Friday, August 29, 2014

Part 5 - Nothing Has Changed...

Absolutely Nothing Has Changed!
     My rejoinder to the simplistic and inapplicable response of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Administrative Committee’s action and subsequent ratification by the Executive Board regarding my 2013 motion will come soon enough. Until that time, and as I plug back into things after my summer break, I have to express my befuddlement regarding the current state of Louisiana College (LC).
     Hear me clearly… NOTHING has changed. For those of you who thought the former president was the problem, let me say again, it was not just one man, it is a deeply entrenched culture that will be very hard to overcome. Sure, some names have changed (which is evidence of lingering problems)… but nothing of substance has changed.
     I suppose I should not be surprised. Over the summer I purposely expressed restraint and remained silent about LC (see here) in part to observe and process the actions and decisions of both the school and the accrediting agency but also to unplug from all the disappointments, etc. Further, I wanted to give some degree of latitude to the President Pro Tempore / Interim President in hopes that I would finally see some interaction and substantive change. Alas, this has not happened.
     I had Dr. Argile Smith as a professor while I was working on my M.Div. in Biblical Languages at NOBTS. At that time I found him to be a kind man with a Pastor’s heart. I’ve even used a text he co-edited with the precious Dr. Jeanine Bozeman (wife of the late Dr. Welby Bozeman of LC) for some pastoral counseling and encouragement to others. I was pleased when he was brought to LC by Dr. Quarles and thought it to be a good hire. When things began to unravel, I became aware of a number of things about which I was deeply concerned. I have commented briefly on such matters in earlier posts. I was very disappointed with what I saw and there is even published audio evidence that appears to show that he presented false testimony about Dr. Quarles (this has been reported in the local media). Even with all that, I was hopeful there would be some sort of change, specifically in the areas of communication and transparency. I was wrong.
     Let me say here that I am fully aware the current Interim President has been dealing with an undesirable problem. However, arguably, one of the most significant issues LC faced during the current controversy is the evidentially deep division on the Board of Trustees. I knew we would not see any significant change from the current board leadership during this time (and I’m certain we will not see such a change until new leadership is in place) but I did have hopes that we would see regular communication from the Interim… something… anything. We needed leadership and leadership involves deliberate communication, especially in times of deep divide and contention.
     The meeting to “remove” Dr. Aguillard (I use the term remove very loosely since he still has an office on campus and has been given the title President Emeritus) happened on April 15, 2014 (keep in mind some of us began to issue our concerns as far back as late 2012 / early 2013). Apparently (this action took place after I left the meeting in protest), Dr. Smith was to become President Pro Tempore on June 1st with his job changing to Interim President on August 1st. Since that time we have yet to receive ANY correspondence from the Interim President. No emails, no phone calls, no snail mail. Nothing. That’s not to say he is not speaking with other board members, he certainly may be, I have no idea. However, it is no secret that I have been vocal about issues at LC and yet I’ve heard nothing personally nor have we received anything corporately from the office of the President. Setting aside the hope some held, that the Interim President would attempt to “mend fences / seek restoration / try to restore some sort of unity, etc.,” the fact of the matter is we have not even had a single email from that office about a number of very significant things that are going on at the school. Further, after numerous protests and demands for information to both board leadership and the administration, only one email (with no informative substance whatsoever) has come from the board chairman. But we will get to that.
     Let’s take a look at what has happened at the college during the summer months.

SACS Probation:

     I found out on June 19th (while I was at Disneyland Paris… from Facebook) that our school had once again been placed on probation by our accrediting agency (embarrassingly, social media has become the normal way I’ve been introduced to things related to official internal information at LC). The school was not placed on warning… but on probation. Let me be clear, it was just that day that SACS had publically issued the Disclosure Statement (although I know for a fact that the administration knew something bad was coming before SACS issues the disclosure) and surprisingly, I did indeed receive an email (albeit entirely void of substance) from the Board Chairman regarding the issue late that night. Here is what his email said:

            “Here is the LC press release regarding the SACS report.”

     Attached to that email was the press release from the office of communications at the LC. Clearly no substantive or helpful information was given to us that day. Nor has ANY specific information come to us since then. Nothing! Not from the previous president, not from the newly appointed administration, and not from the elected Board Leadership. To this day I’ve yet to hear any official word regarding or see any official documentation from our school other than the public, one-page disclosure statement from SACS.
     The following is the text of an email I wrote to our Board and its Chairman on June 20th (the day after I found out about our probation status).

Dear LC Administration and Board Leadership,
     I demand that the entire board be given a copy of the complete report from SACS immediately. Since part of the violations include 3.2.4 (which is the exact violation I have publicly and tirelessly lodged as an issue for LC) and that this specific comprehensive standard deals with board activities and undue influence, and if we are not immediately given the correspondence, then I will make that another matter about which I will personally communicate with SACS.
     My prayer is that this will finally force the board (and the LBC) to deal with issues many of you have been unwilling to take up. May there be humility in this matter lest we lose our school.
     Sincerely,
     Jay Adkins

     For full disclosure three other members also expressed concern about not having this information. Now at first glance, my letter might sound a bit harsh, but this was not written in a vacuum. Before this event we had been made aware (and it has been reported in the media) that there was some sort of letter from SACS which was withheld from us during the April board meeting. The Board of Trustees (you know, that governing body of the college serving as the fiduciary for Louisiana Baptists) was not allowed to see this supposed letter from SACS. We demanded it but were not given the information. I and others were very frustrated by that (and boy is that an understatement) especially since part of SACS requirements in the area of Institutional Integrity demand that “all parties agree to deal honestly and openly with their constituencies and with one another.” So with that as the backdrop, here is a second time we’ve been told about information from SACS and yet were not permitted access to the information.
     The following is the Chairman’s response to my email dated June 25th. By the way, this email only had 5 trustees listed in the “to” line and it just happened to be 5 of us who have been more public in our critique of the events at LC. The email included an attachment of the one page SACS disclosure statement which has been and is still currently available for public consumption at http://www.sacscoc.org/2014JuneActionsanddisclosurestatements/Louisiana%20College%20MSJ.pdf

Trustees:
     Cox will not permit me to send mass emails. I finally found the reason. Cox charges an extra monthly fee when more than five or six people are CC’d in the same email. Therefore, I am sending this email to you in small groups.
     Recently J Adkins and two other trustees made a demand that we send them the disclosure statement from SACS. This was not possible because the only information SACS released was a phone call from Michael Johnson to Dr. Smith. We are just now getting the disclosure statement.
     May I remind all trustees that we will send information when it becomes available. We are trying to carefully follow board protocols. Demands by individual trustees to circumvent board procedures and threats to take independent actions with SACS, the press and blogs is improper and unhelpful and is part of the reason we have been placed on probation.
     The Disclosure Statement from SACS is attached. Please note the email from Michael Johnson to Dr. Smith below.
     Regards,
     Tommy French, Chair

     Clearly, we could not receive information that the administration did not have. However, I’ve been told that the administration did have at least a bit of an idea about what was coming. Further, the issue is that we want to be told what is happening. We are responsible for this institution. Regardless of what had been officially received from SACS, some in the administration knew more than they were telling us, which of course, is what happened in the April meeting (as well in a number of other meetings over the last few years) thus, it is very hard to trust what we are being told. The request here should not have been only understood to be for new information, but for all information regarding interaction with SACS.
     We now know that the school has been sent a detailed letter from SACS regarding the specifics of our transgressions. And yet we’ve STILL HEARD NOTHING! Note that he claims, “we will send information when it becomes available.” Once again, this has not happened. Note also that he charges, “Demands by individual trustees to circumvent board procedures and threats to take independent actions with SACS, the press and blogs is improper and unhelpful and is part of the reason we have been placed on probation.” I did not threaten to take an independent action with my blog (although I assume he knows that this is an outlet of mine). Further, there are no Board procedures regarding the dissemination of SACS materials to the full board. Further still, we have no proof that any action from any board member is “the reason we have been placed on probation.” In fact, I believe that statement to be a direct contradiction of the truth. This is my response to the board chairman.

Mr. Chairman et al,
     First of all, we have no proof that what you say is part of the cause of our probation is indeed part of the reason since you refused to give us such information. Further, the reason I "demanded" information is precisely because you've given us none. At the time of my email we had been sent nothing. I found out that we were on probation from Facebook. Once again I have found out about LC problems (and this is as big a problem as we can have) from social media rather than from you. This is an ongoing embarrassment and a continued indictment on your leadership. We are the board and should immediately be apprised of such issues even if it were just a phone call. Anything less is an abdication of responsibility.
     Deliberately,
     Jay

There was no response to this email.
     Friends, we are on probation for significant issues. Let me remind you that Principle of Integrity 1.1 and Comprehensive Standard 3.2.4 (external influence) is explicitly and EXACTLY what I’ve been citing as major problems at LC since 2012. We are now on probation for the very problems that a number of us have brought to the board. What has been the response? Not only no action, but stifling rejection of our concerns. I’ve even brought part of this concern to the LBC and they have roundly rejected it… so far. What else can we do?

Key Administrative and Faculty Losses:

     We have had serious and significant losses in faculty and Administrative staff over the summer and been told nothing about it. We’ve once again lost… yes, you guessed it… another Vice President of Academic Affairs. In fact, the only way I knew about his departure was due to my being a friend of his on Facebook. Gee whiz, what would Boards of Trustees do today without Facebook… I’m mean, how could we know anything about the institutions for which we are responsible? In fact, over the summer we have lost at least four Vice Presidents and the Dean of Students… and… we’ve heard nothing about it. I don’t have a clue as to the make up of the “Administrative Council.” I have no idea if there even is an active Administrative Council.
     For me, one of the most significant faculty losses was that of Steven Cowan. I did not know this professor personally, but when he was brought on-board I was ecstatic! Dr. Cowan was Associate Professor of Philosophy and is the co-author of my favorite introductory text to philosophy, The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy. How in the world do we let go / non-renew a world class academician and philosopher? I just don’t understand. He was a bright spot in our attempt to be respected at the academy at large and once again, we blew it.

Presidential Search:

     I don’t know what else to say here other than, “we’ve heard nothing.” I don’t even know if we’ve had any applicants. Now, I am not on the committee thus, I do not expect to be apprised of each move the group makes however, it would be nice to get some sort of an update from time to time. How many applicants do we have? Are there any nationally recognized names? How are we even going to go about deciding on the new pres? Will there be a small pool that will be considered? Just one person? I don’t need to be involved in the day-to-day of the actions of the team… but we are the Board of Trustees and we know nothing at all.
     Just a couple of things about the search team before I conclude: 1) apparently the search team is made up of the LC Executive Board which is chosen by the board chairman each year. Thus, I wonder if anyone has even thought that if we were to have a new chairman then we would have a new search committee. 2) There is not a single earned PhD on the search committee (that I know of). I’m not saying one has to have a terminal degree to asses if an applicant is qualified to serve as a college president, but it sure helps to know something about an academic terminal degree in such an effort. 3) It breaks my heart that the committee did not include a student, members of the community and former alum as well as board members… but those with power seek to retain said power and I guess that is par for the course here.


     In conclusion, may I just say that I am looking forward to what will be my last LC board meeting (at least the last regularly scheduled meeting since I rotate off in November). I grieve for those who have not had the constitution to stand up for what is right and just while monumental embarrassing blunders, documented inappropriate actions and professional academic chastisement has happened during our watch. However, my hands, my head and my heart are clean before God and my family.
     Quint, you challenged me and I stayed. I did not resign when everything told me I should. Your encouragement led me to stay put. I did my best and I did what I understood to be right. As your dad, but more importantly as your brother in Christ, I hope I’ve given you the example of what it means to speak up when things are wrong, to stand up for those who are being hurt and to take in stride the rejection of others when they are upset with your position. I’m thankful you are my son and I love you and Canon very much.