When I spoke at the National Urban Education Conference held at Cedarville University, I had no idea about many of the internal administrative struggles that the college is experiencing. Even during a recent tour several months ago, the admissions office never alluded to the controversies. It’s not that I would expect the admissions office to share such negative details about their university.
Six years ago, the college was sued when it fired two tenured professors. The faculty members claimed they were dismissed because they were too theologically conservative . . . [students and alumni] see the administrators’ departures and the proposed elimination of the philosophy major, as well as the Board of Trustees’ rejection of a proposal last year to establish a separate theology major, as a sign of a new doctrinal rigidity.
“With Dr. Bill Brown and Dr. Carl Ruby both gone, Cedarville loses its two most prominent voices for a robustly evangelical institution. With the philosophy major on the chopping block, Cedarville risks losing its credibility as a self-proclaimed liberal arts university,” concerned alumni and students wrote online, later continuing: “Over the past year, Cedarville University has taken several steps which seem to indicate a shift toward the more conservative/fundamentalist end of its constituency.”Even by the standards of its fellow members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an association of evangelical colleges, Cedarville is theologically and culturally conservative. Students are required to attend chapel five days a week. Every student is required to minor in the Bible. The college boasts of its belief that the Earth was created exactly as described in the Bible and says its graduates are “in the world but not of it.”
However, I do expect prospective students and parents to be aware of these controversies. Prospective students may be spending 4-6 years of their life on that college campus. Internal strife among administrators and/or faculty will have an impact on classroom learning, social life on campus, and, in some cases, even financial awards.
Here are 4 things that students and parents can do to learn more about campus culture:
- During a campus visit, ask the tough questions and meet with random students/faculty
- Read the mission statement and president’s letter on the website and through other materials
- Read several issues of the campus newspaper or underground newspaper
- Listen to the student radio station
The bottom line is that college is your time, money, and future.
What else have you done to learn about the culture of a campus?