Confirming two items that I’ve mentioned on this blog over the past month (here and here), Emmanuel Christian Seminary President, Dr. Michael Sweeney, confirmed via two separate emails sent to all Emmanuel students the following two items:
- Emmanuel is close to signing a $3,000,000 donation from a donor, who has offered the money to be used in debt reduction.
- Milligan College has voted to pursue acquiring Emmanuel Christian Seminary, including its assets and debts.
The October 29, 2012 email reads as follows:
The November 7, 2012 email reads as follows:
Let us set aside for a moment that fact that the President of Emmanuel Christian Seminary sent these emails to the entire student body.
These emails from the Emmanuel President all but confirm what many have been saying throughout Emmanuel’s scandalous attempt to dismiss a tenured professor: that Emmanuel’s “very direct answer to prayer” appears to have involved an attempt to terminate Dr. Chris Rollston in exchange for a large donation. There is certainly evidence to support such a claim.
Likewise, the letter reveals that Emmanuel Christian Seminary’s financial woes are far greater than many thought; Emmanuel’s present administration appears to have led Emmanuel into such a deep financial hole that discussions of the acquisition of Emmanuel’s debt and remaining assets have been ongoing with Milligan College for some time now. Likewise, President Sweeney explicitly hopes that “the result of this process will be to integrate Emmanuel into Milligan College”. That is, according to an email Emmanuel’s President sent to its students, Emmanuel wants Milligan to assume control. Thus, we’re past the point of if it’s going to happen, but we are now talking about when.
Beyond violating the rule of never announcing a major donation until the deal has been inked, Emmanuel appears to have handed Dr. Rollston more evidence than he needs to argue, quite compellingly, that financial factors played at least some role in his attempted termination – evidence that can only add to Emmanuel’s (and apparently now Milligan’s) financial woes, as a wrongful termination case appears to be all but inevitable.
So not only has President Michael Sweeney led Emmanuel into a financial position that can only be solved by the wholesale assumption of the seminary by another school, but he has publicly announced a forthcoming donation, adding support to earlier claims that at least part of Dr. Rollston’s attempted dismissal was, in fact, based on financial reasons that, according to Dr. Sweeney’s letter, originated “about a month ago”.
What is no longer in question is that Emmanuel Christian Seminary, for all intents and purposes, will cease to be what it has been: an independent Christian seminary.
And as Milligan College picks up the remaining pieces of Emmanuel Christian Seminary in this forthcoming fire sale, Emmanuel has done its students no favor by casting itself the symbol of academic and intellectual suppression, and of selling out good professors for quick cash. I shudder to think how Emmanuel students have watched as its administration has damaged the school’s academic credibility, and therefore the reputation of an Emmanuel degree – which their students are paying good money to receive! What good is a degree from a seminary that has so quickly come to be associated by many scholars as the poster child for ultra conservative, religious fundamentalism, and a place where the religious thought police prohibit professors from saying anything out of line with a predetermined statement of beliefs required as a condition of employment?
It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the students – both present and future – who are associated with Emmanuel School of Religion (and apparently soon to be Milligan College) might begin to transfer to other schools so as not to sully their chances of getting into PhD programs. Given the overwhelming number of faculty members who have written in support of Dr. Rollston from a wide array of schools, both confessional and secular, what are the chances that these institutions are going to accept Emmanuel students into their PhD programs?
Beyond putting Emmanuel in a precarious legal and financial situation, President Michael Sweeney may very well have destroyed Emmanuel’s one true asset: its reputation as a school that produces quality, critically thinking biblical scholars.
What is more, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Emmanuel students will begin to demand refunds for they education that they’ve paid for, but which has now arguably lost value because the “Emmanuel brand” has become associated with the suppression of scholarly inquiry.
It is time for President Sweeney and Emmanuel Christian Seminary to admit what many scholars already know: they made a HUGE mistake. They tried to pressure a good scholar out of a tenured position, in part at least, to secure a donation from a donor that did not like Dr. Rollston. The emails from President Sweeney to the Emmanel students certainly support this claim, as does the disciplinary action letter from Dr. Sweeney to Dr. Rollston.
It is time for Emmanuel to apologize and settle this case quickly, before any further damage harms the Emmanuel brand, and before the lack of academic credibility begins to stain Milligan College.
Filed under: scholarship Tagged: | acquisition, assumption, Bill Greer, christopher rollston, Dean E. Walker, donor, Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Inside Higher Education, law suit, merger, Michael Sweeney, Milligan College, Stone-Campbell Movement, wrongful termination