Open Letter: Zak Weston ’13

**NOTE: Open Letters hosted on Let There Be Light reflect the express views/concerns of the author(s), and not necessarily those of our entire organization.**

(Introduction:)

We all want Cedarville to become more Christ-centered.  Dr. Carl Ruby, one of the men who most effectively held us to that ideal, has been forced out. Students are struggling to understand why.  The response from our leaders to concerns has been nothing more than spiritually-justified, vaguely-worded statements.  The truth is still held captive by a non-disclosure agreement.  Dr. Gredy, why are you hiding the truth from us?

Open Letter: Carl Ruby and Chris Williamson’s resignations

by Zak Weston

Cedarville University has lost some of its finest leaders in recent weeks.  Dr. Carl Ruby and Pastor Chris Williamson were among this school’s most respected and transformative visionaries. Their resignations have struck a distressing chord on campus, especially since much of Cedarville’s identity and future had already been called into question by concurrent events, including the release of the White Papers, the rejection of the Theology major, the removal of Dr. Michael Pahl, Dr. Bill Brown’s resignation, and the cancellation of the philosophy major.

The purpose of this letter is to request more clarification from Cedarville’s leadership, and encourage students to learn more and voice questions.  The following are five points which merit consideration.

1. Almost everyone agrees on the mission and vision of Cedarville

Consider the Vision 2020 Statement:

“Cedarville will be one of the most influential Christ-centered universities in the 21st century – the model in higher education for biblical integration, professional preparation, technological innovation, and cultural engagement.”

The Mission and Identity Statement:

“Cedarville University stands dedicated to its mission as “a Christ-centered learning community equipping students for lifelong leadership and service through an education marked by excellence and grounded in biblical truth…The University is current in thought, historic in doctrine, and relevant to the culture. It is progressive, yet anchored; uncompromising, yet engaging. Cedarville’s appropriate balance may be seen in its theology, its biblical worldview, its student handbook, and its presentation of both liberal arts education along with professional programs.”

Cedarville’s Shared Governance Executive Summary:

“Genuine shared governance gives voice (but not necessarily ultimate authority) to concerns common to all constituencies as well as to issues unique to specific groups…Students are the institution’s main educational focus and have a legitimate interest in matters affecting their ability to complete their education.”

“Leadership and Truth Telling” by Dr. John Gredy:

“Why is it important to speak and lead with truth and integrity?

  1. People deserve to know the truth.
  2. Truth telling clarifies and defines actions and information.
  3. Truth telling creates real authenticity and provides consistency between past actions and current and future actions.”

2. It is hard to understand how recent decisions fit into our mission and vision

I love the mission and vision of this school.  But it is deeply concerning that the University’s vision cannot include someone like Dr. Carl Ruby.  Ruby helped to make Cedarville look more like Christ and feel more like heaven.  He was known for his love for students – especially those who were marginalized – and his love for this school. He invested his entire professional career in this institution. His legacy here is marked by the desire to make Christ the true center of our school, not just a part of our brand.

At the time of his resignation, he was not looking for work, had no succession plan in place, left after 5 days, in the middle of a presidential transition, and is legally prevented from speaking about the circumstances of his departure.  It is clear he did not want to go, and was forced to resign.  Everyone knows this, but no one can speak about it publicly for fear of losing their job.

Is Cedarville a better place without Carl Ruby? The response from students thus far has been a resounding “No!” Over 1,000 signatories have voiced their desire to reinstate him in an online petition.  Thousands wore red and showed up outside his office on his last day to cheer for him as he left his office for the final time.

I disagree with Dr. Gredy’s decision to accept Dr. Ruby’s resignation, and I am disappointed that the Board chose to uphold Dr. Gredy’s decision.  Not all the Trustees were in agreement with decision.  Common practice on boards calls for each member agreeing to refrain from public dissent, even if they have a minority opinion in board decisions.  We know the outcomes of the January meetings were not the wishes of the entire Board, as evidenced by Pastor Chris Williamson’s decision to resign and his public statement (see reference section).

Dr. Dixon was known for his motto – “Anything done in God’s name ought to have quality stamped all over it.”  I would add that you cannot make something quality merely by stamping God’s name all over it.  Thus far, the response from our leaders to concerns has been nothing more than spiritually-justified, vaguely-worded statements.  The truth is still held captive by a non-disclosure agreement.

I want more than anything for Cedarville to become more Christ-centric.  Now, one of the men who most effectively held us to that ideal has been forced out.  And I am struggling to understand why.

3. Greater clarity is needed

The town hall meeting with Dr. Gredy and the Administrative Council during the week of the Trustee meetings was well attended — many students were curious about what was going on.  The chance to hear from Cedarville’s leadership was appreciated, but every student I talked to was more confused and concerned after than before.  Most were suspicious of the vague answers given by the administration regarding Dr. Ruby’s resignation – I have not yet met anyone who thinks Dr. Ruby wanted to leave.

Many, after hearing of Dr. Ruby’s surprisingly fast resignation, waited for the then upcoming Trustee meeting, assuming that more information would be released following those proceedings.  Instead, an impersonal official statement was released which was effectively silent as to why recent decisions were made. Given the current atmosphere of uncertainty, silence is a damaging response. The sudden, unexplained exit of key personnel makes prospective students reluctant to cast their lot with Cedarville. Current students are also uncertain of Cedarville’s future and suspicious of its leadership.  Alumni are worried. Parents are unsure. Churches do not know how to interpret recent decisions.  Many members of the Cedarville community are so concerned that they cannot in good conscience recommend the University to others.

4. Students do not have the right to know everything

As owners, the trustees have the responsibility of guiding and directing this institution.  As administrators, Dr. Gredy and the Vice Presidents run the school at the discretion of the owners.

5. Students have the right to graciously question

As the customers of the institution, students have the right and even the responsibility to ask questions, but should do so respectfully, understanding they are not owed responses to every concern.  For those who desire to get involved, the best steps are to:

This letter is intended for members of the greater Cedarville community, including students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, pastors, and administrators.  Its purpose is to voice challenging yet respectful questions, and to encourage others to do likewise. It should not be interpreted or used as an attack upon Cedarville University or its leaders.  I deeply appreciate this school — its faculty, staff, students, and leadership. My hope is for the continued prosperity and growth of the entire Cedarville University community.

Sincerely,

Zak Weston

References

Town Hall video

http://cedars.cedarville.edu/article/585/SGA-Town-Hall-Meeting-Jan-22/

Official CU press release regarding Dr. ruby’s resignation

http://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Public-Relations/CampusNews/2012/Ruby-Legacy-Built-at-Cedarville-University.aspx

Identity and Mission Statement

http://www.cedarville.edu/About/Presidential-Search/Identity-Mission.aspx

Christianity Today article about Dr. Ruby

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-web-only/resignations-of-top-administrators-fuel-fears-at-cedarville.html?start=2

Inside Higher Ed article

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/01/22/several-controversies-converge-ohio-baptist-college

Shared Governance Executive Summary

http://www.cedarville.edu/Job-Openings/Shared-Governance.aspx

Dr. John Gredy’s blog

http://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Provost/Provost-Blog.aspx

Let There Be Light Blog

https://fiatlux125.wordpress.com/

Chris Williamson’s Statement

http://www.facebook.com/chris.williamson.5070/posts/4450805352429

Vision 20/20

http://www.cedarville.edu/~/media/Files/PDF/Advancement/Cedarville-Fund/cedarville_society.pdf

http://www.cedarville.edu/~/media/Files/PDF/Publications/Annual-Report/annualreport_2012.pdf

Reinstate Ruby petition

http://action.groundswell-movement.org/petitions/reinstate-ruby

Advertisements

4 responses to “Open Letter: Zak Weston ’13

  1. Pingback: That’s So Cedarville? | Let There Be Light·

  2. Pingback: That’s So Cedarville? | Soli Deo Gloria·

  3. Pingback: My Unforgettable Cedarville Experience (pt 2) | Soli Deo Gloria·

  4. Pingback: That’s So Cedarville? | Let There Be Light·

Discuss!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s