Turbulence at Gordon College

Samuel Smith:

Every member of Gordon College’s faculty senate resigned from their senatorship last week in what is being labeled as a show of solidarity for a professor who claims that she was denied a promotion because of her criticisms about the school’s policy on homosexuality.

The Massachusetts evangelical higher-education institution’s campus newspaper, The Tartan, reported last Wednesday that all seven members of the school’s faculty senate cited the ongoing disagreement with the school’s administration over the process of approving a faculty promotion as reasons for their joint resignation.

A joint resignation letter was read aloud by Senate chairwoman Ivy George during an all-faculty meeting last Wednesday.

“Provost [Janel] Curry was provided with a copy of a letter from the Senate when they met with her a few hours before the faculty meeting,” Gordon College Vice President of Communications Rick Sweeney said in an email to the school paper. “They were not open to further discussion on their decision, which they announced to their faculty colleagues at the end of the regular monthly meeting late Wednesday afternoon.”

Although no specific decision or faculty member was cited in the resignation letter, The Boston Globe and The Salem News report that the friction between the administration and faculty senate members began last month after assistant sociology professor Margaret DeWeese-Boyd filed a complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the school.

DeWeese-Boyd alleges that the college’s president, Michael Lindsay, and Provost Curry didn’t promote her to the status of full professor because she has been a vocal critic of the school’s policy prohibiting students and staff from engaging in homosexual activity.

DeWeese-Boyd has not only spoken out against the school’s policy but has also organized events to call for the “safety and inclusion” of LGBT students and staff at Gordon College.

Although the faculty senate had unanimously approved the assistant professor’s promotion to full professor, The Boston Globe reports that Lindsay and Curry denied the promotion in February.

According to the Tartan, the senators’ resignation letter stated that they felt Curry and Lindsay were not respectfully upholding the guidelines concerning the promotion of faculty as laid out in the school’s administrative handbook.

“The Senate believes that the administration does not feel bound to the handbook in a way that everyone thought they were,” an unnamed Gordon College professor who attended the meeting told the Tartan. “So it’s a little bit, at least from the senate’s perspective, it’s a little bit like a professor saying, ‘Well, I don’t really feel bound by the syllabus, so I’m going to assign grades in this class based on criteria and I’m not going to tell you what they are.'”

According to The Tartan, Curry told the faculty after the meeting that “my perspective and interpretation of the situation is very different than theirs and I will need some time to explore how we bridge the gap in perspectives.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.