Tag Archives: Christian

How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

dartmouth.jpgCrossing the snow-covered Dartmouth green one night, I stopped, looked around, and asked, “Who owns this place, and by what right?” More than half a century later, I have still not resolved a complete answer to that question. But I can give you my short-form response: A small group of willful people, mostly money men disdainful of undergraduate education, have stacked the board of trustees, made an unannounced decision to convert a liberal arts college into a major research university, and “earned” themselves huge commissions on sales of their own securities to the college’s endowment while keeping details of the transactions secret.

A note on the history: Most of America’s early colleges were founded
by church denominations, whose control gradually weakened as costs and
instructional quality rose. The pivotal stage in this history occurred
in the decades following the Civil War, when alumni, having assumed the
major burden of support, began asserting claims for seats on the board
of trustees. Dartmouth alumni battled longest and won the most
significant concessions in 1891. Responsibility for the college was to
be vested in each and every alumnus; excepting the ex officio members
(the state’s governor and the college president), half the trustees
would thereafter be elected directly by the alumni body, and the other
half by the entire board.

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The Battle at Vanderbilt Goes National

Various colleges and universities have tried for years to hobble or eliminate Christian student groups. Some of these institutions have succeeded in forcing these groups to knuckle under. Other administrations have backed down rather than face lawsuits. The primary tactic has been using anti-discrimination regulations to force these groups to allow non-believers as officers. Evangelical groups, though they believe homosexuality is condemned by the Bible, must allow gay officers. Atheists and anti-Christians must be accepted too. This makes no more sense than forcing science groups to accept flat-earthers and Jewish groups to allow Holocaust-deniers.

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Emmer and Keeton–Two Terrible Decisions on Academic Freedom

Emmer and Keeton.pngIt’s
not often that a university’s personnel decision is so egregious that even the
editorial pages of the local newspaper denounce it. That occurred with Hamline
University, whose seemingly rescinded appointment to Tom Emmer generated a
blistering editorial
from the Minneapolis

Between 2004 and 2010, Emmer served as a prominent member of
the Republican caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In 2010, he
gave up his legislative seat to launch a bid for governor, running on a very
conservative platform; despite trailing by considerable margins in polls
throughout the race, he wound up losing by less than one percent of the vote.
After a year in the private sector, Emmer decided to try out academia, and
Hamline’s Business School made arrangements for him to teach a course in
business law and serve as an “executive in residence” for a
state/local public policy program that the school was starting. It seemed that
both sides considered the semester as a trial run for a possible permanent

Continue reading Emmer and Keeton–Two Terrible Decisions on Academic Freedom

The Road to Censorship, Paved With Good Intentions

For more than a decade, universities have forced Christian student groups to fight a rather puzzling battle. In a campus environment where it’s assumed that Democratic student groups can reserve leadership for Democrats, environmentalist groups can be run by actual environmentalists, and socialist groups can have socialist leaders, Christian groups have been fighting for the right to Christian leadership. The conflict is between the civil liberties of Christian organizations and university nondiscrimination policies, which tend to prohibit “religious” discrimination but permit groups to discriminate on the basis of ideology and politics.

The first truly public fight occurred at Tufts University, where an openly lesbian woman attempted to lead Tufts Christian Fellowship, expressing disagreement not only with the group’s religious beliefs but also a desire to use her leadership platform to openly advocate her dissenting views. Not content to form her own group or to lead other Christian groups that promised to welcome her with open arms, she determined that every group on campus had to agree with her vision of sexual morality.

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Religion on Campus, Then and Now

                           By Jonathan B. Imberreligion.bmp

Until 1969, on the campus where I teach, all students were required to take two semester s of Bible, which made the Department of Religion a central force in the life of the institution.  When I arrived twelve years later, with no Bible requirement any longer in place, the only remnant of a mutually reinforcing dynamic of religion and religiosity was the continuing office of the college chaplain.  In fact, my first committee assignment was to the Chaplaincy Policy Committee.  The chaplain sought the faculty’s counsel about how to integrate the role of the chaplaincy into the life of the College.  Alas, in my early years, the Chaplaincy Policy Committee was eliminated, representing more than a lack of purpose.  The truth was that the office of chaplain needed to be reinvented.

The Long Escape

Before describing that reinvention, let me look back at one of the grand traditions of American Protestantism, which, after all, was the central force in the creation of most of the small, liberal arts colleges across America.  In New England, until well into the nineteenth century, a large number of the men who attended these private colleges went on to become ministers.  The public universities were already well ahead in providing opportunities for other occupations, but it was not until the end of the nineteenth century, with the founding of such universities as Johns Hopkins, that the shape and mission of most elite schools took on their modern and quite similar character. 

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School Officials Attack Easter, Thanksgiving and White Oppression

A column by Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the financially strapped Lakeville, Minn., school district (94 teachers let go) found enough money to send a delegation to the annual state “White Privilege Conference” now going on in Bloomington. Carol Iannone at Phi Beta Cons picked up the story, as did blogger Hans Bader at the Washington Examiner. Bader said the Conferences have lashed out at Easter, Thanksgiving and of course, white people. “Past speakers at White Privilege Conferences, ” Bader writes, “include Obama’s Department of Education appointee Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay. Lesbian, Straight Education Network.”  The Seattle school district, a veteran participant in the White Privilege meetings, has claimed for years that “individualism ” is a form of “cultural racism,” and insisted that Easter eggs be referred to as “spring spheres,” to avoid offending non-Christians.

More Wreckage from Ginsburg’s ‘Neutral’ Ruling

When the Supreme Court ruled in June that public universities could deny official recognition to a Christian student group that barred openly gay people as members because homosexual acts are considered sinful by many Christian churches, some commentators hoped that the 5-4 ruling would be construed as a narrow one that permitted but did not require campuses to enforce their anti-bias policies in ways that interfered with religious belief. (Writing for the high court majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the state-supported Hastings College of Law’s policy of requiring student groups to take all comers in order to qualify for official status was a neutral one that did not interfere with religious freedom.)
Think again, optimistic commentators. Already this summer two federal lower-court judges have used the high court’s decision in Christian Legal Society of the University of California vs. Martinez to uphold the right of two different tax-supported universities to expel Christian graduate students from counseling programs because those students could not in good conscience agree with the fashionable prevailing ideology—endorsed by the American Counseling Association—that homosexual activity is morally neutral and that gay people should be counseled in “affirming” ways that essentially endorse their lifestyles.
It turns out that the word “permit” is the operative one. University and college administrators have interpreted the Martinez decision as giving them carte blanche to restrict religious expression on campus as long as administrators could characterize the restrictions as “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns,” in the words of Ginsburg. After the Martinez decision came down, David French, a senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents both graduate students, said that the Supreme Court’s June ruling set in motion “a disturbing trend” of “excessive deference to university administrators” that would allow them to enforce politically correct speech codes simply by making them into curricular requirements that they could argue were neutral on their face.

Continue reading More Wreckage from Ginsburg’s ‘Neutral’ Ruling

Accept Our School’s Belief System, or You’re Gone

Jennifer Keeton, age 24, is a student in the graduate counselor education program at Augusta State University, Georgia. Faculty members at ASU have informed Ms. Keeton that she will be dismissed if she does not rid herself of beliefs that the school opposes. She holds traditional Christian views about sexuality and gender, and believes homosexuality is a “lifestyle,” not a “state of being,” as her school teaches. She agrees with her faculty that counselors should never impose their views on clients, and is not accused of saying or believing that she should. She also says she affirms the inherent dignity of all persons, regardless of their views or sexual behavior.
That wasn’t good enough for ASU. The school ordered Keeton to attend a “remediation program” in multicultural re-education and sensitivity training. An assistant professor suggested she attend the Gay Pride parade in Augusta, and she was told to file written reports on how she is moving toward the sexual belief system her school requires. She reluctantly agreed to accept the remediation, then backed out, saying in an email to faculty members, “I understand the need to reflect client’s goals and to allow them to work toward their own solutions, and I know I can do that… (but) I can’t alter my biblical beliefs, and I will not affirm the morality of those behaviors in a counseling situation.” She says she was told by two assistant professors that “it was a life and death matter to not affirm a client’s sexual decision, and that failure to do so has led and could lead to suicides by clients who are not affirmed in their sexual preferences.”
On Keeton’s behalf, the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit yesterday against teachers, deans and regents of ASU, charging violations of freedom of speech and religion.

Long Before Hastings There Was Tufts

This is a U.S. News column I wrote a decade ago about the first highly publicized attempt by gays and their allies to use anti-discrimination regulations to “derecognize” (i.e., eliminate) campus religious groups that oppose non-marital sex, including homosexuality. The Christian Fellowship at Tufts said it supported gay rights and welcomed gay members, but drew the line at candidates for leadership who denied the group’s theology. The decision to derecognize was a student decision, overturned quickly after a burst of publicity and vague threats to sue. I assumed at the time that if cases like this at public universities (Tufts is private) ever got to the Supreme Court, the result would be a no-brainer 9-0 decision in favor of three rather important First Amendment concerns—freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. How naive.

Tufts University in Medford, Mass., is punishing a campus evangelical group for refusing to allow practicing homosexuals into its leadership positions.
A student tribunal, the Tufts Community Union Judiciary, voted to “derecognize” the Tufts Christian Fellowship. This means that the evangelicals will have trouble functioning on campus. They will not be able to reserve rooms for meetings, publicize events in campus listings, or even use bulletin boards. They are forbidden to use the Tufts name, and they will lose their share of student-activity money doled out to all student groups, some $5,700 a year. One administrator was quoted as telling the group, “I don’t mean to get dramatic or anything, but essentially, on the Tufts campus, you do not exist.”

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CLS v. Martinez: A Curious and Mistaken Decision

Ponder this: According to the most current Supreme Court authority, a group of students can form a local chapter of a violent national organization, refuse to promise that they won’t disrupt the campus, and still have a right to be recognized by the university. At the same time, however, if the university has a certain, peculiar kind of policy on its books, it can refuse to recognize a small group of religious students who merely want to conduct Bible studies led by members of their own faith.
In 1972, the Supreme Court decided Healy v. James, a landmark case that granted a Connecticut chapter of Students for a Democratic Society the right to exist on a public campus in spite of the fact that SDS chapters nationwide had seized and vandalized buildings, destroyed scholarly research, started fires, and caused campus disruptions that had shut down all university instruction for extended periods. When university officials pointedly asked if the local SDS chapter would disrupt its own campus, they replied that their “action would have to be dependent upon each issue.”
Faced with possible violence, the university refused to recognize the SDS. The students sued, and the Supreme Court issued a ringing opinion upholding student rights on campus. Specifically, the Court found that students had a freedom of association interest in student group recognition:

There can be no doubt that denial of official recognition, without justification, to college organizations burdens or abridges that associational right. The primary impediment to free association flowing from nonrecognition is the denial of use of campus facilities for meetings and other appropriate purposes.

Fast-forward to 2010. This year the court heard yet another university student organization case, this one involving not a potentially violent group, but its opposite: a small group of students who wanted to host Bible studies on campus. The Christian Legal Society was denied recognition at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. But CLS’s sin was very different from SDS’s: CLS simply wanted its voting members and leaders to share the group’s faith and live accordingly.

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Bake Sale Argument in the Supreme Court

On Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a case that pitted the right to free association against the principle of non-discrimination.
Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, part of the University of California system, has a policy stating that recognized student organizations “shall not discriminate unlawfully on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation.” Based on that policy, it refused to grant official recognition (and hence access to college facilities, student funds, student email lists, etc) to the Christian Legal Society because that organization limited voting membership and the right to be an officer to those who share its Christian views.
According to critics, such as Justice Scalia, Hastings’ policy is both “weird” and “crazy.”

It is so weird to require the campus Republican Club to admit Democrats — not just to membership, but to officership,” Scalia said. “To require this Christian society to allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes, right? That’s crazy.

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Heckler’s Veto in Texas and an Apology at Duke

A heckler’s veto at Tarleton State University in Texas has stopped a class production of an excerpt of the Terence McNally play, Corpus Christi, which depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals. Canceling the presentation was a mistake. It was made by a professor running his own class, not the university administration, which muddles the free-speech issue slightly. Still, it was an act of censorship made in response to threats. When a speaker or staged event draws threats, the job of an administration is to provide security, not to stand by and let a menacing crowd get its way. One of the protesters’ slogans was “Blasphemy is not free speech,” but of course it is. Sadly, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst took the side of censorship, saying, “Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans.” So the only plays allowed to be staged would be those morally approved by large numbers of Americans.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram got it right editorially: “Yes, the play’s premise is as offensive to some Christians as representing the prophet Muhammad as a dog is to some Muslims. But people in this country don’t have a constitutional right not to be offended.”
In an open letter, the president of Tarleton State, F. Dominic Tattovio, sounded the same note: “Like every citizen of the country, the student who chose to direct excerpts from the play enjoys his right to free speech. This right is protected by law even if the speech is offensive to others.”
On another censorship front, the Duke women’s center apologized today for cancelling a discussion on student motherhood on grounds that the sponsor of the event was holding a pro-life event elsewhere on campus. A representative of the center said, “I have taken steps to ensure that such an incident will not happen again.”

The Death of a Radical


The death of feminist philosopher, theologian and former Boston College professor Mary Daly earlier this month at the age of 81 received fairly little notice in the media. What attention Daly did receive, however, was almost entirely of the positive kind. Time magazine ran a short obituary by fellow radical feminist Robin Morgan, who eulogized Daly as “a fierce intellectual, an intrepid scholar, a wicked wit and an uncompromising radical” as well as “a central figure in contemporary feminist thought.” A Boston Globe editorial called Daly “a fighter” as well as “a vital figure in feminism and in the recent history of Catholicism in America,” while acknowledging that her radicalism was at times excessive.

Trained as a Roman Catholic theologian, Daly eventually became a self-proclaimed ‘post-Christian’ whose vitriolic anti-Catholicism went far beyond liberal demands for reform. She wrote, notably, that ‘a woman’s asking for equality in the church would be comparable to a black person’s demanding equality in the Ku Klux Klan.’ She continued, nonetheless, to teach at Catholic Boston College for more than 30 years, despite openly deriding that school as ‘a laboratory for patriarchal tricks.’

Daly’s most notorious moment came in 1999, when she became embroiled in a controversy about her policy of barring men from her “Introduction to Feminist Ethics” course. A Boston College senior, Duane Naquin, complained. Since Daly’s practices were a clear violation of one of the feminists’ favorite laws, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments – which forbids educational institutions that benefit from any federal funds to discriminate on the basis of gender, except for single-sex schools – the college ordered her to admit Naquin into the class. Daly discontinued the class instead. After a prolonged squabble, she either she either resigned (according to the college) or was kicked out (according to her).

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Is It Bias?

This is a letter to the editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, responding to a Sun report today about a campus Christian group apparently violating anti-discrimination rules by not allowing a gay student to become a leader.

To the Editor:
Alex Berg (“Outcry Erupts from Alleged Homophobia” April 23) seems to think the Chris Donohoe case is simply a matter of bias and homophobia. Actually it isn’t. Both anti-discrimination rules and freedom of religion are important, but you should know that religious groups hold the trump cards here and have been winning most of these clashes on campuses around the country. The reason is that no court, no political official, certain no university or student panel, can tell a religious group what to believe or insist that someone who does not accept the group’s belief system be accepted as a leader.
The first time I noticed this kind of dispute was at Tufts in 2000 in a case very similar to the one at Cornell today. A female student, running for office in a campus Evangelical group, said she had been struggling with her sexuality, faced the fact that she was bisexual and had come to the conclusion that Christian belief is compatible with a homosexual life. The Group said she could stay as a member–in fact they said they loved her– but couldn’t become an officer. The Christian group was de-funded, de-recognized, not even allowed to use bulletin boards. Tufts backed down quickly when the concept of religious freedom was explained and a few lawyers for the Evangelicals showed up. Conservative Christian groups may be wrong about homosexuality, but every group based on a set of beliefs is entitled to control its own message. Now the pattern is for universities to allow loopholes in anti-bias rules for “sincerely held religious beliefs” (Ohio State’s wording).
And it’s not just religious organizations. If every student is eligible to join and rise in any group, what would prevent a hundred or so Republicans flooding into a Democratic club and reversing the group’s message? Do we really think that Hillel is bound to accept Holocaust-deniers or that a science club must allow flat-earth officers?
John Leo
Editor, MindingtheCampus.com

The Perennial Issue—Free Speech

We belatedly came across two free-speech articles this morning, one a year old, the other a week old. The year-old story is vaguely similar to the current Obama-at-Notre-Dame issue. John Corvino, a gay ex-Catholic who teaches philosophy at Wayne State, was invited to speak on gay rights at Aquinas College, a Catholic institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On the morning of the long-planned event, Corvino got a phone call from the college postponing his talk. A week later the talk was canceled. The president of the college said, “We want to explore the issue from an academic perspective, not from the perspective of an antagonistic attack to core Catholic values.” But Corvino had not sounded antagonistic, and professed deep respect for the Catholic faith, though he no longer believes much of it. “Homosexuality is an issue on which many thoughtful and decent people still disagree,” he said. “Ignoring this disagreement won’t make it go away, so instead let’s strive for productive dialogue.” The dialogue occurred off-campus. Students found a site and Corvino delivered his talk, thus saving the honor of the college.

The week-old article, which we put up in our Commentary section today, appeared on the Philadelphia Inquirer site, headlined—sensibly enough—“Colleges Can Handle Controversy Without Squelching Free Speech.” In the article, Charles Mitchell, program director of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, congratulated Millersville University for not canceling a speech by William Ayers, the ex-Weatherman. The university’s invitation to Ayers touched off an uproar of protest, some of it from state legislators. To its great credit, Indiana University of Pennsylvania also refused to withdraw a speaking invitation, this one to Ward Churchill. Mitchell wrote that no college is obliged to invite Ayers or Ward Churchill, but once invited, they can’t be disinvited for fear of controversy.

Exactly so. Most of the speakers disinvited by colleges and universities are on the right, given the politics of our campuses, but conservatives who speak up for their own should make clear that they stand for free speech across the spectrum. That happened when a political move to fire Edwin Chemerinsky as dean of the new law school at the University of California, Irvine. Many of Chemerinsky’s loudest defenders were conservatives and libertarians who don’t much like his politics.

One the problems with colleges lecture programs is that faculty and students often tend to ignore balance, often because the intellectual currents on campus flow only one way. At Columbia University, for example, it’s a sure bet that any speaker canceled or shouted down is either on the right or in disfavor with the left. The Minutemen leaders, instance, were invited, shouted down and canceled, then re-invited a year later and canceled again, all without a peep of protest from the left. Mitchell suggests that faculty and students submit a lit of proposed speakers well in advance, so administrations can make sure a range of perspectives is considered. That sounds right. Uproars are less likely if a genuine variety of speakers is approved and listed for all to see.

Who Is the Real “Fascist Bastard”?

The case of Jonathan Lopez, the Los Angeles Community college student who allegedly was called a “fascist bastard” by his speech professor for delivering a Christian speech, has indeed touched a nerve, as his lawyer, David French of the Alliance Defense Fund said.

Once again the mainstream press got a few things askew. The Los Angeles Times, reporting Lopez’s suit over the issue, said the student was delivering a speech against gay marriage. Other news outlets, from UPI to MSNBC, picking the story up from the Times, said so too. But there’s no evidence on the table for that. Lopez cited Romans 10:9 and Matthew 22:37-38, which don’t deal with marriage at all. Maybe Lopez did refer to gay marriage somewhere in his speech. We don’t really know what set the professor off. Legal papers filed by Lopez say the speech was about God and miracles.

The Times reporter also thought the Lopez lawsuit raised a difficult issue “testing the balance between First Amendment rights and school codes on offensive speech.” Some reporters, conditioned by campus orthodoxy, think constitutional rights and unconstitutional speech codes somehow have equal weight. But “balance” is not an issue here and there is no evidence so far that Lopez did anything wrong. According to his court papers, he was asked to give a speech on any subject of his own choosing and did so, but the teacher didn’t like the topic, called him a “fascist bastard” and refused to give him a mark. Lopez says the teacher said, “Ask God for a grade.” What made Lopez a “fascist bastard”? If voting for a referendum opposing gay marriage does it, then California contains more than seven million “fascist bastards.” If belief in Christianity is the test, then the state is probably home to 20 million or so FBs.

As usual when some aspect of the dominant campus belief system is challenged, the first reaction is to condemn and punish, not to tolerate or discuss. Ordinarily, a quick appeal is made to a broad and vague speech code. Since speech codes are unconstitutional at public colleges, speech-control rules are often embedded in sexual harassment regulations or disguised as a code of behavior. The code of Los Angeles Community College bans “verbal, visual or physical conduct” that “has the purpose or effect of having a negative impact upon the individual’s work or academic performance.” What, exactly, is a “negative impact”? No one really knows, but anyone formally accused of having one, even unintentionally, is in danger of being found guilty. But every so often, word gets out about these Star Chamber proceedings, and if the publicity is high enough and the student threatens to sue, the college has to back down. That seems to be the scenario here. Campus restrictions on free speech are still suffocating, but sometime dissenters win.

A Crucifix Controversy at BC

Over the winter break, Boston College placed in its classrooms crucifixes and other Christian symbols, many of them brought back from historically Catholic countries by BC students studying there. To the surprise of no one, this turned out to be controversial at the Jesuit-run institution. Any lurch in the direction of religion by religious colleges is bound to leave some professors aghast. Chemistry professor Amir Hoveyda said: “A classroom is a place where I am supposed, as a teacher, to teach without any bias, to teach the truth. And when you put an icon or an emblem or a flag, it confuses the matter.” There’s a lot to unpack in that statement. Professor Hoveyda apparently thinks he will be unable to teach the truths of chemistry in a classroom containing a Christian symbol. The power of a Jesus image is apparently so strong that the professor believes he will be unable to function in a bias-free manner
And it isn’t just a crucifix. In his view, “an icon, an emblem or a flag” automatically brings bias to the class. (Make that the American flag, which is recurrently controversial in the academy and disdained by many as a symbol of imperialist aggression. It was banned on some campuses after 9/11 out of deference to foreign students who might have been as unsettled by its presence). The casual linking of flag and crucifix as troubling images recalls the writings of sociologist Peter Berger. He saw a connection between the increasing obeisance of believers to the “cultured despisers of religion” and the increasingly “large number of Americans (who ) seem to apologize for the basic character if not the very existence of their own country.” Both forms of back-pedaling, he thought, point to a hollowing out of traditional symbols.
A few professors used the “discomfort” argument, a powerful one on the modern campus: anything that makes me feel uncomfortable is intolerable. This puts the crucifix in the same category as the painting that discombobulated a feminist professor at Penn State years ago. She said she felt harassed by a copy of Goya’s famous “Naked Maja,” though the painting had been hanging there in class for decades before it began harassing her. The “discomfort” argument can also be called “the sensitive person’s veto.” The only way to avoid the veto is to ban any imagery that offends anyone, even Christian images at Christian colleges. To its credit, BC is unwilling to do that.

Why Christian Colleges Are Thriving

Evangelical colleges and universities have been thriving. According to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the one hundred or so “intentionally Christ-centered institutions” that they count among their affiliates have been growing at a remarkably faster rate than have other major sorts of American colleges and universities. From 1990 to 2004, all public four-year campuses grew by about 13%, all independent four year campuses (including many schools with broad religious or denominational connections) grew by about 28%. But schools associated with the CCCU grew by nearly 71%.
One factor contributing to this growth is that these schools offer the sort of coherent educational experience that has become increasingly difficult to find elsewhere in American higher education. By way of contrast, consider Harry R. Lewis’s, Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education (2006). Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, laments that Harvard is driven by so many competing careerist and ideological interests that there is little attention either in the curriculum or among faculty (who are rewarded only for scholarship) to fostering healthy personal and moral growth among its students. If that is the case at Harvard, one can imagine the incoherence of the educational experience at the huge state universities and the many community colleges where the vast majority of America’s collegians get their degrees. Most of what students study involves practical skills in preparation for careers. Liberal arts are incidental to most undergraduate experience. The best hope for “community” is found in fraternities and sororities or more likely just in a dorm containing many sub-groups of those who happen to find common recreational interests.

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Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?

The overwhelming majority of American catholic colleges won’t be honoring public figures that flout church teaching at this year’s commencement exercises, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, the conservative Catholic watchdog group. Of the hundreds of men and women who will be awarded honorary degrees by the nation’s 225 Catholic universities this month, the Society labels only 6 as dissenters on key moral issues (abortion, as always, seems to be the biggie), down from 24 in 2006 and 13 in 2007, according to the Boston Globe.

As the Globe’s Michael Paulson points out, pro-choice catholic politicians are the most obvious snubs. Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy, all regulars on the commencement speaker circuit, will not be addressing a catholic college’s graduating class this year.

Many catholic schools, particularly the smaller, more conservative institutions, seem to have genuinely taken to heart the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops advice from 2004 that “the Catholic community and the institutions which are a part of our family of faith should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

For schools like Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College, which have large, politically diverse student bodies and faculties, as well as the prestige to lure big names if they want to, the move away from politicians as speakers may also be borne at least in part from a desire to avoid partisan rancor that detracts from the communal nature of commencement. Boston College, in particular, has drawn ire from all directions over its choice in partisan honorees in the past. Extending invitations to socially liberal honorees like Warren B. Rudman (1992) and Janet Reno (1997) has been panned by more conservative voices within the church, while attempts to honor Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice (2006) and Michael Mukasey (Law School, 2008) have angered pacifist Jesuits on campus and the more left-leaning lay faculty. It’s not surprising that this year the school opted for the very non-controversial historian David McCullough.

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Catholic Colleges Lose Their Character?

Among today’s postings is an article asking whether hiring professors strictly by excellence isn’t a way to guarantee that Catholic colleges will, in time, lose their Catholic character and become secular. The article, “Academic Excellence Is Not an Excellent Criterion“, is by Georgetown University associate professor of government Patrick Deneen and it appeared in the campus publication The Hoya. Deneen serves as director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy. If affirmative action allows veering away from excellence to raise the number of women and minorities on campus, he asks, how is it wrong to actively and consciously recruit Catholic faculty to safeguard Georgetown’s religious tradition? Reader reactions to Deneen are worth reading too.

No Quarter For Nichol

Although the mainstream media would have you believe he was a martyr to religious fundamentalists and moral Pecksniffs, Gene Nichol lost his job as president of the College of William and Mary in Virginia for only one reason: he was a lousy administrator who seemed not to be able to get it into his head that one of the main jobs of a college president is to raise money from alumni and others and thus to cultivate good public relations for the institution he represents. Nichol seemed to think that he had been hired by the college’s governing Board of Visitors in 2005 to thumb his nose at sundry traditionalists, and his in-your-face actions cost William and Mary at least one $12 million donation along with a great deal of good will among Virginia citizens toward the venerable and highly rated liberal-arts school.

Yes, William and Mary, located adjacent to the famous colonial-days tourist site in Williamsburg, Va., is a state-run institution, as Nichol never ceased reminding the many critics of his unilateral decision last November to remove a 70-year-old cross from the altar of the college’s historic Wren Chapel, which dates almost to the college’s founding in 1693. Like many quality state schools, William and Mary is highly dependent on private donations to cover its costs, especially since the state of Virginia has been steadily reducing its contribution to the college’s budget, cutting $3 million in 2007. Alumni and generous Virginia citizens are important stakeholders at William and Mary.

The cross, donated to the chapel by a William and Mary alumnus in 1931 and symbolizing William and Mary’s Anglican heritage, had been the subject of no known complaints by students. The Wren Chapel has been regularly used for non-Christian religious services as well as secular functions for several decades, and when non-Christians used the space, they simply removed the cross temporarily. Nichol decided, in the fall of 2006, without consulting anyone, that the cross violated the First Amendment’s ban on establishment of religion so he had it removed. After a huge uproar among students, alumni, and members of the Board of Visitors, Nichol allowed the return of the cross, although in a glass display case.

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I Pray That Sacrilege Is Protected

Rhode Island College received national attention recently when the student newspaper published a cartoon depicting Jesus as the perfect roommate complete with smelly feet, turning water into wine like a card-trick at the weekly keg party. Many people objected but the College was correct to say that they wouldn’t restrict the student’s first amendment rights.

At the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, a Christian group was barred from discussing the bible in a dorm room. It’s ironic that in a country where the cardinal sin of state schools is saying prayers, sacrilege is still protected. How did this happen?

Long ago, a student was forced to salute the American flag in a public school. Being a Jehovah’s Witness, which forbids allegiance to political institutions or symbols, the student objected. The resulting Supreme Court case, West Virginia v. Barnette (1943), declared that the state may not restrict freedom of thought or speech and as such could not force the student to pledge allegiance.

In the Majority opinion, Justice Jackson wrote, “But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom… If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”

Most of us find the “Jesus cartoon” childish, but it’s their right to be offensive. If students have free speech when it comes to callow cartoons depicting Christ, social work candidates at the school engaged in honest academic debate have not fared so well. This should come as no surprise to anyone who read the National Association of Scholars report, “The Scandal of Social Work Education,” released September 11, 2007.

The report is the result of extensive investigations involving the top ten universities and three student case studies. The openly expressed and privately enforced requirements of “social justice” highlight the institutional oppression of thought enforced via selective approval of first amendment rights.

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Administrative Orthodoxy At Ave Maria

Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, Ave Maria University, and the town of Ave Maria, Florida (in that order) obviously isn’t attracting media acclaim in his effort to establish a conjoined orthodox Catholic University and Catholic town on a former tomato farm in Southwest Florida. No, he comes off as something as something of an Inquisitor, putting a farm of happily secular Florida tomatoes to the sword to make room for a bishopric of right-wing Catholics. The caviling about Monaghan, for the most part, is easily explained; Monaghan has explicitly proclaimed his intention of creating an orthodox Catholic University, and his critics despise the thought.

Monaghan’s truly revolutionary step here isn’t imagining a university – it’s that he hasn’t simply handed his dream over to the standard mush of college administration, but has remained deeply involved with the project – so far as to literally uproot the college over several states. The college’s move from the Midwest to Southwest Florida is a rather dramatic example of a founder’s influence, but American higher education seems to have altogether forgotten the experience of a living founder in this day of universal rule by amorphous faculty-trustee-administrator confederation (aka “our costs will always go up but no one knows who’s responsible”). Faculties are accustomed to Presidents who can be curbed when overly outspoken (Laurence Summers) and administrations are accustomed to routinely ignoring the wishes of donors and trustees (the Bass donation at Yale, the Robertson donation at Princeton). Monaghan is a very different quantity in this mix, an individual who hasn’t been content to see his wishes run aground in the morass of standard academic decision-making. He’s continued to exert a very active role in his University – a step that professors would see in almost any case as a clear intrusion into their purlieus.

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Professors And God: Any Connection?

By Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio

A report by Gary Shapiro in yesterday’s New York Sun carried some surprising information about the religiosity of college professors: though less religious than the general population, the majority believe in God. Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Barnard, was quoted as saying that the new data helps to refute the notion that academics are mostly atheists and agnostics.

But let’s turn on the caution light. The study of 1500 college professors at twenty top institutions that grant bachelors degrees, conducted by Neil Gross (Harvard) and Solon Simmons (George Mason), did indeed find that a slight majority claims to be religious. The numbers, not listed in the Sun, showed that 35.7 percent say “I know God really exists and I have no doubt about it,” while 16.9 percent reported “while I have my doubts, I feel I do believe in God.” Atheists and agnostics accounted for 23.4 percent of professors reporting.

The most heavily religious professors in the study teach accounting, followed by professors of elementary education, finance, marketing, art and criminal justice. The least religious professors were in biology, psychology, economics, political science and computer science. Research-oriented professors and faculty at elite institutions are significantly less religious than other academics. Only twenty percent of these academics “have no doubt that God exists.” The implications for the larger culture of these findings are crucial. Professors who are the least religious and most hostile to religion are the ones most likely to be writing textbooks, articles and monographs, and the ones whose opinions are most sought after by the media. It is these ideas of irreligious professors that carry the most prestige among the punditocracy, dominate elite discourse, and filter down to the general public. Liberal arts professors are much less likely than accounting professors to believe in God. The liberal arts and social science professors are the ones who most often express opinions on religion and deal with issues involving religion and morality in the classroom.

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What Happened to Antioch?

Antioch is no more. The venerable college is closing its doors this fall. Antioch University – which has other operations – will continue, but its flagship college is finished.

Its namesake, the ancient city in Turkey, had its ups and downs too, after it was founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Earthquakes, invasions, rebellions. The usual stuff. At one point Antioch was the world’s third-largest city, behind Rome and Alexandria, perhaps topping 600,000 people. But it was down to 200,000 by the fourth century AD.

The devoutly Christian founders of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, however, were no doubt less moved by the exceptional regard that Roman Emperors had for the strategic site than they were by the city’s key role in the book of Acts. Barnabas and Paul begin (Acts 11) their proselytizing there; Paul preaches in the synagogue; but Antioch also becomes the first city in which the followers of Jesus reach out to the gentiles, and the first place the followers were called Christians. Antioch is also the base for Paul’s subsequent missionary voyages.

When Judge William Mills, the Rev. Derostus F. Ladley, the Rev. Henry Whitney Bellows, Elder J. McKee and other Unitarians and members of the liberal denomination that called itself simply “the Christian Church” founded a new college in 1852, they chose the name for their enterprise audaciously. Calling it Antioch College enunciated an emphatically outward-looking Christian mission and a “we’re-going-to-change-the-world” attitude. They asked Horace Mann to be the College’s first president and it took many by surprise when the nation’s leading educational reformer accepted the offer. Mann plunged ahead with building a college that made it strongest stands in admitting women; eschewing “sectarian influence,” and promoting hygiene. The College’s first Catalogue also preached self-control:

The best knowledge is no match for bad habits. But true knowledge and virtuous habits will say to the demons of appetite and sensuality, Get ye behind me.

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