That’s So Cedarville?

An overview of recent events at Cedarville University, from the release of the White Papers to the CU Layoffs of 2013.

  1. The White Papers

  2. Dated September 2011, the following White Papers on Omniscience, Creation, and Justification were released to faculty early in the Spring 2012 semester, shortly before contracts were due to be signed. As a cursory examination of the documents reveals, they are poorly written and researched. However, according to the University website, the White Papers are “designed to clarify and elaborate on Cedarville University’s doctrinal statement” and “are seen as a part of Cedarville University’s doctrinal positions.”

    Nevertheless, it took *months* after an initial request was made by students to the administration before the University was willing to post the documents on its website for the general public to read.
  3. The following pieces deal with the White Papers directly:
  4. However, the first piece to quote the White Papers was the remarkably prescient article, Constituencies or Change?, written in April 2012 by Grant Miller and Kimberly Prijatel:
  5. Although it took quite some time, Dr. Tom Cornman (CU Academic Vice President) eventually replied to Grant and Kimberly’s piece on his personal blog at the beginning of the Fall 2012 semester:
  6. Dr. Michael Pahl Fired

  7. Sometime between the “Constituencies or Change?” Ventriloquist article and Dr. Cornman’s blog post, during the summer of 2012, actions were taken against Michael Pahl to relieve him of his teaching duties (or, less euphemistically, to fire him). However, information regarding this dismissal process has been painstakingly difficult to acquire. The University’s official statement regarding this incident, provided by Dr. Cornman and also Dr. John Gredy (Provost at Cedarville), reads as follows:

    “Both parties agree that they desire to avoid publicity with respect to the matters giving rise to this agreement. Nonetheless, they also acknowledge there may, from time to time, be circumstances where it is in a party’s best interests to explain the situation leading up to the agreement for the Faculty Member to be relieved of his teaching duties at Cedarville University. Accordingly, when either party determines it is necessary to make a public statement with respect to these events, the following is to be quoted in full, with no deletion nor additions:

     

    “Dr. Michael Pahl has been relieved of his teaching duties because he is unable to concur fully with each and every position of Cedarville University’s doctrinal statement.  This decision was made following a review by the University administration and trustees prompted by Dr. Pahl’s recent book, The Beginning and the End:  Rereading Genesis’s Stories and Revelation’s Visions.

     

    “Dr. Pahl’s orthodoxy and commitment to the gospel are not in question, nor is his commitment to Scripture’s inspiration, authority and infallibility.  He is a promising scholar and a dedicated teacher, and he will be missed by his colleagues and students.  Nevertheless, the University has determined this decision to be in the best interests of its constituency at this time.”

  8. After obtaining the official statement above, Joshua Steele (Class of 2013) was the first to raise questions regarding Dr. Pahl’s “dismissal” on his personal blog from September 20-22, 2012:
  9. A little over one month later, Melissa Steffan of Christianity Today wrote the following piece:
  10. Michael Pahl himself was one of the first to respond online to the CT piece:
  11. However, others quickly followed suit:
  12. Dr. William Brown Resigns

  13. On Monday, October 29, 2012 – the same day as the release of Steffan’s CT piece – Dr. William E. Brown announced his resignation at the end of chapel (daily, from 10-10:50am). The general faculty were not informed of this resignation beforehand. The only people to receive prior notice of the announcement were chairs, deans, and VP’s, who received an email at around 9:00am that morning. Below is the official University announcement, released later that afternoon:
  14. That same afternoon, concerned students and alumni of Cedarville University decided to take Fiat Lux (now “Let There Be Light [LTBL]”) public, calling for transparency from the University in matters related to identity and vision. According to the LTBL blog:

    “We are a community of current and former students of Cedarville University,

    where recent events have prompted our concern for the well-being of the institution.

    We believe that every organization, especially those in higher education, and most-especially those claiming the name of Christ, should be characterized by transparency.

    Yet our Christ-centered learning community is operating under a shroud of opacity in several important matters.

    This should not be.

    We request transparency.”

  15. Dr. Carl Ruby Fired

  16. At 10:45am on Thursday, January 10, John Gredy (CU Provost and acting President) sent out an email announcing the resignation of Dr. Carl Ruby, Vice President of Student Life. The email began:

    “Having invested more than 25 years as part of the Cedarville University staff and administration, Dr. Carl Ruby today announced his decision to conclude his service in the role of vice president for student life, effective June 30, 2013. He will be pursuing new career opportunities outside the University.”
     
    Dr. Ruby’s last day in his office was Tuesday, January 15. Although the University administration organized no official showings of support for this beloved alumnus and long-time employee, students took it upon themselves to organize a “Ruby Tuesday” send-off.
  17. The University’s silence in the wake of Carl Ruby’s supposed “resignation” was unsettling. Students tried to get to the truth behind the mysterious “resignation,” which by all accounts looked like an undeserved termination.
  18. Christianity Today and the Institute on Religion & Democracy took notice:
  19. (Update) Carl Ruby Now:

  20. The Philosophy Major Dissolved

  21. On January 16, 2013, Cedars reported that “Rumors are swirling about the proposed cut of Cedarville’s Philosophy Major” –
  22. It was speculated that the proposed cancellation had at least something to do with the Cedars opinion piece that Dr. Shawn Graves and Dr. David Mills, the two CU Philosophy profs, co-authored on October 13, 2012. The shockingly negative responses to the article had many concerned that it may have indirectly led to the impending decision to cancel the Philosophy Major and release one of the Philosophy professors.

    In the comments, Graves and Mills were called Socialists, Communists, and pro-abortionists (among other things). Many threatened to revoke their donations to the University or to prohibit their children from ever attending. The comments can still be read underneath the article:
  23. Among others, The Ventriloquist, Inside Higher Ed, and Huffington Post: Religion took note of the proposed cancellation of the philosophy major:
  24. Let There Be Light / Our CU Protest

  25. Alumni led the charge to protest the proposed cancellation of the philosophy major. Many surged to the following Groundswell protest and testimonial blog, Our CU Protest:
  26. In addition, a petition was started to reinstate Carl Ruby, who by all appearances had not desired to leave Cedarville and pursue “new career opportunities outside the University.”
  27. Both Groundswell petitions received over 1,000 signatures.
  28. SGA Town Hall

  29. On the evening of January 22, 2013, John Gredy and the CU Admins took to the chapel stage to “answer” students’s questions:
  30. The following is a rough transcript of the Town Hall:
  31. Although the CU Admins appeared quite satisfied with the meeting, the reaction on Twitter was much less positive, as a simple search for “#SGATownHall” reveals:
  32. Trustee Meeting: January 24-25, 2013

  33. On Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013, Dr. Gredy sent out an email containing the following:
    “As you are aware, the Board of Trustees will be on campus tomorrow and Friday. I wanted you to know that the locations for the executive committee meeting on Thursday and the general board meeting on Friday have been moved to Tyler 134 (the former Board Room).
     
    “We made this move based on two main factors. First, it is important to protect the integrity of the board meetings and issues that will be discussed. Second, this is a more suitable location to accommodate possible demonstrations while also serving guests who will be attending a worship conference in the DMC starting Friday. You can view the University’s policies related to Demonstrations on page 18 of the Student Handbook.”
  34. Students did decide to demonstrate…silently, and with cinnamon rolls:
  35. The results:

     

    Official Statements from the Board of Trustees: (Distributed by Dr. Gredy on Friday, January 25)

    “The Board of Trustees at its January 25, 2013, meeting carefully reviewed the events surrounding the announcement that Dr. Carl Ruby would conclude his service to Cedarville University. The Board acknowledges and regrets how lack of clarity has made this transition even more difficult for the Cedarville University family. Nonetheless, the Board of Trustees supports the understanding between Dr. Ruby and the administration. The Board of Trustees wishes to express gratitude to Dr. Carl Ruby for his service to Cedarville University.

     

    “The Board also approved the recommendation of the Academic Council to conclude both the B.A. in Physics and the B.A. in Philosophy programs. In line with the University’s stated objective to equip Cedarville graduates who think broadly and deeply, the Board affirmed that the philosophy minor should continue and be strengthened, that philosophy courses will be available to all students as part of general education, and that the Honors program should continue to be a priority. All current philosophy majors will be able to complete their programs, as required by our regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.”

  36. Media Takes Notice

  37. Despite the resounding setbacks of the results of the January 2013 Trustee Meetings, the Let There Be Light / Our CU Protest movement had gained sufficient steam for Mark Oppenheimer to take notice in the New York Times on February 15, 2013:
  38. Megan Pant of the Dayton Daily News followed suit two days later:
  39. Open Letters

  40. The following open letters, hosted on the LTBL blog, give an overview of reactions/requests from a range of students and alumni:
  41. Joshua Steele, ’13:
  42. Jonathan Demers, ’11:
  43. Blake Hereth, ’11:
  44. Sarah Jones, ’10:
  45. David Olsen, ’84:
  46. Zach Schneider, ’14:
  47. And Zak Weston, ’13 (SGA President, 2012-13):
  48. In addition, Sarah Jones (’10) wrote an informative series of blog posts at the Save OBU blog on the situation at Cedarville:
  49. Cedarville Trustees Call Special Meeting: Saturday, February 23, 2013.

  50. Hopes rose slightly as the CU Trustees called for a special meeting in February. Perhaps the movement had gained enough steam to reverse some of the decisions made/approved of at the January meeting.
  51. However, the results were just as negative, if not more so, the second time around. Chris Williamson’s protest resignation was approved by the Board. Bill Rudd, a Trustee for over two decades and previous Board Chair, also resigned, among others.
  52. The Fallout

  53. In March 2013, Paul Dixon (former Cedarville President and Chancellor) took to the chapel stage in front of faculty and staff to reassure the Cedarville family (including alumni and donors) that everything was alright at Cedarville as the University “Mov[es] Forward with Confidence.” However, given the events of the previous year (see above) and the propagandist tone of Dixon’s address, many found his statements particularly unsettling. If you don’t have time to watch the entire speech, focus on the last 10-15 minutes:
  54. The following two articles provide a summary of where things stood as the 2012-13 academic year came to a close at Cedarville University. The first contains quotes from Carl Ruby, TC Ham, Chris Williamson, and Bill Rudd:
  55. The second piece takes a closer look at Cedarville’s Bible Department, which although it officially becomes a School (again) in 2013-14, is losing at least a few professors:
  56. Furthermore, Chris Williamson and Bill Rudd were not the only trustees to resign within the past year. Current estimates place the trustee turnover within the last year at 8 members. The following piece from Dayton Daily News briefly mentions the most recent appointees to the Board.
  57. One of the most recent “new” trustees was actually a CU Board Member from 2003-2011: Paige Patterson, the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    However, as Faith Beauchemin (CU alumna) notes, Patterson’s reappointment to the Board should raise significant concerns about the identity and future of the University:
  58. The 2013 CU Layoffs

  59. On the morning of May 15, 2013, Jon Purple (former Dean for Student Life Programs) announced via his personal Facebook page that, after 22 years of service, he had been laid off. The news quickly spread via social media.
  60. BREAKING: @cedarville lays off Jon Purple (Dean for Student Life Programs) after 22 yrs of service.
  61. However, Dean Purple was only one of 29 people who were laid off that morning by the University. Cedars came out with the following piece that same day:
  62. Please Share This Story and Stay Tuned for Further Cedarville Coverage…

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