An Indiana Wesleyan University Insider On Mike Pence’s Recent Commencement Address

Pence at IWU

About ten minutes ago I posted a link to a video of Mike Pence’s 2016 commencement address at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU).  Earlier today I got some more context about Pence’s visit from an IWU insider.

Mike Pence was the commencement speaker here at Indiana Wesleyan University last spring.  It was a pretty standard commencement address with some religious fare tacked on the end for the evangelical audience.  But the surprising thing about Pence’s appearance to me was how much of a ruckus it stirred among the students.  There was a sizeable contingent who were deeply troubled by the university extending an invitation to Pence.  The reasons students cited fell into three major lines of complaints, each of which the students rooted in their faith: 1) Pence’s signature on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was seen by students as discriminatory, unloving, and un-Christlike.  2) Pence’s refusal to allow Syrian refugees into Indiana was seen by students as a horrible Christian witness and counter to the biblical mandate of welcoming the stranger; 3) Pence’s passage of legislation that redistributed funding for public schools meant to lower-income communities like we have here in Marion saw sharp cuts in school budgets. Students saw this as anything but caring for the least of these. (Our county in Indiana already has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the state, so diminished public funding for the schools didn’t go over well).

University administrators were bracing for a protest during the commencement address. They actually warned the faculty that they had heard rumors that some students were planning and reminded us that CSPAN was going to be filming so we should stay calm if anything occurred.  In the end, the students were very respectful.  Because of all the drama in the run-up to the commencement there were some who wanted to make sure they showed support for Pence and gave his address an immediate standing ovation.  I’d estimate that about a quarter of the students did not stand up.

What does any of this say about evangelicals support for Trump now that he’s picked Pence as a running mate?  I have no idea.  But I thought it was interesting that even within this evangelical university there are a sizable group of students who don’t agree with Pence’s politics on religious grounds. For what it’s worth.

Indiana Wesleyan University and Houghton College Will Collaborate

Houghton College campus

Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, IN) and Houghton College (Houghton, NY) are both Wesleyan colleges and members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  Inside Higher Ed is reporting a “partnership” between the two schools.  Indiana Wesleyan is known for its massive continuing education and online programs.  Houghton is known in Christian college circles as a traditional residential liberal arts college.  But in response to financial difficulties the upstate New York college has recently undergone a refocusing that will put a greater emphasis on online courses and continuing education.

Here is the Inside Higher Ed brief:

Indiana Wesleyan University and Houghton College, in New York, have announced plans for collaboration. Both colleges are part of the Wesleyan Church. While details of the partnership haven’t been finalized, the idea is to share areas of expertise. Houghton is a traditional, residential institution, and Indiana Wesleyan officials hope to learn from its strengths in internships and study abroad. In turn, Indiana Wesleyan plans to share its approaches to growth and serving campuses off of its traditional campus. Indiana Wesleyan has nearly 3,000 students on its main campus, but has grown considerably with adult students (more than 12,500 of them) who enroll online or at centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The university also recently announced plans to acquire a Christian-oriented arts college in Australia.

Here is the Houghton press release concerning this new partnership.