The Taylor University commencement story

Before I get into the heart of this post, let me make it clear that everything I write on this blog is my own opinion, not that of my employer’s. I also realize that what I write here may offend some readers. I have waited a long time to write it, and thought very carefully about how to express my views without a lot of negativity and emotion.

I am still trying to come to grips with the fact that my former employer (Taylor University) chose to invite the vice-president of the U.S. to be this year’s commencement speaker. If I was still a faculty member there, I would have walked out of the guest speaker’s portion of commencement in solidarity with others as reported in an Inside Higher Ed article.

You will notice I am not even naming the commencement speaker — that is a deliberate choice and reflects how deeply negative I feel about our current U.S. administration.

I can’t help but think that Taylor’s administration made a calculated choice. Although I have no inside knowledge about it at all, I believe those making/approving this decision knew full well how controversial and divisive their decision would be, and they made that choice anyway. Their administration appears to have thrown its lot in with Liberty University in an attempt to bolster their bona fides with those evangelicals who offer full-throated support for the current U.S. administration. Like other, similar liberal arts institutions, Taylor faces intense enrollment pressure, which translates into financial pressure. In the past five years, for example, they have had to make some painful program cuts to remain financially viable. They do not have deep pockets to begin with and so are more exposed to enrollment issues than my current institution (Wheaton College), for example.

It was encouraging to read that as soon as this commencement speaker choice was announced at a faculty meeting a month or so ago, a motion for dissent was introduced and passed, 61-49. It was also encouraging to read in the Inside Higher Ed article mentioned previously that “dozens of students and faculty (emphasis mine)” walked out of the speech in protest.

What is especially concerning, though, is that Taylor’s administration made this choice knowing full well that it would be highly controversial and in spite of recent, disturbing events on its campus that already divided and fractured its covenant community (see here for one example). From an outside perspective, it seems like rubbing salt into an already painful wound. I don’t see the wisdom in it at all, especially not “the wisdom from above” (James 3:17).

I have many friends at Taylor whom I care for and many connections to the institution through those who’ve graduated from there. As someone there told me recently, “I’m embarrassed for Taylor.” Yeah, me too. I pray for changed hearts and minds.

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