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College Response to Media Reports About Departing Faculty

May 19th, 2006

 

Responding to a flurry of media coverage about departing faculty at Patrick Henry College in recent days, the executive leadership of PHC wishes to convey its deep concern over what it feels has been heavily skewed, one-sided coverage of a private personnel matter. In a succession of published comments by five departing professors, their voluntary resignations have been characterized as a protest-by-pact against so-called restrictions upon their license to freely teach the classical liberal arts in the classroom. By their words and quoted assertions, the professors have painted the conflict as a battle for academic freedom, suggesting that the College is retreating from open discourse and its commitment to the classical liberal arts. Both charges are patently, categorically false.

A brief bit of background is in order. By declaring itself as a Christian college of the classical liberal arts, which accepts some of the nation’s brightest, highly motivated and talented Christian students, Patrick Henry College has from its inception taken seriously its mission to prepare Christian men and women to lead the nation and shape the culture with timeless biblical values. In so doing, the College has staked out territory that few other academic institutions of higher learning have been able to take - or hold - that of successfully blending the academic excellence of the classical liberal arts with a solid grounding in biblical truth. Contrary to insinuations by departing faculty, PHC has been, and remains, zealously committed to a rigorous study and debate of all ideas, and all schools of thought, as the success of our students in every realm of the public square dutifully attests. The College is, likewise, committed to a critical reading and study of the classics, not as articles of intellectual faith or undue devotion, but as important works needed to help students understand the cycles and currents of culture and history. Additionally, and contrary to quotes by departing faculty, at PHC a free-flowing debate of any and all intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual subjects - good ideas and bad, true as well as false - is not only allowed but required of our students, as we train them to deal with the real world and expose them to the whole range of scholarship and history.

Yet by their own testimony, the departing faculty part ways with the administration at a critical juncture, one that has, in most media accounts, been only vaguely referenced. In both PHC's Mission Statement and Statement of Biblical Worldview, the College attests to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and authority of the Bible as final arbiters over all wisdom and knowledge; indeed, God’s Word teaches us that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Cor. 3:19). So, even at a College that holds an exceedingly high view of intellectual rigor and academic excellence, we do well to keep this admonition close to our hearts. Having signed on to this charter, students at PHC are, therefore, asked to critically view the great concepts, literature, and art of western civilization, and digest these subjects as they would all scholarly works, with a healthy dose of caution and diligence, weighing everything against the absolute truth found only in Scripture. At Patrick Henry College we find this a cause for celebration, not apology.

Yet in both their comments and actions of recent weeks, the departing faculty seem to display their resistance to this central operating premise. They have made misleading accusations that appear to be intended to embarass and discredit the College leadership, whose vision and passion for the classical liberal arts made the College possible.

In the wake of these voluntary resignations, the College is moving eagerly forward, filling their positions with highly qualified, highly motivated faculty who share the College's mission and vision. These new faculty will join with our current faculty and students to further advance Patrick Henry College as a high-caliber classical Christian liberal arts institution, to the glory of God.

Points of Clarification:

1. Contrary to media reports, none of the departing faculty were asked to resign. All were given ample opportunity to explain their grievance and defend their position; all refused, choosing instead to resign their positions.

2. At any point, the departing faculty could have taken up their dispute with the College Board of Trustees and sought biblical mediation and reconciliation; all chose not to, preferring to vent their grievances in the press and by drawing students in their classrooms into the fray.

3. By their own testimony, the departing faculty decided as a group to tender their resignations in advance of the aforementioned events. They have been quoted in published reports as describing their subsequent writings, campus and classroom activities as “a line in the sand” meant to provoke a reaction from the administration.

4. One of the departing professors was dismissed, after announcing his resignation, for subsequently involving students in his classroom in a debate over faculty departures. This professor was asked to discontinue inappropriate, unprofessional classroom conduct and apologize; he refused.

5. Another departing professor's contract was not temporarily suspended, as was suggested in a May 20 Washington Post article, "in part" because of an article he wrote for a school publication, but because of a specific classroom encounter he had with a student, in the presence of that student's parent. The professor was questioned about the incident and given ample opportunity to respond; he refused, announcing his resignation instead.

6. They have failed to acknowledge, as have media accounts, the robust and ongoing commitment to classical learning at PHC, as demonstrated through the naming of a new President, Dr. Graham Walker, himself a former Ivy League professor and former Fellow at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, as well as author of a host of substantial academic publications; and the naming as Academic Dean Dr. Gene Edward Veith, author of 18 published books and many academic articles, who has a national reputation as an ardent advocate of classical Christian learning.

7. Patrick Henry College is committed to higher education as a Christian mission. The institution is non-denominational, but is grounded in all areas on the Lordship of Jesus Christ and high view of the Word of God. Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students share this faith commitment. Each and every faculty member is pledged by contract to undergird all of his teaching with a biblical worldview.

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