Friday, October 3, 2014

Can they at least try to get the Gordon College story correct?

Gordon College (Massachusetts)
Today, the ever-erudite Michael Brown writes (at Charisma) Gordon College, Don't Sell Your Soul for Secular Accreditation. Brown is wrong on several levels. If you have some spare brain cells to kill, you can read his lengthy treatise which draws a number of incorrect conclusions. Shocking, I know.

Since I have some experience in this area, let me first explain what's at stake for Gordon College. It is also important for the reader to try to understand the culture of accreditation, particularly at this level.

Accreditation is fundamental to a college's very existence. The US Department of Education officially recognizes the reliability of 15 accrediting agencies to determine an institution's quality of education. These agencies accredit the schools authorized to participate in Title IV — federal student financial aid. So whether you are running Harvard or Mom's Beautician School, accreditation matters. No accreditation, no Title IV. No Title IV, no school or college. Colleges inhale grants and subsidized loans and exhale students as graduates or withdrawals. Mr. Brown might as well tell them to close their doors.

Like it or not, every queer who pays taxes subsidizes Gordon College and its likely future oppressors students.

The key component of accreditation is self-assessment. Accreditation is an ongoing process. The school is expected to have a self-study working group to internally assess quality. The working group is also an expression of faculty governance, something that accreditors take very seriously.

The accrediting body provides the peer review of educational institutions. While the accrediting agency has some staff, most of the work is done by peer volunteers. In this case, those peers would be current or former institutional presidents and deans. Each accrediting body publishes its standards of accreditation which are revised from time to time. Schools are expected to meet those standards.

Gordon College is accredited by the accrediting commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges or (NEASC). At this point they have simply asked a question: Does prohibiting homosexual conduct violate the standards for accreditation?
6.1 Consistent with its mission, the institution sets and achieves realistic goals to enroll a student body that is broadly representative of the population the institution wishes to serve and addresses its own goals for the achievement of diversity among its students. 

6.11 … In providing services, in accordance with its mission and purposes, the institution adheres to both the spirit and intent of equal opportunity and its own goals for diversity.

11.5  The institution adheres to non-discriminatory policies and practices in recruitment, admissions, employment, evaluation, disciplinary action, and advancement. It fosters an atmosphere within the institutional community that respects and supports people of diverse characteristics and backgrounds.
They have given the school an entire academic year to figure it out. Given a year, the college's working group is likely to inform the commission that they are in compliance, offering a lengthy report to buttress their position. An orthodox rabbinical school can probably justify its preclusion of women.

As with any peer review process this is going to be time consuming (over years I suspect), methodical and with much back and forth. Gordon is not in jeopardy of losing their accreditation over this issue, at least not in the coming few years.

Gordon College is certainly extreme. According to the school's Behavioral Standards:
Those words and actions which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.
Blasphemers, thieves, drunks and gay people need not attend. Of those only gay people might be a protected class for purposes of academic diversity. Gordon wants to control the off campus conduct of its students. There are mainstream alternatives to Gordon (Boston University, for example, has a school of theology without such restrictions) but that is not the point. Misguided as they might be a gay kid should be able to go to any college.

Exactly what does homosexual practice mean? I assume that practice has nothing to do with honing one's homosexual skills. It would include far more than sex. It seems like a way to get rid of any gay student. It starts with rumors Then someone sees an affectionate back-slap and we have the Salem Twink Trials.

Tax dollars going to a school that prepares people to be tax-advantaged intolerant preachers at a tax-exempt religious operation. I'd rather fund a school of podiatry. I might actually need a podiatrist.

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