Off topic: A cause that’s weighing on my heart…

***Warning:  If your e-mail, reader, or browser, has directed you here, and you are hoping for some money saving tips and upcycling crafts, such is not the case today.  Sorry.  Today, I am addressing a very really issue in my life, and given that I feel I have a very open-minded readership, I thought this was a perfect platform to gain some support.  If you are not in a serious mood and were really craving some sweet craftin’ /money savin’ tips, please refer to my previous posts.  ALSO: I will be posting a new article about Holiday Travel tomorrow, so feel free to check back then.  I promise, this will be the last time I do this, as I know you didn’t sign up for this type of blog.  However, if you are feeling open-minded, read on!  But you’ve been warned . . .

Want to cut to the chase?  Sign this petition: http://signon.org/sign/stop-shorter-university?source=s.fwd&r_by=1485127

Still not convinced?  That’s okay, read on…

Dear GPP subscribers and friends,

Today I am taking a departure from my usual posts about saving money to bring your attention to something else that needs saving:  Shorter University.  Now unless you live in North Georgia or actually went to this school, you’ve probably never heard of it, much less by its former name, Shorter College.  It’s a small, private Christian, liberal arts school in Rome, GA and it’s my alma mater.  It is here where I studied musical theatre and experienced more artistic, spiritual, and philosophical growth than I ever thought possible.  It is also here where I met many people with whom I have forged life-long friendships, not to mention where I met my husband.

However, the very credibility of this institution –and in my opinion, my diploma – is being challenged with the advent of new policies.  Now, before I proceed, I realize the demographic of my readership varies.  I am well aware that some of my readers are my friends, many of which share similar viewpoints with me.  However, due to the findings in my WordPress.com stats, I also know that most of you do not know me personally, therefore, I fully respect the fact that your religious and/or philosophical views may not align with mine.  That’s fine.  Despite our differences, I hope you can see my side and understand that this is not an issue of religion, but rather morality.

Prefaces aside, here are the new policies, as taken from the Shorter University website.  It is important to note that since 2006, Shorter has been affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.  This is a “Personal Lifestyle Statement” that was given to faculty and staff on October 24 of this year, i.e., after fall term had begun.  The newest president, Dr. Donald Dowless, and the board of trustees – who are all elected by the Georgia Baptist Convention – came up with the following to be signed by all faculty and staff:

http://www.shorter.edu/about/personal_lifestyle_statement.pdf

A. Christian Commitment and Membership in a Local Church

Shorter University will hire persons who are committed Bible believing Christians, who are dedicated to integrating biblical faith in their classes and who are in agreement with the University Statement of Faith. Moreover, employees are expected to be active members of a local church.

My beef with this:  This is a new policy because in years past, they have always hired professors based on their ability to teach in their field, not on their religious preference.  I had professors who were Christian, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist; professors who never discussed religion and professors who sandwiched it into every syllabus (and this was even after Shorter became re-affiliated with the GBC, because I only graduated in 2007). From the standpoint of an academic, given that Shorter is a “liberal arts” institution of “higher learning,” this seems un-intellectual to provide such a narrow worldview regardless of whether or not it is a Christian college.  From the standpoint of a Christian, how can you equip students with the power to proselytize if they are never exposed to opinions differing from their own?  And how do you expect to foster a Christ-like individual that is tolerant and loving of all of God’s children if you shield them from those with different beliefs?  Christians must live in the world, but do not have to be of the world.  There is a great distinction.

And… it is no secret that racism and bigotry are born from fear of the unknown.

Not to mention, I would love to have “active member of a local church” defined for me.

Moving on…

B. Principles of Personal Conduct

I agree to adhere to and support the following principles (on or off the campus):

 

1. I will be loyal to the mission of Shorter University as a Christ-centered institution affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Wait, does that mean I need to be a good ol’ Georgia-style Baptist?  Or is that the next policy that will be put into place?  ::Knock on wood::

2. I will not engage in the use, sale, possession, or production of illegal drugs.

I agree.  A reasonable policy based on the law of the land is something I can be interested in.

3. I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.

Whoa, slow down.  First of all, the less obvious one here is adultery.  Regardless of your religious beliefs, most moral compasses point to “bad news bears” on the subject of adultery.  Making this a requirement for employment is another thing all together, but OK, I’ll go with that for now.  However, what about divorce?  A lot of fundamentalists out there perceive remarrying after a divorce as a form of adultery – I don’t make these things up!  I’m not saying that this is the Georgia Baptist Convention’s or Shorter University’s belief – though I don’t know for sure – but is this the next addendum to the personal lifestyle statement?  ::Again, knock on wood::

Next,  premarital sex?  I mean, if you look at statistics, choosing to “reject” those who practice premarital sex is rejecting damn near most of the adult population, but whatever.  My feelings are less than strong about this particular point – not to mention, how are they going to prove it?

Now, for the one that everyone is talking about – and I mean EVERYONE, Google it, it’s about to make National news – homosexuality.  Specifically, Shorter University is asking its faculty and staff to “reject as acceptable . . . homosexuality.”  Obviously, this is a subject for much debate nowadays.  Before I tell you my qualms with this clause of the statement, I think I need to define a few things. It seems to me that when it comes to the hot topic of homosexuality, everyone is a member of one of three camps (the camp I belong to will be painfully obvious):

A)     “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”  High level for compassion and tolerance, bookended by the hopes that reform can happen.  This is not the same thing as equality, because this camp believes homosexuality is a sin as opposed to a state of being.

B)     People are born gay; it is part of their DNA (I’m trying to be very careful about not quoting a Lady Gaga song here, in case you couldn’t tell).  Therefore, homosexuality is not just a sexual act, it is a state of being – it is who a person is, as much as I am a ginger with a propensity for penny-pinching, as much as my husband is a tall pale Irishman, etc. etc….  People in this camp believe that to “reject” homosexuality is to reject a group of people.  Therefore they would see Shorter’s Personal Lifestyle statement as discrimination, not to mention a violation of human rights (and in case you’re wondering, Shorter is within their legal rights, since they are a private school and receive no federal funding…  Legal, but not necessarily moral.)

C)     Still one more camp remains (unless you count a fourth camp that I’d call the “mouth-breathing Apathy camp,” but they don’t really care one way or another, so that hardly merits a separate category).  The third, and most disturbing camp, believes that homosexuality is evil, gays are an abomination, and they are all going straight to Hell.  The members of this camp may behave in different ways, regardless of their unified belief:

  1. Some choose to live quietly with this belief, not choosing to preach their beliefs at the drop of a hat, but also not choosing to accept the gay population as anything but inferior to other heterosexual humans. This is like a step down from the group that “hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” No doubt, this bottled up belief may later manifest itself in less than positive ways in the future.
  2. Others are all talk: They make it their mission to spout their beliefs at every turn, often preaching what they have interpreted in the Bible to be evidence of their beliefs.  Others still, filled with even less love, use verbal abuse and slurs that I won’t repeat here.
  3. The final sub-group is the one that tends towards physical violence.  At their “best,” they are the ones that bully and threaten with physical violence, and sometimes the subject of their scorn commits suicide.  At their worst, they are the type of people who commit murder in the name of their beliefs, like Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson who left Matthew Shepard to die, tied to a fence after assaulting, torturing, and pistol whipping him.  Yes, I know the mention of this a bit harsh, but this is reality, and the incident in Laramie, Wyoming is one of many “hate crimes” perpetuated by a radical system of beliefs (I feel that “radical” is appropriate here because, regardless of your beliefs, all moral compasses – except for those who have committed pre-mediated murder – point to murder as wrong).

Now… getting back to the point, most people fall into one of the above three camps on the debate of homosexuality.  If a university is asking its faculty and staff to “reject” homosexuality, logic goes that they do not believe in the second (B) camp as a valid viewpoint, which only leaves the first or third camps with which to categorize people (I thought about this long and hard and I just don’t see any other possible categories/camps).  Of course, for the safety of all students, heterosexual or homosexual, we’d all hope that they’d fall into the first camp.  However, the use of words like “reject” gives me cause to worry.  Heterosexuality is not an admissions requirement for students (nor is Christianity); who’s to say some members of faculty and staff wouldn’t take the word “reject” too far when dealing with their students?  Many self-righteous individuals have harmed others with their own personal vendetta, all the while veiling it with the phrase “in the name of God.”  I believe this aspect of the personal lifestyle statement is hateful, discriminatory, and really asking for trouble.  And again, if we’re talking about a “liberal arts college” with “higher learning” in mind, how can we expect students to relate to others and collaborate in the “real world” if they are not exposed to differing opinions and beliefs in the safe, controlled environment of a college?

Not to mention, faculty and/or staff members who are gay and are either having to quit their jobs or live as hypocrites (no judgment on them, I’m just pointing out the facts).  And in case you’re wondering “What homosexual student would be a part of a school that was ‘Christian,’ specifically part of the GBC, in the first place?”  I can name literally dozens of examples, just from my four years at Shorter.  Some did not come “out of the closet” until after graduation; others matriculated their freshman year fully aware of who they were; and others still, were practicing Christians who were openly gay (such things are possible).  The same goes for faculty and staff members – some were secretly gay, others were “out” and it was common knowledge.

Ok, time for more of this “Personal Lifestyle Statement”:

4. I will not use alcoholic beverages in the presence of students, and I will abstain from serving, from using, and from advocating the use of alcoholic beverages in public (e.g. in locations that are open to use by the general public, including as some examples restaurants, concert venues, stadiums, and sports facilities) and in settings in which students are present or are likely to be present. I will not attend any University sponsored event in which I have consumed alcohol within the last six hours. Neither will I promote or encourage the use of alcohol.

 

For those of you not from the Bible Belt, you are undoubtedly appalled.  “What’s wrong with a little booze now and then?”  However, growing up in the South, I’ve known many families and individuals who abstained from alcohol all together because of their beliefs.  To those, I would cite the numerous occasions of drinking wine in the Bible, including occasions where Jesus himself drank wine (the First Communion, being one many examples), and that time when he turned water into wine at the Wedding at Cana (in fact, that was his first documented miracle in the gospels). For those naysayers our there, most scholarly and scientific research points to the fact that said “wine” was fermented, that is, contained alcohol, so no, we’re not just talking about some ancient form of Kool-Aid).  Obviously, there are numerous verses in the Bible which denounce drunkenness and the excessive consumption of alcohol, but these verses also extend to gluttony (there are a few passages about too much honey – it’s in the bible, seriously).  However, there are even more verses that praise the healthy properties of wine (and logically, other alcohols) when used in moderation (send me a personal e-mail if you’d like a list).  However, this Personal Lifestyle Statement is saying to “abstain from serving, from using, and from advocating the use of alcoholic beverages in public” (Whoops! There goes most of the School of the Arts’ fundraisers).

Again, I understand:  public drunkenness = not cool.  But, as another alumnus and friend of mine said on a message board “Professors should be able to go and have a margarita at Chili’s now and then.  They deserve it!”  I know this is not the first example of this kind of policy; there are plenty of schools, read: elementary, middle, and high schools, that instate similar policies for their teachers.  While I still don’t agree with it, I have less trouble understanding it as a policy because children have impressionable minds, blah, blah, blah.  However, since more than 50% of college students are of legal drinking age, who cares?!  I hardly think seeing your Economics professor enjoying a beer with his wife at Applebee’s on a Saturday afternoon is going to greatly influence my way of thinking.  Now, if he was snorting coke, that might be different, but drinking in a public place?  Again: Who cares?!

There’s also the issue of  “I will not attend any University sponsored event in which I have consumed alcohol within the last six hours.”  Well, I want to be there when they start doing breathalyzers and urine tests, and I hope the news cameras are with me, because how else can you enforce said policy?  If you terminate someone and there’s reasonable doubt?  Yeah, I can think of some laws that you’d be violating, regardless of Shorter’s private school status.

The final part of the Personal Lifestyle Statement says:

I have read and agree with the Personal Lifestyle Statement and will adhere to it in its entirety while employed at Shorter University. I understand that failure to adhere to this statement may result in disciplinary action against me, up to and including immediate termination.

At which point they are expected to sign and date it.

Ok, so you may not feel the same way that I do about these issues. Fine.  However…

If you feel that a liberal arts education should be a well-rounded experience, then hopefully you see the flaws with this particular lifestyle statement.

If you are a Christian, you know Christ said “let he among you without sin cast the first stone” (again, I don’t feel that drinking alcohol or being homosexual are sins, but I understand this perception), so hopefully you see the flaws with this particular Statement, specifically the use of that hateful word “reject.”

If you are an advocate for the moral high ground, even if this is sometimes incongruous with the law – MLK, Jr. being one of the finest examples of this type of individual – you should have no problem seeing the flaws in this Statement.

If you are champion for human rights, while I know some of you may find this dramatic, again – same old song – you should have no trouble finding the flaws in this Statement. (Really, how are they going to enforce the tenets of the Personal Lifestyle Statement without some serious violations of privacy?)

In addition to the recently implemented Personal Lifestyle Statement, there have been acts of censorship.  Rumors are flying, some of which I’m sure are true, but until then, I won’t disclose those here (you can be sure that once I know they’re true, I will shout them from the rooftops with a great “Yawp!”).

However, one act of censorship which I know is true is the recent cancellation of the Opera Department’s Fall production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’Amore, also known by its English title as The Elixir of Love.  I have recently had the pleasure of collaborating as co-choreographer on one production of this opera, though not this particular one, and I can say without hesitation that it is about as harmless as Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story.  Additionally, it is widely regarded as one of the greatest operas ever written.

However, it was cancelled by Shorter’s current president, Dr. Donald Dowless, because there was mention of and use of wine by the characters in the story  (this he based on a synopsis he read before rehearsals had even begun).  I feel like the implications are obvious, but in case you’re not feeling as offended as I am by this, think of all of the songs, plays, musicals, and movies out there where wine is used.  Did you decide to drink more as a result?  I don’t think so.  When creating art, sometimes you tell a cautionary tale, i.e., this is how not to live and here’s why, and other times, you must be true to the environment of the story and provide the necessary ambient elements.  If censorship is extended to the mere mention and consumption of alcohol, shouldn’t it also be extended to anything that contains content about murder, suicide, sex, rape, prostitution, adultery, lying, greed, gluttony, domestic violence, racism, bigotry, etc.???

Oh God, there go all of Shakespeare’s works!

(Not to mention a slew of other works of art.)

In fact, I am hard pressed to think of any story that doesn’t, at some point, present less-than-savory characters and/or less-than-savory situations.  How else are you to teach and improve the human condition? You know, one of the primary goals of art?

Ok, so I am about to get off of my soapbox soon, I promise.  The faculty does not have to turn the Statement in yet, but it’s only a matter of a few weeks.  Please act, before it’s too late!

If you believe that any of the Statement is unfair or immoral, then please sign this petition:

SignOn.orghttp://signon.org/sign/stop-shorter-university?source=s.fwd&r_by=1485127

Write a letter to a media outlet (or the president or some higher up at Shorter), Tweet it, Facebook-status it, discuss it with friends; you’ve already taken this much time to read this post, you might as well!

And of course, let me know your thoughts and feelings on this matter!  Do you have any ideas on how to get the word out and get this changed before it’s too late?  Be advised, if you use hateful language, I will remove your post, so don’t waste your time if that is your agenda (and for that matter, don’t read this blog, I don’t want you here).

Again, here’s the petition link: http://signon.org/sign/stop-shorter-university?source=s.fwd&r_by=1485127

***And for my readers who are thinking “Is The Ginger Penny Pincher going to turn into a religious and/or philosophical platform?”  Don’t worry, it won’t.  But just this once, I couldn’t help it.  I hope you understand.

Check back tomorrow for a new, albeit less politically charged, post!

Thanks!!!

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8 thoughts on “Off topic: A cause that’s weighing on my heart…

  1. Once again, you prove to be such an incredibly articulate, thoughtful, and passionate person that I am so privileged to know. And I am even *more* privileged to have taught you at Shorter. My heart is just sick with all of this.

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  3. Truly a shame. I have the priviledge of knowing many former Shorter students. I believe Shorter grads enter the world after graduation as capable of earning success as a UGA or GT graduate. The various liberal arts programs at Shorter provide them with a niche and a name. The perpetuation of a primitive Baptist agenda will destroy Shorter’s niche and name. Artists have no desire to attend a pseudo-“liberal” arts school that censors classical works of art because a few old primitive Baptists who are uncomfortable with fun. Students and parents do not want to pay private school tuition for a degree that will be mocked by the industry as second rate. America is changing, and the Bible belt is not different. Teens and adolecents who are exposed to secular ideology, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. are better equipped to deal with situations appropriately later in life. We all know the kids who went wild in college because their parents sheltered them much in the same way that the GBC and board at Shorter are attempting. The best thing for Shorter’s future and the continued respect of the degrees of Shorter’s alumni and future grads: (A) remove Dr. Donald (B) remove every board member (C) break free from the GBC (D) arm students with a curriculum that allows them to decipher truth for themselves (God reveals truth — old people with chains only disenfranchise youth!)

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