Comment on “Autonomy and Academic Freedom”: WASC’s 2010 Review of LSU by Susie.
WASC has confirmed where La Sierra’s allegiance lies and it is not to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. If this is the standard: academic freedom, meeting the expectations of society, diversity, and autonomy from the church —then there is NO reason not to cut the church strings. Church members are owed a refund.
Recent Comments by Susie
Former board member never talked with biology faculty
If ever truth was stranger than fiction, the unfolding La Sierra saga proves that point. Somehow in the midst of this hostile environment where everyone was forbidden to “talk” with everyone else–a tentative/temporary solution was offered. Board members (or two of them, apparently) had the gall to actually listen to and carry on some sort of meaningful communication with the biology teachers. The board appointed committee to analyze the creation/evolution concerns didn’t talk with the biology teachers. (Read their previous report.) I challenge anyone to read through the LSU by-laws and board constraints of recent years and not conclude that there is an extremely dictitorial-style (hide everything behind closed-doors) administration holding on to an inordinate amount of power. Communications between faculty and board members, between board members and the general public, and even between faculty and the general public, are either forbidden or carefully controlled. A few brave souls were willing to put their names on a proposal. Not a declaration. Not a “final document” — a PROPOSAL!! One that turns out to have enough redeeming qualities that the NAD and the LSU board (after having a hissy fit about “process”) were willing to endorse. A biology FACULTY proposal that appears to have been presented as a hopeful gesture to satisfy WASC and AAA or at least keep possibilities of resolution in sight. Our church doesn’t need to worry about the “second grade level” of its membership. Our church needs to worry about the large population of leaders and administrators with the emotional maturity level of two-year-olds.
Four new LSU board members
From my experience of serving on school boards, at least at secondary level, the minutes are always written with brevity and carefully with such phrases as “after discussion, such and such was voted…” The minutes are purposely written as a summary so that the voted actions are available for public access. It was only executive sessions that were kept private. I was not implying that the minutes are posted online or on a bulletin board, only that they are readily accessible if anyone wants to come and look at them. It would be very interesting to know at how many other schools the regular board minutes are categorized as “attorney-client privileged information?” The last constituency meeting at LSU actually had guards at the door, checking I.D.’s so that only those on the approved list could enter. I don’t think it is unfounded to call that what it is—a shroud of secrecy.
Four new LSU board members
The at-large board members have a six year term.
Keeping board meetings (not just executive session items) so very secretive and not disseminating minutes of the meetings, as if everything that happens is equivalent to CIA strategic planning, verifies MLB’s statement about Graham, Wisbey and the attorney Kent Hansen’s determination to maintain a shroud of secrecy. “Disciplining” board members for trying to share concerns with the General Conference is one more evidence of their motto of secrecy at all costs.
As Bob Ryan pointed out: At the very least all are clear that – “LSU FACULTY SENATE AFFIRM ACADEMIC FREEDOM & BIOLOGY COLLEAGUES.”
It is obvious that La Sierra’s “affirmation of creation” is a decoy, that LSU is trying to have it both ways. PUC’s statement sounds like it came from the same hatchery that produced LSU’s “affirmation.” This double speak is being noticed in larger circles than the Educate Truth bloggers. In fact, the “Reports of the National Center for Science Education—Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools” took note of LSU’s support of its biology teachers. From the May-June, 2010 issue, quote:
“California, Riverside: The faculty senate at La Sierra University released a statement on November 6, 2009, supporting the university’s biology department, which (as reported in RNCSE 2009 Nov/Dec; 19 : 6-11) was recently besieged with complaints about its teaching evolution; the university is associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is historically opposed to evolution. The statement (available on-line at http://www.atoday.com/content/lsu-faculty-senate-affirm-academic-freedom-biology-colleagues) affirmed the senate’s ‘strong support for our colleagues in the Department of Biology’ and its ‘commitment to the preservation of academic freedom with intellectual and moral integrity in the context of our heritage, and service as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian University.’ The senate criticized the complaints as not following ‘the protocol established by Jesus and outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 and as making the work and lives of these dedicated Adventist professors more stressful and difficult.'”
Notice the similarity between the above report and the just posted WASC report. Sounds like their interests are identical. These reports confirm that LSU’s genuine affirmation is for academic freedom without any distasteful constraints from its antique SDA-Bible-school heritage. Conclusion: leave LSU’s dedicated, evolution-supporting biology (and religion) professors alone to teach as they see fit, to define god in Darwin’s image, or whatever mutation they choose, and yet continue to keep them employed with their salaries, health insurance and retirement benefits provided through an SDA institution. Now what can possibly be wrong with that? Given the tenor of the times and LSU’s leading example, other schools are likely to follow suit. Voyage on this academic freedom, present truth, WASC appeasing, glitzy Titanic is the choice du jour. Trying to please man rather than God is never a safe course no matter how many “happy” students have embarked.
LSU Board says ‘we apologize’
The memo, letter and attached report involves over 30 pages of double speak to address the creation/evolution controversy—it’s not hard to see where that tactic leads. Despite the words attempting to convey apology and reform and standing true for church principles, at the same time there are statements which excuse or provide convenient outs. Nor are there any real apologies noted. Where is a published apology to the hundreds of students in the past who signed petitions? Where is a published apology to Louie Bishop?
The Board appointed evolution/creation study committee concluded that any tangible hands-on-investigation such as looking at curriculum or visiting classrooms or talking directly with the teachers was beyond their expertise, therefore the Provost conceived the survey idea. But even with the survey results, notice this disclaimer: “The only way in which to fully benchmark these results, however, would be to have this same survey conducted by La Sierra’s sister institutions in North America. Without such comparisons, any criticism of La Sierra’s effectiveness at supporting Adventist beliefs relative to other institutions is speculative, at best. It would be helpful if other Adventist institutions could work on the curriculum challenges surrounding this issue in a collaborative manner.”
The philosophizing in the committee’s report does nothing to clarify; it supports the notion that no matter what is taught, it is under the rubric of higher education and academic freedom (yet still supposedly under the SDA umbrella — an umbrella that they have stretched beyond recognition)..”The educational enterprise by its very nature introduces students to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world that are often very different from what they have known before. This can sometimes create tension and anxiety, but never more so than when the new ideas seem to contradict deeply held belief whether in the social, political or religious domain.” Joel Martin is quoted, “Religion is not a science and should never masquerade as such.” Then further talk of the arrogance of both sides.
How can any organization maintain its distinct identity if it attempts to coexist with pluralism? Truth is always consistent with itself. Those of us who send our children to Adventist schools did not pack their heads full of Santa Clause stories and then complain because our children are being taught something different in their advanced classes. No, we brought them up believing in God, His Word and the foundational principles of Christianity (specifically the SDA worldview) and there is no reason that those beliefs should be attacked and discredited at a Seventh-day Adventist school. “Advanced” instruction in ANY field of learning taught within a SDA institution does not give license to discredit SDA beliefs and values.
Even though LSU is admitting that listening to constituents was lacking on their part, yet: “Nevertheless, at least as worrisome as the issue of how the university’s biology curriculum presents creation and evolution is the hostility and the lack of civility with which some members of the constituency have conducted the dialogue of this issue.” Well, that lets them off the hook! They don’t have to listen to anyone who doesn’t support their agenda, because of course, those people are not “civil” or “reasonable.”
And finally, all of this tempest in a teapot is going to dissipate because: they’re going to have ongoing workshops; ongoing surveys (which are only valid if the other SDA universities do likewise); they bring in people like Chris Oberg to explain scripture and LSU’s administration is on the job—neither faculty nor board members are to speak on their own. The faculty cannot because they are “not experts at speaking outside the classroom” and the Board, by their own by-laws, are required to put smiley rubber stamps on all actions voted by the majority (under the watchful eye of the president and the attorney.) All “results” will be filtered through the administration and PR. Furthermore the Board has been admonished to focus on the more positive aspects of the university. There. It is all fixed. And the future propaganda will verify the fact. Just wait and see.
Amidst all of this scrambling for explanations, where is LSU’s clear statement affirming creation? By comparison, here’s what a clear statement looks like: