In my columns, I often write about the swift moral decline within our nation's secular universities. That usually involves writing about corrupt university administrators. But I would be a hypocrite were I to ignore corruption by administrators at Christian colleges and universities. Right now, there is a controversy brewing at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee with moral ramifications that are simply too important to ignore.
At the center of the controversy is Bryan's president Dr. Stephen Livesay. His conduct as Bryan's president has been so far outside the realm of normal professional conduct as to nearly defy description. Nonetheless, I will attempt to do so. The following is an in-exhaustive list of offenses - each of which could arguably justify Dr. Livesay's removal.
1. Sanitizing a sex scandal. When a college or university begins to knowingly cover up sex scandals it simply invites more sex scandals. Such was the case at Bryan College just a couple of years ago when a Bryan professor was arrested in a sting operation for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor.
Fortunately, the accused professor resigned. Unfortunately, Bryan College concocted a cover story, which falsely claimed that the professor left to pursue "other opportunities." Being charged with a felony sex crime isn't an "opportunity." It's a lie and a very bad one at that. Arguably, Dr. Livesay should have been terminated for his role in the cover up.
2. Prior restraint of free speech. Fortunately, a brave Bryan College student decided to blow the cover on the aforementioned lie. The student wanted to run the story in the Bryan paper - although he was also employed as a journalist for an off campus paper. But Dr. Livesay quashed the story before it ran citing concerns about its accuracy.
It is notable the student/journalist's story was based on public records. There was never any evidence that the student was off the mark in his reporting of this publicly available information. Obviously, Dr. Livesay's real concern was that it was accurate and exposed the school as having concocted a cover story that was inaccurate.
Furthermore, when the story was about to run, the accused professor was no longer at Bryan College. Additionally, the sting took place off campus. Bryan had no compelling interest in the prior restraint of the student's speech. They should have allowed the story to run. The day Dr. Livesay decided to engage in prior restraint of free and accurate speech was the day Bryan lost its claim to be a serious institution of higher learning.
3. Altering the statement of faith. The Bryan charter states in clear terms that the statement of faith cannot be altered. But now it has been. Bryan altered the statement of faith to include a statement about an historical Adam and Eve. The alteration also calls for faculty to sign a specific rejection of macro-evolution.
Under the leadership of Dr. Livesay, Bryan College has predictably dubbed the patently illegal alteration as a "clarification." The Livesay administration is sounding more like the Clinton Administration every day. I suppose it depends on what the definition of an alteration is.
To make matters worse, this illegal alteration was forced upon faculty shorty before their annual contracts were to be renewed. This did not give dissenters a reasonable amount of time to look for employment elsewhere. These are Gestapo tactics. They are simply indefensible actions by anyone who claims to subscribe to Christian ideals of decency and fairness.
Now, two tenured professors who have been terminated have had to resort to litigation against Bryan. They have a good chance of prevailing in the litigation. If that happens, Bryan's chances of surviving might not be so good. But Dr. Livesay shows no signs of capitulating.
4. Subverting faculty will. In the wake of the clear breach of the Bryan charter there has been a 30-2 vote of no confidence against Dr. Livesay. Yet he refuses to leave. This is a sign that there is something seriously wrong with this man. This is not conduct to be expected of Christians. This is conduct to be expected of dictators.
5. Ordering board resignations. The last sad chapter in the Bryan meltdown has been the resignation of several members of the Board of Trustees. According to numerous credible sources within the Bryan community, Dr. Livesay has simply told his board that those who refuse to support him must leave. The Bryan president appears to want to surround himself with boot licking slaves who will go along with whatever changes he dictates. In twelve years of writing (almost always critically) of higher education, I have never seen this kind of totalitarian arrogance on behalf of a college president. And that includes my coverage of those not claiming to be Christians.
Given this precedent, and the atmosphere of lawlessness at Bryan, faculty and students can probably expect further changes in the Bryan charter in the near future. Maybe there will be a young earth mandate. Or perhaps a change of name is in order for Bryan College.
Livesay College has a nice ring to it. I'm sure both the Board and the bored would agree.