagement.

Finally, permit me to offer a modest proposal — one that would require no small dose of philanthropic support and administrative imagination. Christian colleges and elite secular institutions should seek out one another to promote student exchanges, either for a short visit or a semester of study, similar to one suggested by David J. Smith in a previous article in Inside Higher Ed. A Bay Area student at the University of California, Berkeley, would have much to learn from spending time with peers at, say, Goshen College, a Mennonite school in northern Indiana. A top-notch conservative Lutheran student at Concordia University in Seward, Neb., would greatly benefit from a stint at Williams College in Massachusetts. Stereotypes might well erode, exposing leftist, rightist, secular and religious groupthink in the process.

Read the entire piece here.

“The Face of Higher Education is Not Jerry Falwell Jr.”

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It’s good to have Chris Gehrz, aka “The Pietist Schoolman,” back from Europe and blogging again.

In this post he explains why Jerry Falwell Jr. should not get anywhere near American higher education.

Here is a taste:

On Tuesday Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he’s been asked by the Trump administration to head up a task force recommending higher ed policy changes for the Department of Education. (In late November Falwell had told the Associated Press that he turned down the Secretary of Education position itself, preferring to stay at Liberty.) I can only imagine how satisfying a moment this must be for Falwell, who was the most vocal backer of the Trump candidacy in the world of evangelical higher education — and received plenty of criticism (even from students and a trustee at Liberty) for staking out that position. Already the leader of the country’s largest, wealthiest Christian university, Falwell is now in a position to pursue a deregulation of higher ed that will likely benefit his own school enormously.

Read the entire piece here.

Adam Laats on Evangelical Colleges and Trump: Concluding Thoughts

6258d-clintonatmessiahAdam Laats has now had a chance to respond to my critique of his HNN piece .  I am not going to go into too much detail here, but I think we will just have to agree to disagree on some of the key assertions he makes.

Consider this paragraph from his response:

The leaders of all schools, not just evangelical ones, have to remain excruciatingly aware of a kind of “third rail” in American higher education.  To remain alive—and don’t forget that mere survival cannot be taken for granted these days—institutions of higher education must preserve at all costs their reputations.  This has always been and will always be a maddeningly frustrating and imprecise challenge.  At all schools, reputation becomes an unpredictable mix of academic prestige, numbers of applicants, perceptions of peers, athletic performance, and a host of other factors.  Not just to thrive and prosper, but simply to continue to exist, administrators must guard their schools’ reputations relentlessly.  A good reputation means more applications, which means a higher selectivity ranking, which means more applications, which means more tuition dollars, which means improved facilities, which means more applications, etc. etc.

Evangelical colleges share this dilemma, but with an added factor.  Evangelical schools need to maintain and defend their reputations as academic institutions, but also as safe havens for evangelical youth.  In addition to the challenges faced by every college administrator and trustee, the leaders of evangelical schools need to wrestle with the ever-changing and ever-contentious nature of evangelicalism itself.

However the boundaries of evangelicalism are defined, whether in 1935, 1963, or 2016, schools need to remain squarely within them.  More relevant, they need to be seen by the evangelical public as remaining squarely within those boundaries.  If school administrators fail, students and alumni will vote with their wallets, taking their tuition dollars and donations elsewhere.

This does not mean that faculty, students, and administrators won’t push those boundaries. In fact, at many schools there is a long tradition, almost an expectation, that faculty and students will do so.  But we need to be careful not to mistake this tradition—what Fred Clark aptly callobama-and-hillarys the “faculty lounge” perspective—to be the entirety of evangelical higher education.  It’s not.  Rather, even the winked-at toleration of such boundary-pushing only underlines the vital fact that every school has certain poorly defined lines that no one is allowed to cross.  Or, to be more precise, it means that the evangelical public needs to feel confident that the school as a whole is not crossing those lines, even if some students and teachers are.  Or are rumored to be.

There is a lot of good stuff in these paragraphs that people who study evangelical higher education need to keep in mind.  For example, constituency, boards, and donors obviously play a major role in institutional identity. Boards do indeed guard reputations.  Donors and constituencies do have a voice.

But I return to the argument posed in Laats’s original piece.  Laats argued that evangelical Christian colleges were one of the main reasons why so many evangelicals turned to Trump.  I still disagree.

Frankly, part of me wants to agree with Laats.  I wish vast numbers of evangelicals paid attention to what Christian colleges have to offer evangelical political and cultural witness. Sadly, then do not.

In the quoted paragraphs above, Laats assumes that there is a correlation between a board concerned with a college’s Christian reputation and that board’s support or endorsement of Trump.  It is certainly possible that the leadership or board members of a Christian college that wants to define itself in certain confessional ways on issues related to other world religions, gay marriage, doctrine, religious liberty, etc. can still reject Trump.  Many did, although it is hard to gauge since many Christian college boards are not always in the business of endorsing or not endorsing presidential candidates.

Let the conversation continue in the comment section.

The 2016 POTUS Election: A View From the Christian College Classroom

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John Haas is Associate Professor of History at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. Bethel is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU).

Haas has commented on Adam Laats’s response to my critique of his History News Network piece suggesting that Christian colleges had something to do with the evangelical support for Donald Trump in November.  His thoughts originally appeared in the comments section of my post here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, but I thought his remarks were worth turning into a separate post.

Here it is:

Prof. Laats is certainly correct that evangelical institutions, strapped as they are for cash, competing with each other for students, fearful of any bad publicity (especially the kind that leads to folk inside the community doubting your soundness), and etc., leads these institutions (schools, and local churches, too) to be very skittish about political mind-fields. And he’s also right that the communities connected to these institutions (parents, donors, etc.) lean largely right: nostalgic, pro-business, militarist, with some degree of ambivalent tolerance for prejudiced individuals associated with the community (while sincerely officially condemning such attitudes), and so forth.

What that means is, as schools, and as faculty (usually), you’re not going to hear strident condemnations of Donald Trump even from those who personally are appalled by him, whereas more latitude would be granted the (usually rare) crotchety professor who might use their classroom to launch into an anti-Hillary rant. There would be a wide range of personal or small group conversations, of course.

More, I suspect a lot of evangelical faculty who personally find Trump and his politics unacceptable, are nevertheless sympathetic to some evangelical motives for voting Trump, just as they can sympathize with more consistently leftist evangelicals who deplore Hillary’s militarism and neo-liberalism, but who felt conscience-bound to vote for her.

I know, for myself that while I mentioned the contest several times before and after the election, in class, I restricted myself to 1) general discussions of recent developments that might throw light on the election; 2) explanations of the electoral college; 3) brief recommendations of books and articles explaining Trump supporters and their motives; 4) a discussion of how tight a connection there is between Supreme Court appointments, the party affiliation of the justices, and their decisions on hot questions; and 5) a quick look at the map and the electoral statistics right after the election. These were very brief–5 to 10 minutes, at most. Almost always, these were student-initiated mini-discussions that led to brief departures from the task of the day.

I certainly did not advocate voting for any candidate or offer arguments for why voting for a candidate was unacceptable. I marveled at trump’s success at times, but my only extended meditation came in conjunction with a discussion of the rise of Andrew Jackson and populism, which was on the syllabus for that day.

My reasons for all this have more to do with my job description (historian) and the time constraints of the semester which militate against off-topic discussions. I also don’t want my students thinking of me in political terms. I have my thoughts, but my role in their life is as a fair and unbiased conduit of things out of the past. I don’t want them to even suspect I may have an agenda, less because I’m afraid of a backlash than because it would undermine my effectiveness as a teacher. That said, if a student asked, I would honestly answer any question about my commitments or political behavior (though i might ask that we defer the answer till post-class, so as not to get off-topic).

So, my sense, for my school, at least, was that if we had any impact on the election, it was by not making our college an inhospitable place for your typical garden-variety white evangelical student. I suspect if we had tried to do that, we would have alienated rather than converted many of them. Election seasons aren’t always the best times for those kinds of polemics–minds are usually closing as polling day approaches. The fact is, evangelicalism is what it is, and faculty at evangelical schools have a hard enough time getting students to think about just war theory, appreciate Dickenson, and know what was in Hamilton’s reports, and so forth. We can help them understand their world, we can encourage certain perspectives that follow from bringing the Bible to bear on that understanding, but we cannot–and, I believe, should not–be demanding people vote one way or another, or condemning them for voting as they do, or creating atmospheres of one kind or another directed at their political beliefs.

What I want, from my liberal and conservative students both, is that they become more aware of the roots and effects of their choices, their parallels and precedents, and have some awareness, perhaps, of the paradoxes, problems, unintended consequences and such that will attend the various choices they make in life–political and otherwise. Most of them are not mature enough nor have they nuanced enough worldviews yet to really do that, but I hope I’m planting questions, hints and suggestions they can dredge up later, when it seems more relevant to them.

Yes, A Liberal Arts Degree is “Worth It”

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Today I met with a group of prospective students who are interested in studying history at Messiah College.  Whenever I do these presentations, especially in these economic times, I need to remind students and their parents that an investment in a liberal arts education is “worth it.”

I am glad that people like John Macais, a philosophy professor at St. Gregory’s University of Shawnee, Oklahoma, have my back.  Macais does not make an economic argument for a liberal arts education (i.e., you can get a job with this degree).  Instead, he makes the case that a liberal arts education is “worth it” because it can make you a more virtuous person.  This is an argument that should have a special appeal to students interested in pursuing study at a church-related school.

Here is a taste of his recent piece “Why a Liberal Arts Degree is Worth It” at Aleteia:

But the liberal arts in fact have plenty to offer us — in this Jubilee Year, I would like to suggest that Liberal Arts are an important tool precisely for cultivating the virtue of mercy.

How so? Well, mercy, as Aquinas explains, is the virtue whereby we are able to recognize another’s pain and feel it as our own. He calls it a “heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to succor him if we can.”

Alasdair MacIntyre, in his book Dependent Rational Animals, echoes Aquinas in explaining that “to understand another’s distress as our own is to recognize that other as neighbor.” [Emphasis mine] So if I am a merciful man, then I see each individual as my neighbor, deserving of sympathy when suffering, regardless of his relationship to me. This is precisely the lesson of the Good Samaritan of the Gospel.

Being an English major or a music major can contribute mightily to these facets of mercy as explained by Aquinas and MacIntyre. How? Well, the liberal arts are those branches of study and research ordered, not to some practical end, e.g. healing a broken bone or building computers, but to the attainment of truth for its own sake. These studies are, quite strictly, “pointless.” They seek to discover the truth about reality simply to know it, because knowing the truth is what – beyond the balanced ledgers and the innovative codes written for our technologies — we are ultimately made for.

In the liberal arts, a central question concerns the nature of the human person. What is a human being, what are its powers, and what separates human persons from animals and plants? Philosophy and theology take a more universal scope, while literature, poetry, and the arts seek to concretize these systematic views of the human person. These arts, when correctly pursued, allow us to recognize the common nature that each and every human being possesses. Regardless of race, sex, religion, or economic status, all human beings seek after the same ultimate good.

Therefore, liberal arts help us recognize our shared humanity. They help us to understand who we are as persons, and to detect the things that cause our nature distress. They help us to take it a step further, not merely recognizing the suffering of others, but also understanding that the suffering person in fact has a relationship to us, regardless of who he is. The arts burnish empathy, which in turn drives action to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

Read the entire piece here.

Mount St. Mary’s University President Resigns

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It was only a matter of time.  As I watched this tragic event unfold over the last couple of weeks, I did not see any other possible ending.  If you are new to this controversy check out our previous posts here.

Here is the press release:

Emmitsburg, MD (February 29, 2016) Mount St. Mary’s University today announced the resignation of its president, Simon Newman, effective immediately. Karl Einolf, Ph.D., Dean of the Richard J.Bolte, Sr., School of Business has been named by the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees as the school’s acting president.

“The board is grateful to President Newman for his many accomplishments over the past year, including strengthening the University’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future, and bringing many new ideas to campus that have benefitted the entire Mount community,” said John Coyne, Chairman of the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees. “We thank him for his service.”

“I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future,” said Simon Newman. “I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students. It was a difficult decision but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

Before Einolf’s appointment to Dean of the Bolte School of Business in 2012, he served on the faculty as a professor of finance. He was a recipient of the University’s Richards Award for Teaching Excellence, and he served for six years as the Director of the Mount’s Honors Program. He has published papers in numerous business and economics journals, and has presented his work at national and international conferences. Before joining the Mount in 1998, Einolf served the Sprint Corporation in various finance, marketing, and human resource positions.

Stay tuned.

Could Mount St. Mary’s University Lose Its Accreditation?

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We have already done several posts about the controversy at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  You can get up to speed here.  When we last left the Mount the faculty had asked president Simon Newman to resign.  Newman ignored the request.  Now the university is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  If the school loses its Middle States accreditation, students will stop coming (and Newman’s retention problem will be solved).

Scott Jaschik has been covering this story at Inside Higher Ed.  Here is a taste of his latest post:

Here are some of the provisions about which Middle States has asked for a report from Mount St. Mary’s and why they could be significant:

  • Integrity. The integrity standards say: “In all its activities, whether internal or external, an institution should keep its promises, honor its contracts and commitments, and represent itself truthfully.” Faculty members say that this was violated when the college gave new students a survey without explaining its use, when faculty members were fired in violations of their contracts and when administrators said faculty members had broken university rules. The integrity provision also states that faculty members have the right “to question assumptions,” something faculty members say the university violated by criticizing professors for disagreeing with the president and not showing sufficient loyalty.

  • Admissions and retention. The standards state that colleges must have “programs and services to ensure that admitted students who marginally meet or do not meet the institution’s qualifications achieve expected learning goals and higher education outcomes at appropriate points.” Critics say that planning to weed out such students with a survey given before they started class violates that standard. Faculty members also note that the Middle States standards invite colleges to provide “evidence that support programs and services for low-achieving students are effective in helping students to persist and to achieve learning goals and higher education outcomes.” The implication of this language, professors say, is that the college is supposed to be committed to helping students persist, not trying to get them to leave.

  • Faculty. The standards require colleges to have “published and implemented standards and procedures for all faculty and other professionals, for actions such as appointment, promotion, tenure, grievance, discipline and dismissal, based on principles of fairness with due regard for the rights of all persons.” Faculty members said that while “published” rules at the colleges may provide for a faculty role in evaluating faculty members, Simon fired people without any faculty role or without any fair rationale. Further, they note that while the president rehired the faculty members, he cited “mercy” as the reason for doing so, suggesting there was nothing wrong with the dismissals.

  • Leadership and governance. The standards say that colleges must have “a climate of shared collegial governance in which all constituencies (such as faculty, administration, staff, students and governing board members, as determined by each institution) involved in carrying out the institution’s mission and goals participate in the governance function in a manner appropriate to that institution. Institutions should seek to create a governance environment in which issues concerning mission, vision, program planning, resource allocation and others, as appropriate, can be discussed openly by those who are responsible for each activity.” Faculty members say this has been violated by firing faculty members who disagree with the president, and by removing administrators and faculty members who don’t share the president’s apparent vision of a lesser emphasis on the liberal arts in the curriculum.

Read the entire article here.

Simon Newman, Donald Trump, and Mount St. Mary’s University

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I don’t know how many of you have been following what is going on at Mount St. Mary’s University, but you can get up to speed here.

The faculty at The Mount have given president Simon Newman until tomorrow morning, February 15, to resign from his post.  So far there is no word of a resignation.

The best thing I have read on this controversy comes from Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University. Hibbs is a Catholic intellectual.

Here is a taste of his piece at The Catholic World Report, “The Donald Trump of Catholic Education“:

Like Trump, Simon Newman and the Board that appointed him, suppose that the skills of the entrepreneur are easily transferable to any and every sphere of human life. If you can run a business, so the assumption goes, then you can run an army, a nation, or a small Catholic university.

But Newman apparently has little knowledge of, or affinity for, the Catholic vision of education. In an open letter, members of the Mount St. Mary’s Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts, which met in October with Newman present, stated:

As members of the Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts we have met with President Newman on several occasions. Our last meeting took place on October 23, 2015. During President Newman’s presentation that day he exhibited contempt for the Mount’s Catholic identity and tradition and called for a radical de-emphasis of the liberal arts education for which the university has been justly noted. Surveys, he explained, indicate that terms like liberal arts and philosophy do nothing for young people and that the Catholic Church is today less influential in the lives of the young than ever before.

As Pope Francis noted in his recent encyclical, the roots of our cultural crisis can be traced to our inability to see the connections between the parts of the universe; in our loss of a vocabulary concerning the true nature of the human person and its place in the whole; in our tendency to conceive of all knowledge as merely instrumental; and in a consumerist attitude toward nature and the human body. Countering this would require that universities actually take stands on what is most worthy of study and attempt to cultivate in students a genuine love of learning for its own sake. Francis regularly contrasts a curiosity aimed at domination and control with a spirit of wonder that is silently receptive of nature and issues in gratitude toward what is revealed to us in the natural and human orders.

Francis concentrates on integrated education that inculcates habits of gratitude and wonder, precisely the habits that are at the heart of a Catholic liberal arts education. Given the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition and its commitment to the compatibility of, and integral connection between, faith and reason, Catholic schools ought to the places where students can receive simultaneously the highest level of academic challenge and the encouragement and opportunity to develop a deep, articulate, and robust adult Catholic faith.

Read the entire piece here.  It is a strong rebuke to the MSMU president and a strong defense of Catholic higher education.

Mount St. Mary’s Reinstates Fired Professors

eb6e1-mountBut it is not clear whether they will come back as long as Simon Newman remains president of the university.

This article in Inside Higher Ed explains everything.  Newman is trying to extend an olive branch, but for many at The Mount it appears to be a poisoned one.

Here is a taste of Scott Jaschik’s piece:

Whether the tensions will be resolved remains unclear. Inside Higher Ed reached Thane Naberhaus, one of the faculty members who was fired this week, despite having tenure, and asked him if he was planning to return. His email response: “Hell no.”

He elaborated: “I’ll refuse to be reinstated until Newman is gone and some others are gone. “

Ed Egan is the adviser to the student newspaper, and is the other faculty member who was fired and whom the university said has now been reinstated. In an interview, he said that President Newman called him and told him he would be reinstated in part because the Roman Catholic Church has declined a Year of Mercy.

Egan said he was uncertain about returning and that he was bothered by the statement — and went to the faculty meetings to tell his colleagues why. Egan said he told them that the president’s statement was “as if I had done something wrong and was in need of his mercy.” In fact, the reinstatement is an attempt to “placate” the campus so that it will not consider all of the issues that go beyond the two professors.

“Reinstating me does not make these other problems go away and Simon Newman needs to show mercy on Mount St. Mary’s and resign,” Egan said. He added that he is consulting lawyers on his next moves.

Faculty members, after the news about the offer to reinstate the two professors, voted to seek the president’s removal. They adopted a letter to Newman that said: “Our community is suffering. In recent weeks, we have been divided due to miscommunications, missteps, and misunderstandings. It is clear that we all could have done things differently to avoid the situation that we now find ourselves in. Regrettably, our problems have become public and have cast a dark shadow across our holy mountain.”

The letter continued: “You have only been with us a short time. We know all too well the great love for this community that comes to those who join us. But it has become apparent that negative public attention has interfered with our ability to continue in our work and to bring new students and faculty to this campus. We have come to the sad conclusion that this state of affairs cannot be resolved while you continue in your current office. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart, in a loving spirit of compassion and forgiveness, that we appeal to your generosity of spirit and ask that you resign your position for the good of our community by 9:00 a.m. on February 15, 2016.”

Newman could not immediately be reached.

The Mount St. Mary’s campus has been in turmoil since word leaked through The Mountain Echo, the student newspaper, last month that President Newman compared struggling students to bunnies that need to be drowned or killed with a Glock. The metaphor grabbed attention, but educators said that the underlying debate was what really mattered. Newman had proposed to use a survey — on which freshmen would be told there were no wrong answers — to identify those at risk of dropping out and to encourage them to do so in the first weeks of the semester. The idea was to raise the university’s graduation rates, since those who leave very early in the semester don’t count in the total enrollment figures. Many professors and some administrators protested the plan, saying that the university has an obligation to try to educate those it admits.

I just don’t see any way that Mount St. Mary University can go forward with Newman in charge.

(Is this the first time that you are hearing about all of this?  Get up to speed here).

Fired Mount St. Mary’s Philosophy Professor Speaks Out

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Earlier this week Simon Newman, the president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, fired two professors and demoted his provost because they spoke out against his controversial retention plan.  Get up to speed here.

One of those fired was a tenured philosophy professor named Thane Naberhaus. He is now speaking out on Newman’s apparent assault on the historic Catholic liberal arts identity of Mount St. Mary’s

Here is a taste of an article from Catholic News Agency

Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor who was recently fired from the Maryland university, told CNA that the president wanted to downplay the school’s Catholic identity because, in his words, “Catholic doesn’t sell.”

“He said publicly,” Naberhaus told CNA, “‘if you go in the marketplace, Catholic doesn’t sell, liberal arts doesn’t sell.’”

Here is more on the Catholic identity issue:

David McGinley, a 2011 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s and a member of the Mount’s College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board, had concerns following an Oct. 23, 2015 meeting between Newman and the advisory board.

In that meeting, Newman “showed a lack of appreciation for or desire to continue or further Catholic identity in any regards to what one would call traditional,” McGinley told CNA.

“What he was saying is that Catholicism has lost its relevance,” McGinley added. The concerns Newman raised, he continued, were that Mount St. Mary’s was “not going to get customers to come” if it marketed itself as a Catholic university.

A Facebook group of concerned alumni and students, “Mount Family Speaks Out,” reported that Newman made similar remarks in an August student assembly.

According to a current administrative employee, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, President Newman has also criticized the cross, saying in passing that there were “too many bleeding crucifixes” in the employee’s office.

“I have a broken crucifix, and I have a crucifix that is done in limestone sculpture,” the source told CNA, adding that the president had made the comment after seeing them.

Naberhaus said that he has heard similar reports from other faculty members – including some instances of the president disparaging the crucifix and using profanity.

Numerous alumni also pointed to the Mount St. Mary’s landing page for prospective students as an example of the new attitude towards Catholic identity, noting that the page does not contain any references to the fact that it is a Catholic school.

“That is Simon Newman’s vision for Mount Saint Mary’s right there, encapsulated in that one webpage,” Naberhaus said.

Naberhaus also said that he has heard Newman refer to students as “Catholic jihadis.”

Read the entire piece here.

Former Mount St. Mary University Professor Weighs-In

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John Schwenkler teaches philosophy at Florida State University, but from 2010-2013 he taught at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD.  (If you need to get up to speed on what is happening at The Mount, check out our coverage here).

Schwenkler pulls no punches when discussing the controversy at his former institution and raises some very important questions about Catholic identity.

Here is a taste of his piece at Commonweal:

From 2010-2013 I taught at Mount St. Mary’s University, now the center of a massive controversy prompted by the actions of its new president, Simon Newman, an MBA-possessing former businessman who, since taking over his current position, has:

  • Abruptly cut off a retirement benefit that had been promised for years to the university’s long-time faculty and — more importantly — hourly staff;
  • Made dismissive statements about the value of liberal study, and pushed the university to cut back its liberal arts requirements;
  • Abruptly dismissed from his administrative position Joshua Hochschild, then dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a well-respected professor who had sought to strengthen liberal study and Catholic identity at the Mount, and had corrected the president’s rhetoric and resisted some of his calls for change;
  • Encouraged faculty to think of struggling students as animals who needed to be executed, rather than human persons who needed their help;
  • Created a plan to dismiss 20-25 freshmen — about 5% of a typical entering class at the Mount — in order to improve the university’s self-reported retention statistics;
  • Devised to this end a survey in which students would describe the extent to which e.g. they felt depressed, unliked, and financially unstable during the early weeks of the semester, intending to pitch this survey to students as a tool for self-understanding but then use it to identify those unlikely to succeed, accepting as “collateral damage” those it might mistakenly sweep up;
  • Dismissed from his administrative position David Rehm, then provost of the university, who challenged the president’s judgment;
  • Fired Edward Egan, an untenured professor and advisor to the Mount’s student newspaper, apparently for his role in helping that paper break the story of Newman’s “retention” efforts; and
  • Fired Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor, for what was described as a violation of his “duty of loyalty” to Mount St. Mary’s.

Read the entire piece here.

President of Mount St. Mary University Is Under Fire

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If you have not been following this whole mess at Mount St. Mary University you can get caught up here and here and here.  It involves (by all accounts) a tyrannical university president with a retention plan that offended most of the university’s constituency, a demoted Provost and Dean, and two fired faculty members, one with tenure.

Earlier today The Washington Post weighed in.  According to Susan Svrluga’s article, the American Association of University Professors has responded.   Faculty from around the country have signed a petition protesting the actions of president Simon Newman.

If anyone (other than perhaps some members of the Board of Trustees) are standing with Newman, I have not read about them.  I don’t see how his presidency can survive this controversy.

Academics’ Statement of Protest Regarding Faculty Firings at Mount St. Mary’s University

I was just made aware of this.  Please consider joining the hundreds of academics who have signed it.

Background Information

For a summary account of the faculty firings at Mount St. Mary’s University and the deeper controversy behind them, see Scott Jaschik, “Purge at the Mount”, Inside Higher Education, Feb. 9, 2016: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/mount-st-marys-president-fires-two-faculty-members-one-tenure.

For further details, please visit http://tinyurl.com/msmbackground.

Text of Statement

We the undersigned, as members of the community of scholars, protest the firings of Edward Egan and Thane Naberhaus from their faculty positions at Mount St. Mary’s University.

The manner and circumstance of their dismissal raises serious questions about the respect given to moral conscience and intellectual freedom at Mount St. Mary’s. Of particular concern is that Prof. Egan was fired partly for actions taken in his role as faculty advisor to the university’s student newspaper, which first broke the stories leading to the present controversy. It is also alarming that these faculty were fired without any academic due process as required under AAUP guidelines and the customary standards of tenure.

As a Catholic institution, Mount St. Mary’s is bound by the teachings that “charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1789), and that in the context of the Catholic university “the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, II.2.iv). As a university, it is bound by the standards that govern any such institution in respect of its faculty.

We call for these faculty to be reinstated immediately, and the administration held accountable for this violation of their rights.

To sign this statement click here.