January 26, 2020

A View from the Bottom – A Student’s Perspective

by Patrick Shuman ‘18


When I first made the decision to come to Gordon in the spring of 2014, I asked a friend of mine who graduated from Gordon in 2009 what percentage of the campus was “liberal” during his time there. I asked because I wanted to be challenged in the things I believed. I had spent my entire education at a small Christian school, and while I agreed with most, if not all, of the things I had been taught about God, the Bible, and Christianity, I wanted to encounter other Christians who believed differently than me.  After all, isn’t college supposed to challenge you in the way you think about the world?

Courtesy of Patrick Shuman

After news of the letter President Lindsay signed during the summer, I especially wanted to have conversations with my peers on homosexuality and the place for LGBT persons in the Church. Even if I was going to an “evangelical” college where it seemed that the administration held the same conservative beliefs I grew up with, I was expecting to make friends with people who would counter them.

It has occurred to me that my perception of what college should be is not the same as our current administration. Through the exodus of professors from Gordon, whether by choice, force, or some combination of the two, it has become apparent to me that the College has decided that it must stifle challenges to its beliefs rather than embrace the tension we all face as a family in Christ. A family does not agree on everything. The way I view some issues is different than the way my father views those issues, but we love each other above our disagreements. As Gordon continues to shut down disagreement in its faculty, whether intentional or not, the impact is that the Gordon community is becoming less like a family.

This is endangering the very thing I, and from my understanding, many others, drew us to Gordon: unity in diversity of belief.

I believe the administration to be well intentioned. I really do. I believe they really care for the students here at Gordon, and seek to make decisions that will benefit us. However, it seems to me that their perceived needs for Gordon are different than the actual needs. Students don’t need professors that are simply affirming everything students believe; students need professors that will challenge them not only in what they believe but why they believe it. The goal is to not to persuade, but rather encourage critical thinking, especially when the topic can have so much influence on their faith.

The same idea applies to leadership. Having a trail of Yes-men prevents accountability. If there is no one to challenge leadership decisions, then that leadership can stray off its path quickly, even well-intentioned leadership. I don’t know if the administration is doing this on purpose or not, but the impact of these decisions are being felt.

The Faculty Senate resignation was, to me, a symbol that the faculty realizes leadership failure as well. The articles from the Tartan’s last publication, too, point to a frustration that the administration are not taking their recommendations seriously. This tension seems to draw from that same understanding that Gordon needs faculty who aren’t afraid to challenge students or the administration. Whether that is what was going through the Senate’s collective minds when they made this decision or not, the context we are in says that this was at least some factor.  With so many professors leaving in such a short period of time, many of whom challenged the administration on different decisions, we must keep this fact in consideration.

I do not claim to have a solution to Gordon’s problems, but I am sure the path we are going down is not it.


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