An 8 part special report exclusive to BarbWire.com
Part 8 of 8
Can Pepperdine’s Board of Regents and President Save the School?
In the minds of many parents who send their sons and daughters to Pepperdine, they are willing to pay one of the steepest college tuition rates in the country because they believe the school is conservative — culturally, theologically, and even politically. They want to shelter their child from the insane and profane culture we live in and desire an academic atmosphere where their child will be prepared for life’s challenges while at the same time not having to worry that their child’s core beliefs will be challenged by diversity zealots, “social justice” warriors and anti-Christian and anti-American ideologues.
Most supporters of Pepperdine have no idea that Seaver College is no longer a conservative campus, either politically or theologically, but this disconnect can’t be kept secret much longer. The board needs to act to bring the college in line with its founding principles, its reputation, and its promotional literature. If not, it will be only a matter of time before Pepperdine’s liberal climate becomes common knowledge among those who continue to be its #1 target audience: patriotic, Christian families whose politics lean to the right.
But all is not lost. Given the resources and large donors the school has access to, Pepperdine could easily put itself on the map as one of America’s most prestigious conservative Christian universities. However, to do so, it will require hard-nosed leadership by the Board of Regents and by top administrators.
It should be pointed that Pepperdine is not alone in its drift away from founding principles. It is a common problem today. For example, the college founded by famed pastor and author Tim LaHaye, the San Diego Christian College, has been using a series of liberal textbooks the last few years that promote liberal ideas completely contrary to everything LaHaye stood for and the school’s founding mission. The chain of Concordia Universities established all over the country by the Lutheran Church’s very conservative Missouri Synod have also all become quite liberal. Many colleges founded by the Nazarene Church are likewise struggling with a leftward drift.
Indeed, a the book, The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from their Christian Churches, by James Tunstead Burtchaell, documents how widespread this problem is and how this trend is working against creating the type of leaders our founding fathers would have desired.
Nonetheless, Pepperdine can buck this trend if it so desires — as it has done in the past under President Davenport. Liberal professors and textbooks dominated by liberal pathologies are easy to find. What takes time and effort is locating and hiring solid conservative professors capable of conveying the great ideas of Western civilization and the role America plays in being the end product of the West’s best traditions. And yes, there are quite a few conservative Christian professors in the country, but Pepperdine has to make an effort to find them. After all, other great conservative Christian colleges such as Hillsdale and Liberty University have had no problem filing their faculty with solid conservative professors.
Pepperdine first needs to ditch the notion of “balance,” which seems to animate Provost Rick Marr as he feverishly hires liberal professors. “Balance” was not part of George Pepperdine’s vision. Pep’s founders knew that students today are already satuated by liberal propaganda in the media, in film, on television, in the arts, in music, and in our culture in general. Everywhere one turns, we are inundated with the liberal worldview. The role of Pepperdine is to counter the culture’s liberal dominance, so there’s no reason to be “balanced.” Pepperdine’s goal should be to offer a conservative alternative to the prevailing culture. And as mentioned elsewhere, it is conservative professors who are more likely to teach diverse views, as liberals are notorious for censoring views that challenge the liberal narrative. Pepperdine should offer a choice, not an echo.
The Board of Regents needs to convene an emergency meeting and discuss how to return Pepperdine to its original vision. They need to insist that the Provost hire conservative Christian professors and have some ability to oversee this process. Perhaps a Board of Regents committee should sign off on all new hirings. The board should also ask the School of Public Policy to assist in finding such professors. The goal should simply be to hire the best conservative Christian professors possible, regardless of race or gender.
Once conservative professors begin to slowly replace liberal professors, the sloppy textbooks dominated by loony class warfare themes and “diversity” gibberish will disappear. I’m also sure the Heritage Foundation would be willing to assist the search for strong conservative faculty members. Incidentally, Heritage maintains a list of conservative scholars from all over the country and only one Seaver College faculty member made that list: Gary Galles from the Economics Department. By comparison, four professors from Grove City College and 12 from Hillsdale College made the list. A similar list of conservative scholars maintained by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute lists only one Pepperdine professor, SPP professor Ted McAllister.
The board needs to put an end to the silly “diversity” crusade that is clearly hostile to the purposes of a classical education rooted in both the Western tradition and the concept of academic freedom. Dump the “diversity” councils, committees, deans, and so forth. And when the funding runs out on the various liberal activist programs, like the “Social Action and Justice Colloquium,” and the “Sustainability Institute,” they should discard those programs as well. One can design credible, scholarly programs focused on justice reform and the environment without them becoming mouthpieces for liberal activists and operating on the notion that capitalism is inherently evil.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.