March 26, 2014

Louisiana College: Heads will Roll, 10 Steps for Moving Forward

Rondall Reynoso
President Joe Aguillard
President Joe Aguillard

Rumors are flying that President Joe Aguillard has been given the choice of stepping down as President and being allowed to take medical retirement or being fired. For seemingly personal reasons, not ethical standards David Hankins has apparently removed his long-standing and important support of Joe Aguillard and that is proving to make the difference. A year ago, when it looked like Aguillard may no longer be president I wrote an article entitled Louisiana College…Moving Forward. That is an important article for people to go back and read. It explains why the wrongs LC has done over the last nine years can’t just be swept under the rug. But, I thought in this post it would be helpful to republish my thoughts about how LC can move forward.

  1.  Remove Aguillard from the Presidency. I don’t see any way around this. There is so much baggage with his presidency. As bad as what has been made public is…there is so much more. I pray that Aguillard will repent and turn his life around. But, whatever happens he should not remain as president.
  2. Publicly Admit Wrong. There has been so much damage over the last decade that has been swept under the rug. People’s lives have been destroyed and students have been emotionally and spiritually scarred. There are serious trust issues with LC right now. The only way for LC to get past these issues is to admit they blew it. Anything else will simply look like more of the same. Public sins need to be dealt with publicly.
  3. Apologize. In some ways this won’t change anything. The wrongs will still have been done. But, LC needs to show contrition. The board needs to look into the eyes of those who have been wronged and let them know with a broken spirit that they are truly sorry for their part. Heeling needs to occur before LC has any hope to rebuild.
  4. Bring in  a President from Outside the Church Political Structure. I once had a former administrator at LC tell me that even if the Board got rid of Aguillard they would bring in someone akin to him. This is a constant concern that I hear. It is the tendency of an institution like LC to look to theologians at times like this for moral guidance. That is understandable. But, one of my great disappointments at Louisiana College has been the moral cowardice of Southern Baptist Theologians when it comes to speaking into the political powers that be. They are great at calling out the sins of the world. But, their livelihood is caught up in not rocking the SBC political boat too much. I know theologians who are now states away from LC who still remain silent despite the fact that they know the truth. I know theologians at LC who supported Aguillard for years while turning a blind eye to his sinful actions. True some stood against Aguillard in a strong way at the end of 2012 which is what has caused the current issue, but those same persons committed their own wrongs while supporting Aguillard. A stand once the political winds are turning cannot undo the years of wrongs committed. The sad truth is that the current power structures within the LBC and SBC are about power as much, or likely more than, about theology. As long as LC hires a president who is invested in the current power and political structures things cannot change. LC needs a president who can speak both to the sins of the world and the sins of the church.
  5. Judiciously Clean LC’s House. Aguillard was not able to do what he has done without surrounding himself with people who were willing to go along with it. At the same time, Louisiana College cannot afford to turn over 75% of its faculty like it did a few years back. The next president will need a great deal of wisdom to clear the walls that need to be cleared without knocking down the structures that hold up the roof.
  6. Build Good Will in LC’s House. While there are plenty of opportunists and sycophants at LC, there are also plenty of good people. These people have been marginalized and abused for years. They live in fear for their jobs and their careers conflicted by the immorality they see but unable to speak because of the oppression under which they have lived. Sadly, they need to learn to trust the college again but the college has to prove its trustworthiness. This can happen in part by bringing in the right person as president. It also, however, needs to be accomplished through changes in school policy. Aguillard and his supporters consolidated all power into the president’s hands. That needs to change. There needs to be a dispersion of power and there needs to be transparency. Only then will the faculty and staff be able to have some confidence that they are safe in their professional home.
  7. Build Good Will with the Alumni Community. When the administrative change occurred in 2005 the present administration did little to build bridges with the alumni. Many alumni were critical of the change and as a result the administration took to characterizing any who disagreed with the administration as ‘liberal’ or doing the work of the devil. From my experience, I see that many who have been disenfranchised were not liberal but were concerned with the unethical behavior of the administration. They have been hurt and as the comments on this blog indicate many have no desire to support LC as it currently stands. The reality though is that a college needs its alumni community. I believe that a thoughtful administration can build bridges with the schools alumni while maintaining a conservative theological stance. In some ways the Aguillardian era may make this easier. The alumni have seen how badly things can and have gone. They still love their school and will likely be open to a reasonable yet theologically conservative administration.
  8. Build Good will in the Church Community. The situation with the churches is a little different. LC has had very poor church relations for a long time. Many of the relationships that have been built with churches over the last 8 years have been built upon the narrative that the good and godly Aguillard administration kicked out the godless liberals and restored LC to God’s grace. I do not doubt that there were elements in the “Old LC” that needed to change. What I do doubt is that it was as broad as claimed and that what replaced it was more healthy. I know for a fact that a faculty member in VERY good standing with the administration taught aura alignment in her classes. This is hardly the type of conservative Biblicism that most churches want taught at their schools. As I see it, one of the main jobs of the next president will be to spend a great deal of the time on the road meeting with church leaders and building relationships and trust. LC has destroyed a great deal of trust over the last decade and more will be destroyed as the failings of the Aguillard administration become clearer. LC needs the churches. They need to work hard to build honest, transparent relationships with them.
  9. Reestablish Academic Credibility. A professor at a Louisiana state school has called LC the Louisiana College of Bible and Football. There is nothing wrong with LC being known for its Biblical commitment or its excellence in athletics. But, LC is a college and also needs to be known for its academics which have declined markedly over that last few years as student ACT scores have fallen and faculty have been forced to be more concerned with placating the administration than providing a rigorous education. I am not saying that many professors don’t still try to provide quality education, many do, but the administration has made it more difficult. Many still succeed but the academic world sees the challenges which faculty face. Further, LC has made a habit of nepotism and cronyism. Administrators and faculty with degree mill diplomas and faculty without proper credentials do not help LC’s academic reputation nor does it help with the current accreditation issues which plague the institution.
  10. Reestablish Spiritual and Moral Credibility. LC has covered up problems for years and has done so with little compassion. That must change. LC must become a beacon of true spirituality and morality in Central Louisiana. I had a sales job when I was in college and one thing we were taught it that “nobody cares how much we know until they know how much we care.” That is a lesson LC must learn. At the heart of the Gospel is love. Powers at LC are willing to go to the mat over the Calvinism verses Arminianism debate but were willing to stay quiet on issues of basic morality and honesty. They stayed quiet on issues of love. The world sees that and it destroys LC’s witness

 

Rondall Reynoso


Rondall is an artist, scholar, and speaker. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. He holds an MFA in Painting and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and is completing a Ph.D. in Art History and Aesthetics from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.

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  • “For personal reasons not ethical standards David Hankins has removed his long standing and important support of Joe Aguillard and that is proving to be the difference maker.” [Your quote] You seem to know much about the thinking of Dr. Hankins — can you clarify how you know this? What is the proof that he is doing this for personal reasons and not for ethical reasons? Help us understand, please.

    • There is more information that will come out on this soon. I am not at liberty to discuss it yet but within the nex two weeks the dots will be connected. I apologize for not being able to clarify this more at this point.

      • Until you can back up what you say, what you are doing is no different than what everyone else is doing.

        • Trad, I do not publishthings until I have confirmation from several sources and while I try typically to explain myself there are times when sources need to be protected and promises kept. Feel free to doubt this until the details come out. That is fair. But, they will come out.

  • I’ve enjoyed your insight and perspective on Louisiana College. I feel that I got a great education and foundation and never looked back to see how I could keep this flame burning. If LC survives this storm, I will never leave its side again.

  • Trad,

    I would assume based on your user name that you are supportive both of the Drs. Hankins’ “Traditionalist Statement” and the firing of the Calvinistic faculty members from LC last Spring. I would hope you’d put your personal opinion of soteriology aside though, in order to consider the magnitude of this situation.

    Many people don’t realize (though many others do) that conflict between David and Joe could have happened much earlier. As late as the Fall of 2012, Joe was still committed to Chuck and to the trajectory of the Caskey school. What many people believed then (and that the recently released recordings and emails confirm) is that Joe was willing to take on David’s efforts, which had been building for several months behind the scenes, to take on LC and what he perceived to be a growing “Calvinism problem” at Caskey. (To Joe’s credit, at the time he insisted that LC was going to use the BFM2K as its standard and not have litmus tests beyond that.)

    That potential conflict between Joe and David never occurred because Joe got caught misappropriating money and lied about it, which led to Chuck and Johnson filing their own “whistle blower” complaints against Joe. When that happened, David—who surely had to know that the charges against Joe were valid—and Joe, ironically, each found a way to get what they wanted from the other. David still wanted to get rid of the reformed teachers and Joe needed someone to support him behind-the-scenes to fight the charges levied in the whistle-blower complaints.

    David delivered when his sub-committee “exonerated” Joe, and then Joe delivered by firing the teachers. Subsequently, David delivered further by using his influence to convince a split board not to ask for Joe’s removal last Spring. At the time, they both had accomplished what they had hoped to accomplish. David got rid of the Calvinists and Joe beat the whistle-blower charges and kept his job.

    I doubt anyone suspected that a handful of people would continue to dig in their efforts to exonerate “Calvinism” as the source of the problems at LC. I doubt also that anyone suspected that Johnson would release all the emails he released in his court filings, and I’m quite certain nobody imagined that Quarles had the recordings (or that he’d ever release them) that proved that Joe was lying all along. In other words, it is highly unlikely that any of the involved parties ever expected the truth eventually to come out in the manner that it has.

    It now seems evident to all but Joe’s closest and strongest supporters that he MUST go. The sad truth is that the board most likely already would have taken appropriate action last year if it hadn’t been for David’s support of Joe at the time. It’s sadder still that David pushed that support in spite of his knowledge of Joe’s lies, misappropriation of funds, and failed leadership as long as Joe was willing to fire the Calvinists. A the time, many people were concerned that David appeared more concerned with purging the Calvinists than he was with the integrity of the college. (Why they didn’t speak up, or felt scared to speak up deserves a post of its own about David’s reputation and ethos.)

    I can’t say with the same certainty as Rondall that David is doing this because he got mad about the things he heard Joe say about him on the recordings. I believe David is probably equally frustrated that the emails and recordings prove what many suspected all along—that he initially played a key role in promoting the “Calvinism controversy” at LC, which ultimately led to the firings of the three young professors.

    Either way, while it sure seems as though Joe may finally realize just how astute and cunning David can be, I don’t believe that David has yet calculated how vindictive Joe can be, even though there’s a whole litany of people (the owner of this blog included) who could testify. While I suspect that David wins this round, I can’t help but hope that they somehow manage to bring each other down in the process, for the good and long-term integrity of both LC and the LBC…and to clear the name of Christ (in whose name they’ve both been doing all of this in the first place).

    • Thank you Ann. I agree with almost all of this. In fact, with your permission I would like ot repost this as a seperate blog post.

      The one thing I disagree about was that Aguillard was actually willing to take on Hankins in 2012. I have seen Aguillard play both sides. He tells everyone what they want to hear, or what he thinks they want to hear. I believe that in 2012 Aguillard was saying one thing to Quarles and another to Hankins. He was playing them against each other. I doubt he ever would have gone against David directly. He would have tried to manipulate the situation to get what he wanted. But ultimately, as you point out, he had to partner with Hankins to save his job.

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