The Baptist Message Misses the Point on Louisiana College
The Baptist Message is the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptists. While it was once an independent organization in 2005 it was moved under the control of the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC). In the ensuing years many have felt that the message has served more as a public affairs tool of the LBC than as a news organization. This sentiment is understandable considering that Kelly Boggs, the Managing Editor of The Message, is also Director of the LBC Office of Public Affairs. This sentiment is also further aided by pieces such as Mr. Boggs published yesterday, “Situation at LC Unfolds” (only accessible with a subscription).
Mr. Boggs focused almost entirely on the issue of Calvinism at LC and tied all criticism back to Calvinist sources. He did mention that “Those who support the professors and the students contend Calvinism is not a contentious issue on the campus and have even suggested an ulterior motive for the president’s action.” But immediately tied those “supporters” back to Calvinistic roots. He completely ignored criticisms coming from people, such as me, who are not within the Calvinistic camp theologically but still find issue with the Administrations behavior. Below I have attached the letter I wrote to Kelly Boggs.
I was disappointed in your article on the tensions at LC. While Calvinism has gotten plenty of attention, that is clearly not the root of the issue at LC. A fuller and more honest appraisal would include the fact that Arminians such as myself also see issues at LC. You referenced Scott Culpepper’s letter which was posted on my blog Faith on View but ignored the plenteous information on the site which directly contradicts the notion that this is about Calvinism. Your article tied all criticism of Louisiana College to Calvinistic sources which only perpetuates the division within the LBC and obscures the real ethical issues under-girding the current situation at Louisiana College.
Your quote, “The Baptist Message sought to speak with all the aforementioned parties and, thus far, only Dr. Aguillard has spoken on the record.” Shows either a complete misunderstanding of the culture at Louisiana College or intentionally tries to sway public opinion. The students have just been charged with saying “disparaging” remarks about LC and my story makes clear to faculty that if they say anything at odds with the administration they are at risk of serious backlash. It is unreasonable to expect that they would be willing to speak or to imply some virtue to Dr. Aguillard’s omnipresent willingness to speak to a media source.
Your selected quotes by those who support Dr. Aguillard, “stop the influence of Calvinism at LC,” “a Calvinist agenda designed to take over La. College,” and “a majority of La. Baptists do not want La. College to become a Calvinist‘s school” leave the reader with an incorrect impression of the culture at Louisiana College. I have not hidden my disagreements with Dr. Quarles. I think that he was unwise not to diversify the faculty in the Christian Studies department prior to the diversification that happened in 2011 and coincided with the establishment of the Caskey School of Divinity. But, the impression that there is a cabal of Calvinists at Louisiana College trying clandestinely to change the theological culture of LC is simply not true. Further, Dr. Aguillard allowed this culture to develop until Dr. Quarles confronted Dr. Aguillard in the fall of 2012. It is my opinion that Dr. Quarles waited far too long and was previously far too complicit with the decisions and direction of LC; but still, there was no persecution of Calvinism during the years of support that Dr. Quarles gave to Dr. Aguillard. It was only when the political environment changed that Dr. Aguillard sought to remove Calvinism from Louisiana College.
Additionally to argue that these times are in any way the best of times for Louisiana College is completely misguided. The large classes at Louisiana College are in one way impressive but one must also realize that the academic quality of the incoming classes has degenerated over the last decade. A full 25% of LC students now enter LC with an ACT score of 17 or below. And, Dr. Aguillard has admitted that LC offers a higher percentage of merit aid than any other school in the country to attract these students who are of a lesser academic quality than LC has historically attracted. Dr. Aguillard presented this information in a faculty meeting in the Fall of 2010 as a positive not realizing that it is, in fact, not a positive to provide more merit aid than any other school in the country and yet attract a lower quality of student.
The MAT can be seen as a positive for the school. It has certainly been financially beneficial to the College which is good. But, it is also seen as the less rigorous option for potential teachers in Central Louisiana. A program that is equated with mediocrity, or less, rather than excellence should not be lauded as an example of success. Further, you failed to mention disasters such as the proposed film school, the proposed medical school, or the proposed law school. To this day, there is a link on LC’s home page to the law school even though LC was denied the level of accreditation needed to open the law school and the school is now without faculty, staff, or even a working phone number.
The announcement of the $50 million capital campaign is in no way a sign of “good times.” This campaign, and the exception for LC to be able to contact churches directly, came around because LC has shown a complete inability to raise proper funds over the last eight years. The facilities at LC are in shambles and have not been maintained at a level consistent with other institutions of higher learning. This new campaign came with the provision that the administration needs to stop chasing after graduate school dreams and focus on the core programs and facilities as it should have years ago. This campaign is a sign of fiscal maleficence not “good times.”
You are correct that the blogosphere has tended to not understand the difference between warning and probation from SACS. None-the-less, it is a serious issue. While SACS would likely first move LC to probation they are free, if they so decide, to deny accreditation instead. The reality is that the situation with SACS was completely avoidable if the administration had been minimally sophisticated on issues of accreditation. Further, Dr. Aguillard has shown a disregard for the accreditation agency when he announced programs such as the International High School program when he had been directed by SACS not to begin such a program. This is not wise behavior when a school is already on warning.
While it is good that under the leadership of Dr. Wright LC has been able to deal with issues such as Faculty Competency it is only through the incompetency of the leadership that LC failed to hire faculty who were fully competent according to SACS standards.
As I have said repeatedly on my blog, Calvinism is not the issue at Louisiana College. The thrust of your article misses this point entirely and continues the misinformation that theology is at the heart of LC’s current controversy. Theology is the distraction. Look behind the curtain.