July 27, 2017

Inquiring into the “Gordon Exodus”

Shalomita Maleachi. Courtesy of Shalomita Maleachi.

By: Shalomita Maleachi ‘17

Opinions Editor

 

The recent resignation of Professor Lauren Barthold sounds an ironic tone. After all, in her letter to the editor that eventually led to the ACLU lawsuit, she wrote the following:

“Many, many times over the years that I have worked here, I have asked myself whether I should quit in protest over this discriminatory policy. In the end, I concluded that my resignation (or even a handful of resignations) would do absolutely nothing to change the policy. I am convinced that change must primarily come from within.”

Yet here we are, with another resignation, and—arguably—no change.

Now, it is not my intent here to assess the policy in question. I am far more interested in that word another. This word signifies the trend of faculty and staff departures over the last few years, a trend that continues now with Professor Barthold’s leave.

We can see this trend articulated clearly in a post on the Tumblr blog ‘Dreams from My Teachers’ titled ‘Five Years is Enough.’ In this post, the anonymous author describes the ‘Lindsay Exodus,’ citing a list of faculty and staff members that have departed ever since President Lindsay took office. The number of recorded individual losses amounts to fifty—and now, I suppose, 51.

At first glance, this number is staggering, but one could, perhaps, think of explanations that would be reasonable.

One explanation rests on the fact that any significant institutional change comes with its share of departures and arrivals, a reality that is made more acute when coupled with financial duress. Hard calls and cuts have to be made, and there is no escaping treading on toes. Another proposes that there are simply greener pastures elsewhere, and it just so happens that the last few years were anomalously fertile for our crop of Gordon folk. It was just time to move on… coincidentally, en masse.

Other points, however, could cause one to stop short of accepting this explanation. One point is the large number of voluntary departures (on top of budget cut lay-offs) by faculty and staff, who have spent many years investing their lives and families’ lives in this place. A second point is the incredible risk of moving institutions for those faculty and staff members in the recent squeeze of the higher education market. A third point is the proportionally large loss Gordon, as a small school, has suffered. All of these cause me to pause. How does one reconcile these facts with the explanation that it is just normal, or merely coincidental?

At second glance, therefore, this number is still staggering—and the question remains. Why did all these people leave? Were they unhappy? If so, why, and why collectively?

Alas! Speculation, speculation. At the end of the day, we cannot hope to know what truly happened (and perhaps, is still happening) without honest revelation from those who have left. Ultimately, however, this most instructive piece of the puzzle is hidden from us—locked under non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality statements. (And why is this? Another puzzle…)

The truth thus eludes us, and as I end this piece on that note, I cannot help but hear again that haunting ironic tone, diminished, hanging unresolved… longing for some conclusion, as I too long for the dust to settle and for the sun to bear witness to whatever reality is to be laid bare.

2 Comments on Inquiring into the “Gordon Exodus”

  1. Thanks for this article. As a Gordon alumnus and as a parent with children approaching college-age, I take great interest in signs that Gordon may have problems which interfere with its mission.

    I’d like to suggest that the Tartan digs a little deeper into a few areas upon which this story touches. The information would help readers like me decide if more action on our part is needed:

    What has Gordon’s faculty turnover rate (as a *percentage*) been over the past five years? Is it increasing or decreasing over time? And how does that compare to the turnover rates of other American Christian liberal-arts colleges? And when Gordon college has changed Presidents in the past, has it had similar faculty turnover rates?

    What are the NDA’s to which the article alludes? If the Gordon administration requires them, then: Why? What information is covered? What are the consequences of a departing professor not signing one? Are they demanded of all departing faculty, or only some?

  2. Thanks for this article. As a Gordon alumnus and as a parent with
    children approaching college-age, I take great interest in signs that
    Gordon may have problems which interfere with its mission.

    I’d like to suggest that the Tartan digs a little deeper into a few
    areas upon which this story touches. The information would help
    readers like me decide if more action on our part is needed:

    What has Gordon’s faculty turnover rate (as a *percentage*) been over
    the past five years? Is it increasing or decreasing over time? And how
    does that compare to the turnover rates of other American Christian
    liberal-arts colleges? And when Gordon college has changed Presidents
    in the past, has it had similar faculty turnover rates?

    What are the NDA’s to which the article alludes? If the Gordon
    administration requires them, then: Why? What information is covered?
    What are the consequences of a departing professor not signing one?
    Are they demanded of all departing faculty, or only some?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*