Faculty chafes under Shorter University’s new rules

Update: For background and the latest news on this issue, you can visit the Save Our Shorter website.

Faculty morale can’t be good at Rome, Georgia’s very Baptist Shorter University. The administration’s theocratic crackdown has left the majority of people looking for new jobs, if the results of an anonymous survey conducted among faculty members are accurate.

You see, in order to remain employed at Shorter next year, faculty and staff members must sign the school’s “Personal Lifestyle Statement.”  The statement requires that signers be Bible-believing Christians who are active members of a local church. Who can’t use or sell illegal drugs. Also, faculty and staff are banned from the public consumption of alcohol. (Q: What’s the difference between Methodists and Baptists? A: Methodists say “Hello” to each other in the  liquor store.)

Here’s the section of the statement that’s tearing everything up: “I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.”

In other words, only people who condemn homosexuality will be allowed to work at Shorter.

Shorter has been on its way to becoming more and more religiously conservative (the administration calls it “intentionally Christian”) ever since the University lost a state Supreme Court case over school control to the Georgia Baptist Convention.

The new rules were adopted in October 2011. (Click here for background.) They are not especially popular among the people who will be required to sign the pledges. According to the survey results, published in the Rome News-Tribune, only 10 percent of survey respondents support the lifestyle statement. Another 36 percent say they’ll sign the statements to keep their jobs, while 42 percent say they won’t sign the statement.

Administrators say the survey is inaccurate and don’t like the fact it was anonymous. Faculty members say they fear reprisals if they speak out. If you read the newspaper article, I think you’ll see not only discontent, but denial and disconnect, as well, when a spokesman for the policy change says, in essence, “Bless the dissidents’ hearts. They’re not productive.”

Check out the News-Tribune’s article for yourself.

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Georgia Colleges is published and edited by Jonathan Grant, an Atlanta-based author whose works include the award-winning The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia (University of Georgia Press). He is currently developing a guidebook to Georgia colleges for parents, students, and educators.

Grant graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and bureau chief with The Macon Telegraph and served as a Georgia state government spokesman for several years.

He lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife, Judy, and two children–a college freshman and a high school senior. Actively involved in community affairs, he has served as a PTA president, a local school council member, and as a soccer coach for twelve seasons.