Higher Education And The Pursuit of T̶r̶u̶t̶h̶ Fear

My friend and Bowdoin College alumnus Owen Strachan tipped me as to this article about a recent liberal arts campus, whose wide sweeping student organization policy change may be the epitome of intolerance masked in the form of tolerance.

Bowdoin College, one of the ten most underrated and sneaky brilliant colleges in America, has followed the path of many other “enlightened” universities by insisting that all campus groups not discriminate in any way regarding pathways to leadership positions within student organizations.

web article from the Times Record offers this blurb:

A case in point may be the Gregorys, who have been leading Bible study through the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, a student organization, at Bowdoin for the last 10 years.

The article continues:

Robert Gregory, a Damariscotta lawyer and minister, and his wife, Sim, said they did not feel they could sign the form as written because, among other things, it would allow non-Christians and those who do not accept Biblical teaching on sexualilty, marriage and family life to accept leadership roles. They asked for what amounted to a religious exemption; it was denied. The Gregorys will be leaving Bowdoin at the end of the school year.

So catch this.  An institution dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge wants to require that a particular ideology (Biblical Christian theism) restrict it’s own ideology so as to not possibly offend another viewpoint (any other theism/non-theism) on the basis of religious tolerance.

And this same institution permits other ideologies (republican organization) to discriminate against still other ideologies (democrat organization) on the basis of political tolerance.

Wait — how is the former decision an act of tolerance?  The Times Record follows up:

Gregory says he wants to be free to teach the whole Bible, including portions on sexuality and marriage. No one involved in the Bible study group has complained, and not all are even Christians. Gregory says there has never been an issue, because few students are willing to accept a leadership role in any case at Bowdoin.

So no one is complaining, and yet the college has decided to provide a solution for a potential future problem.  I guess that is one way to handle things.

Another sad facet of this administrative move is that it is not a matter of permitting students into an organization.  It is a matter of cultivating leadership for the student organization.  In what bizzaro universe would a non-Christian want to be the leader of an organization that believes in the resurrection as a true historical event?  Or to ask it again, what Boston Redsox fan would want to be the president of a Yankees fan club?  Again — what real life, scientifically identifiable, sociologically demonstrable problem are we trying to solve here?

I have to wonder: Is this really the best use of time, talents, resources, and policy?  And to what extent is this reflective of the kind of administrative prowess running our institutions of “higher learning?”  This is sad, in my opinion, because Bowdoin has such a rich academic tradition.  It is a shame that intolerance gets to masquerade as tolerance.  It’s a shame.  Bowdoin and other colleges should be better than that.

I am officially calling you out Bowdoin.  Quit being anti-intellectual.  Quit restricting the pursuit of truth.  Your students and alumni deserve better.

About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
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9 Responses to Higher Education And The Pursuit of T̶r̶u̶t̶h̶ Fear

  1. Sarah Mudd says:

    Unfortunately, this isn’t a new problem and one that hasn’t been favorably supported in court cases for the religious student organizations. I could tell some stories about this at other universities (even the “Conservative” Texas A&M. As A christian and a higher education professional it makes my work real tricky. I’m not a naturally negative person but I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get worse.

  2. Joseph says:

    “this same institution permits other ideologies (republican organization) to discriminate against still other ideologies (democrat organization) on the basis of political tolerance.”
    i’m curious — on what basis are you saying this? i’d be interested to see the evidence in support of this. have you seen the charters of the campus R and D groups? do you know that they are closed to anyone?

    • Doug Hankins says:

      Joseph, you can read the original article. It indicates that political restriction is common practice on campus. Still yet, the question remains: Why would a Yankee’s fan want to be president of a Redsox fan club?

    • Sarah says:

      Also, it’s important to understand the difference between closed membership and closed leadership. The Christian group (and I’m assuming rep/dem as well) are open to anyone to come but leadership has requirements of ideology. That’s the problem here- the Christian group is required to allow someone opposed to their core values to be on leadership which is ludicrous.

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