Inside Higher Ed Exposes Emmanuel Scandal: Christian Seminary To Terminate Professor in Exchange for Donation?

Dr. Chris Rollston, a tenured professor at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, has had termination proceedings begun against him. According to documents obtained by Inside Higher Ed, his dismissal appears to be in exchange for a potential donation from a donor who personally dislikes Rollston.

Inside Higher Education reporter Libby A. Nelson has written an exposé this morning that sheds tremendous light on an academic scandal presently unfolding at Emmanuel Christian Seminary (formerly Emmanuel School of Religion).

The scandal involves the current attempt to terminate a tenured professor, Dr. Chris Rollston, the Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies – a disciplinary process which a another Emmanuel professor, Dr. Paul Blowers, divulged to the public on Facebook last month while criticizing Rollston online for an article he wrote for the Huffington Post in August 2012.

In documents obtained by Inside Higher Ed, it appears that Emmanuel Christian Seminary President, Dr. Michael Sweeney, began the termination process of the tenured Rollston, in part, because of the acute financial crisis presently being experienced at Emmanuel, and the potential of a “six-figure” donation that could bail out the seminary, but from a donor who does not personally like Rollston. In this way, the school could kill two birds with one stone: ridding the faculty of a tenured professor to make way for a donation from a potential donor who does not like Rollston, and saving the money from the endowed chair and salary line Rollston presently earns.

That Emmanuel’s president would list multiple economic reasons (the potential of a donation, trouble recruiting tuition-paying students, etc.) for the termination of Dr. Rollston – in the notice of termination to Rollston – is scandalous in itself.

The fact that President Sweeney would attempt to blame the school’s best known and most prolific professor for the school’s present financial troubles is not only shameful, it appears to be unsubstantiated by the evidence. Dr. Rollston is the very reason many scholars even know about Emmanuel.

And, the fact that Dr. Rollston’s immediate supervisor, Dr. Paul Blowers (who serves as Chair of the Area Chairs, and who is therefore necessarily involved in any termination process) would divulge knowledge of this disciplinary process to the public whilst criticizing Rollston publicly is not only highly unprofessional, it is potentially actionable legally due to the confidentiality that necessarily surrounds cases of termination (that Emmanuel suddenly appears to want to honor as reason for not responding to the Inside Higher Ed article).

Dr. Blowers’ comments criticizing Rollston and divulging the disciplinary process can be found here and here. Dr. Blowers bragged:

We are looking at disciplinary action in the next few days. I still scratch my head trying to figure Rollston out.

I responded to Dr. Blowers in comments on the Bible and Interpretation website.

Yet, even after apologizing for making the disciplinary action public, Dr. Blowers continued his defense of his criticism of Dr. Rollston on the Bible and Interpretation website and various blogs around the web. Dr. Blowers’ apparent obsession with defending himself throughout this entire scandal may have placed Emmanuel Christian Seminary in a very vulnerable position legally.

Indeed, the article notes that Dr. Rollston has retained a lawyer.

The Inside Higher Ed story highlights the central problem in this scandal: The argument over Dr. Rollston’s recent Huffington Post article seems to be, at best, a distraction that the seminary hoped it could use as an excuse for a “for cause” termination of the tenured Rollston.

Likewise, arguments about issues of academic freedom of private Christian institutions are moot for the following reasons:

  1. Emmanuel includes language on “Academic Freedom” in their faculty handbook that is adopted word-for-word from the secular American Association of University Professor’s (AAUP) statement on academic freedom.
  2. Emmanuel sought and was awarded accreditation from the secular Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
  3. Emmanuel awards tenure. (This is unlike many Christian universities that only extend term contracts to professors, so that in the event a professor ever says something the administration finds disagreeable, the school simply need not extend a contract extension to the professor.)

From the beginning, this appears to have been a case about the wrongful termination of a tenured professor, on trumped up grounds of interpretation of scripture, when the real reason appears to be one of a financial nature: sacrificing academic integrity and disregarding the tenure process in exchange for a potential donation from a theologically conservative donor.

If this turns out to be the case, then Emmanuel deserves any and all pending litigation brought against it.

An institution simply cannot fire a tenured professor who broke no rules (and who happens to be the most credible scholar at Emmanuel) just because the institution wants a donation. Tenure is designed to protect freedom of thought. If Emmanuel wants to fire its professors for thinking outside of Emmanuel’s predetermined theological constraints, why offer tenure in the first place?

In my professional opinion, Emmanuel has committed a grievous violation of academic integrity, and one that will not only cost them financially, but one that will ruin the reputation of the institution for years to come.


(N.B.: Note that the image of Rollston used in the Inside Higher Ed image depicts Dr. Rollston wearing a Pepperdine University sweatshirt. Pepperdine is another tenure granting college and like Emmanuel, affiliated with the Restoration Heritage.)


The mash-up images and internet memes below are satirical commentaries on the present apparent Emmanuel scandal as first reported by Inside Higher Ed. They do not reflect the opinion of Emmanuel Christian Seminary. All free-speech, satirical comments below are solely the opinion of the blog author. All images below are freely available online.


bent meyer, mars hill church elder fired by mark driscoll, speaks out

Don't drink Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Kool-Aid

Don't drink Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Kool-Aid

One of the elders fired by Mark Driscoll in 2007 has spoken out. You can read the comments by Bent Meyer here at the Wartburg Watch. The entire article is worth a read.

With all of the turmoil that Mark Driscoll has brought upon his Mars Hill church franchise in recent months (see the exposé by Matthew Paul Turner here), including his highly suspect and cult-like disciplinary tactics meant to shame and humiliate any who would not submit to his authority and/or might threaten to leave his church, it is important to get the back story from those who know it best.

A portion of Meyer’s response reads:

The downside is Mark’s pathology shows up in ways that are impulsive, aggressive, irascible, shut off from effective relational influence, and most apparent not respectful and submissive to anyone, though he claims otherwise.

I have hoped and still hope for something short of him destroying himself that would bring about substantial change for this ever increasing population of worshiper. Some have fretted there will be a great loss of Christians with the demise of Mark and/or the Church. I don’t think so. The church that comprises all of us will survive. The chaff will be blown away, but the church will remain.

Bent Meyer is a good man, and his voice should be heard in this matter. Read it here.

lest we forget: what happens to steve moore and to pepperdine now that amanda knox has been acquitted?

Steve Moore, Amanda Knox, and Pepperdine University

Steve Moore was fired from his job as Deputy Director of Public Safety at Pepperdine University shortly after publicly suggesting that Amanda Knox might not be guilty of murder. Knox’s conviction was overturned on appeal. Pepperdine owns property and has an overseas study-abroad program in Florence, Italy. Moore sued Pepperdine for wrongful termination. Pepperdine settled the case out of court.

Now that Amanda Knox’s murder conviction in Italy has been overturned, the fallout from Amanda Knox’s acquittal has begun. And because of the peculiar actions of Pepperdine University in 2010, the case affects some of us here at home, specifically with regard to issues of free speech, intellectual freedom, and social justice.

Let us ask the question: what happens to Pepperdine now that Amanda Knox has been acquitted?

Pepperdine, which was recently ranked as the 5th “Douchiest school” in America by GQ, actually fired their own Deputy Director of Public Safety, former FBI agent Steve Moore, after he appeared on CBS News’ The Early Show and suggested that Amanda Knox might not be guilty of murder. Pepperdine administrators took him aside quietly and asked him not to comment any further on the matter, as they wanted to keep Pepperdine’s name out of the story in Italy. Pepperdine owns property and has an overseas study-abroad program in Florence, Italy, and may not have wanted one of its own speaking out against Italian officials.

Not long after Moore refused to be quiet about Knox’s innocence, Pepperdine fired him. Of course, Pepperdine claims they cannot comment because it is a “personnel issue,” and “wholeheartedly disagrees” with any characterization that Moore’s termination came about for any reason other than various job performance-related issues (and certainly not out of retaliation for not obeying orders to stop speaking out on behalf of a woman who was, in fact, not guilty of murder).

The question now remains: what happens to Pepperdine for firing an employee who was right?

Moore sued Pepperdine for wrongful termination, and after trying a few legal maneuvers to avoid going to trial, Pepperdine financially settled with Moore for wrongfully terminating him when all he was trying to do was stand for justice. So at the simplest level, the answer is that Pepperdine had to pay a financial penalty for wrongfully terminating an employee.

This is Pepperdine’s (and certainly many other organizations’) tried and true modus operandi: pressure someone into silence or departure on one issue by threatening them with another issue. While Pepperdine’s Director of Public Information, Jerry Derloshon, “disagrees wholeheartedly with Moore’s characterization of his dismissal,” Vice President and General Counsel Gary Hanson wrote in an e-mail regarding Moore’s termination, “We will of course respond appropriately to the lawsuit that Mr. Moore has filed.” Apparently that “appropriate response” included paying Moore a large amount of cash out of court for wrongfully terminating him without having to admit it.

But must Pepperdine also pay another price, say, to their credibility? Can a private Christian institution continue to pay mere lip service to issues of free speech and social justice when they immediately and consistently surrender both when they threaten Pepperdine’s private interests? Not only did a Pepperdine professor became the poster child for the “Yes on Prop 8″ campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California, but then, after numerous attempts at damage control by Pepperdine to claim that the university does not pick sides on ballot initiatives (note they didn’t denounce Prop 8 as civilly unjust, just that they “don’t pick sides”), the Dean of the Pepperdine Law School joined and ultimately led Prop 8’s legal team to appeal a California court’s decision to overturn it. Apparently social justice is a worthy cause at Pepperdine until the donor base (or internet campaigns) say otherwise.

Will Pepperdine’s U.S. News and World Report rankings continue to wallow in the second tier of universities because, in addition to insisting that all research and tenure decisions be subject not only to the University Tenure Committee, but also to a “Religious Standards Committee” (which may or may not be comprised of members with advanced degrees in religious studies), the school also limits the intellectual freedoms of their faculty members by making a public example of non-tenured staff members who will not follow Pepperdine’s “suggestions”?

Will Pepperdine answer questions about why they fired a man for speaking out on behalf of a woman who has been found to be not guilty?

And how much longer will Pepperdine students, faculty, and staff stand idly by and hold the coats of the administration as it continues to cave in on issues of civil rights, freedom of speech, and social justice?

A portion of Pepperdine’s Mission Statement reads: “Pepperdine affirms … that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.” Apparently Pepperdine relentlessly pursues truth as long as it is in their financial and religiously ideological interests to do so.

So, please allow a brief letter from a concerned alum:

Dear Pepperdine,

Please publicly apologize to Steve Moore.

Thank you,

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
Seaver Grad Alum, Class of 2000


More:

September 2, 2010 – ABC News – Amanda Knox is Innocent of Brutal Murder, Retired FBI Agent Claims

September 30, 2010 – CBS News – Amanda Knox Exclusive: Former FBI Agent Fired by School for Speaking Out on Knox Case

September 30, 2010 – Pepperdine Graphic – Casting doubt on Italian murder conviction got him fired Moore says

October 30, 2010, Pepperdine Graphic – Moore files lawsuit over termination

July 12, 2011 – Injustice in Perugia – Steve Moore Vindicated in Lawsuit With Pepperdine University

July 25, 2011 – Pepperdine Graphic – Moore reflects on newest findings in Amanda Knox trial

Ocober 3, 2011 – MSNBC – Amanda Knox Murder Conviction Overturned

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