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On Race, Hillsdale Vs. Azusa Pacific

Black Lives Matter and very different approaches taken by two Christian colleges
On Race, Hillsdale Vs. Azusa Pacific

Some good news: Hillsdale College in Michigan not only would not be bullied into making a statement about Black Lives Matter, but also made an affirmative statement about why it would not. Here it is below in full. What an inspiring document:

Amidst the events of recent weeks, a number of alumni and others have taken up formal and public means to insist that Hillsdale College issue statements concerning these events. The College is charged with negligence — or worse.

It is not the practice of the College to respond to petitions or other instruments meant to gain an object by pressure. The College operates by reasoned deliberation, study, and thought. The following observations, however, may be helpful and pertinent.

The College is pressed to speak. It is told that saying what it always has said is insufficient. Instead, it must decry racism and the mistreatment of Black Americans in particular. This, however, is precisely what the College has always said.

The College is told that invoking the high example of the Civil War or Frederick Douglass is not permitted. Perhaps it is thought that nothing relevant can be learned about justice and equality from the words and actions of great men and women in history. Instead, the College is guilty of the gravest moral failure for not making declarations about … justice and equality.

The College is told that it garners no honor now for its abolitionist past — or that it fails to live up to that past — but instead it must issue statements today. Statements about what? It must issue statements about the brutal and deadly evil of hating other people and/or treating them differently because of the color of their skin. That is, it must issue statements about the very things that moved the abolitionists whom the College has ever invoked. 

It is told that failure to issue statements is an erasure, a complicity, an abandonment of principle. The silence of the College is deafening.

The College founding is a statement — as is each reiteration and reminder of its meaning and necessity. The curriculum is a statement, especially in its faithful presentation of the College’s founding mission. Teaching is a statement, especially as it takes up — with vigor — the evils we are alleged to ignore, evils like murder, brutality, injustice, destruction of person or property, and passionate irrationality.

Teaching these same things across all the land is a statement, or a thousand statements. Organizing our practical affairs so that we can maintain principles of equity and justice — though the cost is high and sympathy is short — is a statement. Dispensing unparalleled financial help to students who cannot afford even a moderate tuition, is a statement.

Helping private and public schools across the country lift their primary and secondary students out of a sea of disadvantages with excellent instruction, curricula, and the civic principles of freedom and equality — without any recompense to the College — is a statement. Postgraduate programs with the express aim of advancing the ideas of human dignity, justice, equality, and the citizen as the source of the government’s power, these are all statements. And all of these statements are acts, deeds that speak, undertaken and perpetuated now, every day, all the time.

Everything the College does, though its work is not that of an activist or agitator, is for the moral and intellectual uplift of all.

There may be something deafening in the culturecertainly there are those who cannot hear — but it is not from the silence of the College.

There is a kind of virtue that is cheap. It consists of jumping on cost-free bandwagons of public feeling — perhaps even deeply justified public feeling — and winning approval by espousing the right opinion. No one who wishes the College to issue statements is assumed to be a party to such behavior. But the fact that very real racial problems are now being cynically exploited for profit, gain, and public favor by some organizations and people is impossible to overlook. It is a scandal and a shame that compounds our ills and impedes their correction. Hillsdale College, though far from perfect, will continue to do the work of education in the great principles that are, second only to divine grace, the solution to the grave ills that beset our times.

If you are a college alumnus who donates to your alma mater, but that alma mater is surrendering to these ideological bullies, well, you can redirect your support to a college that has a spine. And when you are thinking about where to send your kids to college, well, these times are quite clarifying — and so is Hillsdale’s statement of principle.

By contrast, this email came in today from a teacher at Azusa Pacific University, one that most of us would think of as conservative, or conservative-ish. The teacher asked me not to identify them. They say if they are going to get fired over their principles, they want it to be because of something they said on campus, not something they wrote to a journalist. But as ever:

I do, though, think that concerned Christians should know what is happening on so-called Christian campuses.

The teacher writes (and I’ve slightly edited some of it to protect them):

I will begin with what seems to be a necessary disclaimer. I support open, free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas on campus and off. I think that I should hear from and engage civilly with colleagues with whom I disagree. I should listen with an open mind and should be willing to be persuaded. In our current moment, I should also understand that there will, justly, be visceral responses to events and that I should be as empathetic as possible, mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

Yesterday, our interim provost sent his email newsletter to faculty, naturally responding to ongoing protests and racial tensions and affirming that “We continue to stand with our Black brothers and sisters in opposition to the ongoing violence against them” (nothing on standing with good police officers, but I have heard rumors that we’ve beefed up our campus police presence–curious). The interim provost’s sentiment is mostly innocuous pablum. However, the email does not end there. We are hosting two events to discuss race and justice. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this, but, knowing the political orientations of the faculty involved, I assure you that this will not really be academic or balanced. It will not be an opportunity for open and free inquiry.

In addition to these events, faculty are encouraged “to make a monthly commitment to read, watch, or listen to one of the resources” shared via a link which has also been provided to our students (here is the link). You’ll notice that the resources were not compiled by our faculty but by one of our many offices for diversity (can’t have too many). I have hardly investigated all of them, but from what I can tell, few, if any, of the resources, pretend to any kind of biblical approach to racial reconciliation, and many are outright hostile to the clear, orthodox teaching of scripture. There is one “narrative” presented (my kingdom for a new word for “narrative”). Of course, the 1619 Project made the cut but the 1776 Unites Campaign did not. Nothing from John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Heather MacDonald, Jason Riley, Thomas Sowell, Omar Wasow, or Roland G. Fryer (to mention a few). You’ll also notice that pop wokeness is supreme (Really?! T.V. series as intellectual resources?! Sorry, I misread the purpose of this list–these are resources for “allyship,” not for intellect).

I really do urge you to click on the APU link and read that list of resources. It runs the gamut from left to hard left. There is nothing there — not one thing on that long list — that runs contrary to the progressive narrative. If this were a list at a secular university, it would still be startlingly unbalanced. It is incredible that this is comes from a Christian college, especially one that has a reputation for being theologically and culturally conservative. Look at this What We Believe page on the APU website. If you read it, you’ll think that this sounds like a perfectly normal conservative Evangelical college. It does not sound like the place where extreme forms of racial wokeness would be pushed on the faculty and students by the institution itself, at least not without some attempt at balance. But it is.

More from the teacher’s e-mail:

Faculty have also been encouraged to “consider” Harvard’s Project Implicit. “Consider” seems quite the equivocation.

Nothing is required of faculty at this point, but it’s early, it’s summer, and there’s a pandemic on. We’ll see what happens as we near the fall semester.

Of course, none of this should surprise anyone. Over the past several years, APU has drifted, and then run headlong, into the woke agenda. You are, of course, aware of our lack of conviction regarding biblical, traditional, orthodox, ancient views of sexuality. [Note: I certainly do; here’s a 2018 piece I wrote about “Queering Azusa Pacific University,” and “Professor: Azusa Pacific Is Losing ‘God First'”— RD]

Further, a few years ago, our faculty senate approved the inclusion of a link to the university’s bias-incident-reporting system in every syllabus (there were only a handful of objections, some more forceful and daring than others). Our system is in many respects less forgiving than that of Oberlin.

The teacher discloses a particularly egregious instance in which they were involved, and found themselves in hot water because they asked an ordinary question about an ideological claim made by diversity instructors. I’m leaving it out because I fear it would identity them. After it, they continue:

Last year, we had a conservative African American speaker come and discuss unpalatable ideas like the need for personal responsibility among his fellow Blacks. The talk was reasonably well attended, but it wasn’t a huge crowd. The few African American colleagues who did attend leveled ad hominem attacks (it’s “a minstrel show”), or gave their own lengthy speeches to provide the “counter-narrative” (the counter-narrative is the narrative at APU–later that week another African American guest speaker was given several opportunities, including our main chapel session, to proclaim the counter-narrative to our students). None of those colleagues addressed the actual data presented (and there was a lot of it). It was basically aspersions and emotions. The interim provost, who did not attend, later investigated the event because he heard reports that the guest speaker’s talk did not represent APU’s values. Although there were no repercussions for my colleague and the dean who organized the event, it was clear that the free exchange of ideas is not one of APU’s values.

Such is the state of affairs at this “leading” (as we like to call ourselves) Christian University. I can only imagine what things will be like should we return to campus in the fall as our administration anticipates.

Note that Hillsdale College is a nondenominationally Christian private college in the upper Midwest, and Azusa Pacific is an affirmatively Evangelical institution in southern California.

UPDATE: Sorry, an earlier version of this post — one I did not publish — said that the teacher asked me not to ID them or the college. When I re-read the letter, before I published, I realized there was only a request not to ID the teacher. There was no request to ID the college. So I re-edited this piece to reflect that, but forgot to take out a part of a sentence about the college. Apologies.



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