Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Is What a Fundamentalist College Might Look Like

Some readers may recall last week's post on fundamentalist colleges and universities.  It was the most popular post of the week.

In that post I responded to Adam Laats's post about how we might define "fundamentalism" in the context of an institution of higher education. (Since then I have read a draft of the chapter on the 1920s in Laats's current project, Fundamentalist U.  It is excellent!).

I think it is fair to say that Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee just might qualify as a "fundamentalist" university.  (Bryan is one of the colleges that Laats is studying as part of his book project).  

Yesterday a friend called my attention to an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press titled "Professors, president clash at Bryan College."  It turns out that the president of the college is not allowing faculty to meet and the student newspaper has been censored. Both the faculty and the students oppose the authoritarian leadership of President Stephen Livesay.  Back in March 2014 the faculty passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Livesay .  In July 2014 four members of the board of trustees resigned. Since then, according to the Times Free Press, Livesay has "pushed out" those who disagree with him on certain theological issues, the most prominent of which is creation science.  Meanwhile, the college is losing students and appears to be having financial difficulties.  

Here is a taste of the Chattanooga Times Free Press article:

DAYTON, Tenn. — Two years after faculty and the president clashed over how a conservative Christian school should be run, some Bryan College professors say they once again feel unheard and disrespected.

Changes recently made by Bryan's administration to this year's Faculty-Administrative Guide make it nearly impossible to call a faculty meeting, some professors say. The new policy restricts how faculty can meet and discuss issues.

It shows the administration's disregard for professors' opinions and the truth, critics say.

"The policies are a shameful and foolish act of the administration's overreach," said professor Phil Lestmann, who has been teaching at the school for decades.

For years, the private Christian college in this town of 7,300 has faced controversy, much of it centered on decisions made by President Stephen Livesay. But despite two tumultuous years and a continually shrinking student body, Livesay has maintained a grasp on the helm, pushing out many who voice disagreement.

Faculty members believe the new policy is in response to their overwhelming vote of no confidence in Livesay that was taken in the spring of 2014. But the school's administration denies this, saying the new policy was written to add legitimacy to the faculty's meetings, if ones are called.

Previously a policy was not in place to outline the requirements faculty would need to use to call a meeting. Under this new policy, a faculty member is required to go through a seven-step process that includes approval from the Academic Council, a written rationale stating the purpose of the meeting and a waiting period of at least a week.

Read the entire article here.

We covered this story here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home when it first broke in 2014.  

Would Bryan qualify as a "fundamentalist" college?