A battle in Dayton, Tenn., has now gone way past the boundaries of the city.
I’ve reported before (here and here and here) about the worldview battle that emerged after a book project funded by the BioLogos Foundation pushed the Bryan College administration and board to clarify the college’s statement of faith regarding Genesis 2.
I tried to steer clear of the accompanying debate about college management, seeing that as an internal affair. But a nationally syndicated columnist I respect, Mike Adams, has now vigorously attacked a college president I respect, Stephen Livesay. The cat’s out of the bag.
Adams made five specific charges, and I asked Livesay—who does not have a national column—to respond. Here’s the point/counterpoint:
Adams: “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.”
Livesay: “This is a gross misrepresentation of what occurred. In July 2012, former professor David Morgan (not to be confused with David Morgan, director of the physical plant, who is still employed at the college) resigned his employment at Bryan College and confessed that he had been arrested in an FBI sting. Dr. Morgan allegedly used the Internet to contact who he believed to be two underage girls and arranged to meet with them. Instead, he was met by FBI agents.
“During our conversation, Dr. Morgan expressed his remorse for his actions. While I was appalled by what he had done and grateful that he had been caught before he could do anyone harm, I was grieved for this clearly broken man. At the same time, my priority was to promote and protect the wellbeing of our students. I wanted to be sure that no one in our community was personally interfered with by Dr. Morgan. After speaking with members of our faculty and staff, I was assured that nothing inappropriate had occurred at Bryan College.
“When announcing Dr. Morgan’s departure, I made the decision to communicate that he had resigned to pursue other opportunities. While true—Dr. Morgan told me during the conversation in which he resigned that he had, in fact, other employment opportunities—I now regret not being more transparent with the Bryan College family. I was motivated by a desire not to heap burning coals on an already broken man. Today I know that the Bryan community would have been better served if I had shared more of the story.”
Adams: “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.”
Livesay: “I labored over this decision, weighing the competing priorities of encouraging journalistic freedom and protecting our community. Given that new students were not acquainted with Dr. Morgan and many others had only ever had limited contact with him, I ultimately decided that nothing good could come of dredging up the sins of someone who was no longer part of our community. Unfortunately, this decision ultimately led to more controversy and squabbles within our community, something I deeply regret.”
Adams: “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. … This illegal alteration was forced upon faculty shortly before their annual contracts were to be renewed. This did not give dissenters a reasonable amount of time to look for employment elsewhere. … Now, two tenured professors who have been terminated have had to resort to litigation against Bryan.”
Livesay: “The Board letter to the faculty and staff clarified what has always been Bryan College’s position on creation: a belief in the existence of an actual Adam and Eve created by God who were not the product of evolution. Every eligible member of our faculty was given his or her employment contract on Feb. 28. The faculty were given four weeks to review the contract.”
Adams: “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.”
Livesay: “The president of Bryan College serves at the pleasure of the board, not the faculty. With that said, I was concerned by the outcome of the faculty vote—and of its taking place without the full faculty present. It is interesting to note that this vote came on the heels of positive 2010 and 2013 evaluations of me by faculty (evaluations given every three years).”
Adams “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 12 years of writing (almost always critically) of higher education, I have never seen this kind of totalitarian arrogance on behalf of a college president.”
Livesay: “The president of Bryan College cannot now nor ever could order a board member to resign. To claim otherwise is ludicrous.”
That’s it. Since initially writing about the Genesis 2 dispute, I’ve received numerous emails from Bryan College folks on both sides. I’m not sure who’s right on these serious management issues. I do believe what John Milton wrote about Truth in 1644: “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” And I pray for a resolution that will glorify God by bringing forth peace and truth.