WASC Team Recommends Formal Notice of Concern Regarding LSU

by Sean Pitman
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It looks as if La Sierra University is between a rock and a hard place.  Not only has LSU just hired a new evolutionary biologist, Dr. Raul Diaz (who believes in and promotes life’s existence and evolution on this planet over hundreds of millions of years), the team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges that evaluates LSU has just forwarded a recommendation to the WASC Commission that a “formal Notice of Concern” be issued to La Sierra University.

As reported by Spectrum Magazine two days ago, the WASC letter went on to explain,

“WASC Standards of Accreditation call for institutions affiliated with or supported by religious organizations to have ‘education as their primary purpose and [operate] as an academic institution with appropriate autonomy.’ Institutions are expected to have a history free of ‘interference in substantive decisions or educational functions by … bodies outside the institution’s own governance arrangements.'”

 

From the Spectrum article it also appears that LSU has rewritten its bylaws in an effort to conform to WASC expectations and accreditation standards – to include a truly “independent” board for LSU (presumably independent of church influence or direction).    The WASC directives will be presented to a special meeting of LSU constituencies on February 21, 2013, for a vote.  WASC will then send another inspection team to evaluate LSU’s compliance from March 11-13.

“Then on April 17-18, 2013, the Adventist Accrediting Association is sending a focus group to review its recommendations made to the university.”

Which way will they go?  If they decide to hire and maintain only those professors who will uphold and promote the Adventist perspective on origins and other fundamental doctrinal positions of the church, LSU will probably lose WASC accreditation and government funding.  As an aside, many of the buildings on LSU’s campus are bonded by government funds (Link, Link), but I’m not sure what if any factor this would play?

If, on the other hand, the church relinquishes control of the school and the school’s board as WASC seems to be recommending, it might as well remove its name from the school as well because, for all practical purposes, it really isn’t representative of all the primary goals and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an organization and is, and has long been, actively undermining the church’s position on origins in particular.

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16 thoughts on “WASC Team Recommends Formal Notice of Concern Regarding LSU

  1. Here is a relevant Ellen White statement I noticed a few days ago…

    Reason for Establishment of SDA Colleges–What is the object of establishing colleges among Seventh-day Adventists? It is to provide for our youth, so far as possible, the very best instruction–that which is free from error and in every respect pure from corrupting influences. There are in our land schools in abundance where education in the sciences may be carried to a high point, but they fail to reach the Bible standard of education. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Lord must preside in our institutions of learning, or the object for which they were brought into existence, with great outlay of means, will fail of being accomplished. We profess to believe important truth, that the Lord is soon coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory to take the faithful -272- to the higher school in the mansions He has gone to prepare for them. We should meet a standard very much higher than do those who do not believe these solemn truths.–Letter 25a, 1890, pp. 4, 5. (To Brother Graham, July 14, 1890.) {10MR 271.2}




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  2. If what you have reported is accurate, then WASC isn’t doing its job, since it isn’t holding LSU accountable to principles of true education.

    If these non-Adventist accrediting bodies refuse to do their job, then we may just have to go some other route. They aren’t God, after all.

    Of course, one might argue that WASC’s job is to hold institutions accountable to principles of false education, not principles of true education. But who would or did give it that kind of job? And there have been non-Adventist entities and individuals that have promoted true education.




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  3. “If they decide to hire and maintain only those professors who will uphold and promote the Adventist perspective on origins and other fundamental doctrinal positions of the church, LSU will probably lose WASC accreditation and government funding.”

    I don’t think so. WASC has never said that La Sierra cannot teach creationism. WASC has said that the university must maintain certain standards of autonomy. The issue is autonomy not the substance of what is being taught. Now, of course we all know that WASC is pushing autonomy in order to shield La Sierra from church pressure to uphold the church’s doctrine on origins, but the fact remains that WASC’s letter of concern is about autonomy, not about what is being taught.

    But the frightening thing is that every other Adventist college in the world has the same type of board composition–the union president is ex-officio chair of the board of trustees, and all affiliated conference presidents are also on the board–so WASC’s ruling that La Sierra must change the composition of its Board of Trustees potentially affects every other college in the denomination. A disaster for Adventist higher education is brewing, and the larger church seems to have no clue about it.




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    • @David Read:

      WASC has said that the university must maintain certain standards of autonomy. The issue is autonomy not the substance of what is being taught. Now, of course we all know that WASC is pushing autonomy in order to shield La Sierra from church pressure to uphold the church’s doctrine on origins, but the fact remains that WASC’s letter of concern is about autonomy, not about what is being taught.

      How can a church build and run a school that is supposed to represent the core ideals of the church if the school is pretty much autonomous or independent of the church? Why waste the money on building another autonomous school that can just as soon choose to go secular and promote fundamentally contradictory ideals?




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  4. David Read: Now, of course we all know that WASC is pushing autonomy in order to shield La Sierra from church pressure to uphold the church’s doctrine on origins…

    Bunk. Nonsense. WASC doesn’t care whether La Sierra upholds Church doctrine. WASC does care that LSU represents itself appropriately when seeking accreditation, which requires for good reason that universities have a reasonable level of autotomy and due process.

    You might be right about the disaster brewing for Adventist higher education. Your vigorous pushback against LSU may very well change the Board of Trustees structure for all North American universities. And this on top of a costly lawsuit already in place. Keep up the flogging and let’s see what happens.




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    • @Professor Kent: I think you and Richard are right to the extent that if La Sierra, its administration, its Board, and the Adventist Church had presented a united front, there’s no way that WASC would dare to try to micro-manage curricula or teaching. If creationism were being taught there (it hasn’t been for decades) and WASC came in and threatened to withhold accreditation for that reason, then I think they would be sued on First Amendment grounds and they’d either back down or lose the lawsuit.

      Unfortunately, that wasn’t and isn’t the situation. La Sierra has been teaching straight Darwinism for decades and the church has finally begun to complain. WASC came into a situation in which La Sierra was adversarial to its sponsoring denomination, and WASC was able to frame the issue as one of institutional autonomy, which doesn’t have First Amendment freedom of religion overtones. Even so, as I’ve written over at Spectrum, there’s no way WASC would be demanding changes to the composition of the Board of Trustees if they had not received a strong signal from Wisbey that he was favorable to these changes. Clearly, Wisbey is using WASC to loosen church control over La Sierra. This is what the LSU-4 recorded themselves plotting to do, and this is what is now coming to fruition.

      The lesson here is that, while secular accrediting bodies cannot wrest an institution away from a denomination, once an institution has effectively left a denomination–and is giving signals that it doesn’t want to go back–secular accrediting bodies may be able to effectively keep the sponsoring denomination from re-asserting control on the ground of “institutional autonomy.”




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  5. According to this piece, the WASC demands that LSU be autonomous from outside interference … unless that outside interference be the WASC demanding that it be autonomous. Sounds hypocritical.

    If the WASC can interfere, why can’t a church when the institution it owns begins to incorporate false education and false science into its curriculum?

    From the Spectrum article it also appears that LSU has rewritten its bylaws in an effort to conform to WASC expectations and accreditation standards – to include a truly “independent” board for LSU (presumably independent of church influence or direction).

    If that’s really true, then that sounds a bit like Kellogg getting a new charter which said that the Battle Creek San was non-denominational, and then later using that change to wrest and steal that institution away from the denomination.




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  6. You guys don’t understand accreditation and its obligations, which are mandated by congress. WASC accredits many private universities and fully supports their right to teach religious doctrine. What they require, however, is that the institution functions as an educational institution, and not as a church. They are not in the business of accrediting churches. They do not micromanage what is taught (which you folks wrongly assume). They do require that the institution makes education its primary function, and that it develops and adheres to policy that does not change capriciously because of outside influence. Their concern with the structure of SDA university boards is that the chairman in particular and other members do not have the institution’s educational role as their primary obligation. In the action that resulted in a lawsuit, for example, the chairman acted in his capacity as a church officer and in the interests of the church rather than as a university officer concerned with the best interests of the institution. And in so doing, established policy was bypassed.

    The church can exert its influence in many ways, but does not have to do so by making a church officer the chairman of the board. Having a different board structure does not spell the end of higher Adventist education, which you people seem to think. There are too many fearmongers at this very negative website.




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  7. Richard,

    Either I’m misunderstanding what is allegedly going on, or you are missing the point.

    If a church educational institution, such as LSU, begins to promote evolution as the true story of origins (not just teaching about evolution with an emphasis on the evidence for Biblical creation), and if the church tries therefore to rein it in, and if the WASC says the church can’t do that, then the WASC is meddling with the church’s educational mission, and what the church’s educational institutions can and cannot teach.

    “They do require that the institution makes education its primary function ….”

    True education or false education? If true education, then the WASC should have no problem with the church requiring LSU to stick with true education principles, and to abandon false education principles. It’s fine to require a school to teach about evolution, but requiring a school to promote evolution over creation or intelligent design is a whole different matter.

    By the way, a union president should have the institution’s conformity to true education principles as his primary objective, or else he shouldn’t be chairman of the board. But I think the WASC may be opposed to this, not in favor of it, based on what is being reported.




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  8. According to this earlier post “What is the object of establishing colleges among Seventh-day Adventists? It is to provide for our youth, so far as possible, the very best instruction–that which is free from error and in every respect pure from corrupting influences. There are in our land schools in abundance where education in the sciences may be carried to a high point, but they fail to reach the Bible standard of education. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. ”

    – the Adventist denomination created LSU in the first place – with the intent that it be free from the corrupting influence of non-SDA groups such as WASC.

    Otherwise – why divert limited SDA funds to building LSU – when we could just hire more missionaries and pastors “instead” with that money?

    If WASC is going to define a soft word like “interference” as “AAA authority and oversight in making sure that all professors hired in its institutions are teachingh values and principles consistent with the mission and message of the Seventh-day Adventist church” then we have a problem.

    It is wayyy too late in the game to start pretending that our universities have not been able to train doctors and scientists in many different fields – who have contributed to the area of science in which they chose to study.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  9. David Read: I think you and Richard are right to the extent that if La Sierra, its administration, its Board, and the Adventist Church had presented a united front, there’s no way that WASC would dare to try to micro-manage curricula or teaching.

    What kind of logic is this? There’s no way that WASC would dare try to micro-manage curricula or teaching, so your conditional statement about a “united front” is gobbledygook. Why don’t you take the time to read up what accreditation and WASC standards are all about? You simply don’t know what you are writing about.

    David Read: Unfortunately, that wasn’t and isn’t the situation. La Sierra has been teaching straight Darwinism for decades and the church has finally begun to complain.

    Unsubstantiated malicious donkey dung.

    David Read: there’s no way WASC would be demanding changes to the composition of the Board of Trustees if they had not received a strong signal from Wisbey that he was favorable to these changes.

    Sure, David; you contrived this from your imagination, as you have zero access to the thinking process of anyone that is actually involved with the issue.

    David Read: Clearly, Wisbey is using WASC to loosen church control over La Sierra.

    Clearly, you are perpetuating another of many libelous statements regarding a person whose motivation you have no knowledge whatsoever. Just fanatical speculation.

    David Read: secular accrediting bodies may be able to effectively keep the sponsoring denomination from re-asserting control on the ground of “institutional autonomy.”

    You have quite the imagination. Can’t wait to see your next post.




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  10. BobRyan: the Adventist denomination created LSU in the first place – with the intent that it be free from the corrupting influence of non-SDA groups such as WASC.

    Without regional accreditation, which only WASC and its sister accrediting bodies can offer, no graduates from SDA colleges could enter graduate schools or professional schools, including schools of medicine. Only boneheads continue to suggest we should not have accredited universities.

    BobRyan: Otherwise – why divert limited SDA funds to building LSU – when we could just hire more missionaries and pastors “instead” with that money?

    Because SDA education has been critical for maintaining a vibrant church with its unique culture and for pairing young SDAs with marriage partners. Neglect these young people and you’ll strangle the Church.

    BobRyan: If WASC is going to define a soft word like “interference” as “AAA authority and oversight in making sure that all professors hired in its institutions are teachingh values and principles consistent with the mission and message of the Seventh-day Adventist church” then we have a problem.

    “If” is very telling. It signals “what I have to say next is nothing but inane speculation.”




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  11. sister organizations to WASC are the way to go if they insist on interfering with SDA education to the point of destroying it.

    However I don’t blame WASC as if they are acting in a vacuum. They are clearly being manipulated by evolutionist sources at LSU.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  12. BobRyan: sister organizations to WASC are the way to go if they insist on interfering with SDA education to the point of destroying it

    Brilliant, Bob!

    There are indeed some sister agencies. The only other options for regional accreditation would be:

    Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits institutions in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, and DC, plus Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and schools for American children in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

    New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits institutions in the six New England states.

    North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits institutions in AR, AZ, CO, IO, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, OK, NM, SD, WI, WV, and WY.

    Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which accredits institutions in AK, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, and WA.

    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits institutions in VA, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, AL, TN, and TX.

    All we have to do is convince one of these to take on a single California university because, as we all now know, WASC is seeking to destroy SDA education. Maybe you can begin the letter-writing campaign? Let’s get this done!




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  13. BobRyan: I don’t blame WASC as if they are acting in a vacuum. They are clearly being manipulated by evolutionist sources at LSU.

    Clearly. WASC has a long established history of being manipulated, and they would never suspect the clever machinations of the exceedingly brilliant LSU evolutionists.




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  14. How should the GC handle LSU? Do we close the school and sell the property or just sell it to LSU (if they have the money)? The GC should dissolve the current board and dismiss all the the admin, faculty, and staff at the end of the year and restart it next school year.




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