Why Louisiana College Students are Afraid, and Why They Should Be

Student's and Alumni praying for Louisiana College

Student’s and Alumni praying for Louisiana College

Yesterday, a Louisiana College official laughed at students and one of their parents when they stated that people on campus are afraid. When I wrote my open letter in 2011 I included a couple of statements about the fear on campus:

There is a spirit of fear among the faculty and students which is wholly inconsistent with our God who does not give a spirit of fear.

The level of fear at LC is such that students are told by their family to not raise health concerns related to facilities out of concern that they may not actually be granted their degrees. Meanwhile, faculty members shake their heads silently for fear of losing their jobs, many choosing to leave quietly after just a year or two.

I was charged by the college for lying about these statements. The defense that the was used yesterday against the students on these issues was all too familiar to me. “You can’t say there is a spirit of fear on campus because I’m not afraid.” The truth is there is a spirit of fear at Louisiana College and it has existed for many years. As bad as it was when I was there, I am told by several sources that it is worse now. I’ve been told by some that the oppression is “palpable.” I’ve been told that it feels like summer because there is so little life on campus.

Yes students, faculty, staff, and parents are afraid!

Yes, there is good reason to be!

Below is a brief history of why this fear is justified. I am sure that there are other stories. I know there have to be stories from before when I arrived at LC. Feel free to share them in the comments. These are just the ones that come to mind and demonstrate the long history of intimidation by the administration.

The first one happened in 2007 literally just weeks before I arrived in Louisiana. Stephanie Mabou posted some comments on the internet on the now defunct internet board called Save Our LC. The administration took issue with this and sought to withhold her degree. Stephanie took the school to court and was allowed to receive her degree, but Louisiana College, under Joe Aguillard’s leadership, refused to allow her to participate in the ceremony.

During my years at LC there were many acts of intimidation toward students and faculty some were relatively minor like when Scott Culpepper and Andrew Hunter were called into the President’s office because of a conversation we had on Facebook joking about the Alexandria Hall bells playing Home on the Range or the time I was called into his office over expressing concern that the school was using a worship service at the new stadium to promote the football program. This sort of thing happened all the time where people were called into the president’s office over every little concern. These are just a few examples that come readily to my mind. They are not major but set a tone. I remember vividly Scott Culpepper and I were visiting with a former LC professor in my office when Scott was summoned to the President’s office about the bells discussion. This former faculty was visibly worried for Scott. He had been away from LC for a couple of years and that sense of fear had not left.

In 2011 when I wrote my letter, I was immediately banned from campus my office locks were changed and a 24 hour guard was placed on my office. (In the spirit of full disclosure, LC security now disputes that there was a 24 hour guard but they did not dispute it until three years after the incident and at the time I was told about it by several students.) I was told I had to sign a document where it was expected that I admit I was insubordinate, had lied, and was in breach of my contract.  When I refused to do this the College breached my contract, seemingly so I would not be able to speak with SACS when they came on campus the following day. After my lawyer got this corrected I was forced to get a restraining order against the college because they continued to violate my rights. When the restraining order came through Dr. Aguillard asked to have it on the official record that even filing for a restraining order was against college policies. So, it isn’t just student civil rights that Aguillard believes are not appropriate at a private institution, it is faculty civil rights also.

When I was preparing for my hearing I was told by several students that they would testify on my behalf if Dr. Aguillard would sign a document saying that they would have no repercussions for testifying. They simply did not trust they would be safe. We were not able to get such a document signed.

There was one student who testified on my behalf.While she was waiting to testify the Vice President of Academic Affairs sat in the same room as she and sang the Judas songs (the songs the  Judas character sang) from Jesus Christ Super Star. This was clear intimidation. She had further issues with the college which can be read about here.

There was also one faculty member who testified on my behalf. This faculty member had received a stellar annual review and a letter from the administration promising that she would receive a contract. (It was not uncommon for contracts to be issued quite late by general academic standards.)  During her testimony she expressed concern that she would not receive a contract despite the college’s promise. Dr. Aguillard chastised her for this. Curiously, she did not receive a contract. More on this here. This was a clear indication to students, faculty,and staff of the consequences of speaking the truth.

Ironically, a similar thing happened to Executive Vice President Tim Johnson in 2013. After he filed a whistleblower complaint against Dr. Aguillard, he soon had in interim review (which he had not had in his previous six years of employment). In all previous reviews he had received a perfect 48 out of 48 but after the whistleblower complaint he received an 8 out of 48. This is a clear violation of the whistleblower policy and a lawsuit is pending.

In 2013, Aguillard also went after several faculty and students. He even cancelled the Professor of the Year award to try to avoid the embarrassment of giving the award to a faculty member he was releasing.

Then, there were the released recordings where Dr. Aguillard demanded “1000% loyalty” from students and faculty.

So, leading up to the prayer session on Monday students were understandably nervous about the administration’s response. Last Thursday Dr. Aguillard assured students that they would be allowed to pray in Guinn Auditorium. But, then public statements were released to dissuade such action (Dr. Aguillard threatens students at Louisiana College & Strong Arm Tactics Continued by the Louisiana College Administration). Further when students arrived to Guinn, they were allowed in but school officials did not allow alumni, pastors, or even members of Louisiana College’s very own Board of Trustee to join them in prayer in Guinn! All media was kicked off campus and the school’s own Wildcat Media was forbidden to report on the event. The administration also tried to split the alumni away from the student’s by offering them food in the Alumni house. Assistant Dean of Students, Shamblin, later admitted that this was about controlling the situation.

From www.thechristianleftblog.comFinally, towards the end of the day after a full day of the students complying with the rules they were given. They were “directed” to the office of the Dean of Students. The were told they either complied with the directive or could face suspension. Louisiana College could not even keep their word about this assembly for a single day! More will be published about this later.

The point is that despite the protestations of the administrators and those shrinking few who support them, students and faculty at Louisiana College are afraid. Further, it is not a product of their imaginations. The fear is real based on real tactics from the college. The students should be afraid as should the faculty and staff. But, fear is not an excuse. As Christ’s people we are told not to fear man, but to fear God.

Speak the truth even if your voice shakes!

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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