June 17, 2019

Faith in the Halls of Power, Gordon’s Future, and the Clash with Our Founder’s Vision

Alec Hansen '21

This past semester I worked as the Managing Editor for the Tartan. While I wrote some opinion pieces, I worked to abstain from authoring any articles that affected my ability to report. As this semester of work winds down, I will transition to working as the Opinions section editor in the fall of 2019. As I have reflected on the budget cuts announced last weekend, I have felt compelled to express my opinion on the matter. I hope that my words do not add unnecessary noise to the conversation; instead, I wish that they would inspire more constructive and grounded dialogue.

In the past week, in the wake of dramatic budget restructuring, I have worried much for the future of this college. I have been a student here for two years now. Many faculty, staff, and alumni have been a part of the Gordon community a lot longer, so I do not pretend to believe my words are in some way special or authoritative. But it has only taken two short years to feel a grave concern for the fate of a place that is special to me.

In the past months, I have heard many students criticize the administration for their inability to manage finances properly. Such a sentiment seems misplaced to me; higher education truly is a challenging industry right now. Financial mismanagement must carefully be avoided, but it feels conspiratorial to believe that the college is covering up overspending.

Furthermore, we don’t have the data that the Priorities Committee used to make their decisions. Without understanding the decision process fully, we ought not to suggest, as some have, that the college wanted to eliminate the most liberal professors and departments. Ideological correlation certainly does not mean ideological causation; it is hard to imagine that the committee had ill intentions in the making of these decisions.

But I am frustrated, that as a student pouring his money, time and effort into this college, that I am not allowed to hear more about the information. Students apparently cannot be privy to the data trends that fueled these decisions; I wish the administration would either explain why they are hiding this or step forward in honesty.

Perhaps data shows that students who need more financial aid tend to flock to programs like sociology, languages, philosophy, and history. Perhaps data suggests that students who graduate from those majors make less money. Perhaps there are comprehensive data sets that explain the details of every decision made. Perhaps something simply had to go and these are the departments to get the axe.

When President Lindsay, Vice President of Communications Sweeney and Dean Doneski spoke on the Saturday morning before finals week, they encountered students who wanted to know the ‘thousands of data points’ that supported these decisions. They either dodged these students’ questions or chose to hide behind a veil of confidentiality. Their arguments for maintaining privacy rested on legal restrictions; the college is not allowed to share the names of faculty or staff who have been let go. Yet none of these laws restrict the divulgence of the data used to make these decisions. These budget cuts had personal results felt by the entire Gordon community; why can’t the data that led to these personnel reductions be shared? What does the College have to lose by being more transparent?

The administration of Gordon College has much progress to make when it comes to genuine communication, authenticity and transparency. Such honesty is the true mark of Christian leadership. The faith that sits in the halls of power can be corrupted when it misses this hallmark of obedience. It is unhealthy and unbiblical to propagate a college culture in which faculty are threatened with discipline if they speak to the media and legal threats are used to resolve conflict.

A.J. Gordon did not believe that men and women of God were supposed to work towards obtaining faith in the halls of power. The school was founded to send men and women of strong Christian character across Boston and around the world to spread the kingdom of God. But a quick visit to www.gordon.edu/workahead reveals the current trajectory of the school: conservative, wealthy and affluent Christian leaders are the honored guests of the college, sharing on how to break into the highest echelons of society. As a result of the President’s previous research, it is unsurprising that he would want to use his past connections to develop Gordon into a school that produces affluent Christian leaders. His vision is honorable, but a mission centered on wielding power for Christian influence completely misunderstands the essence of the Gospels.

As Gordon himself wrote, “It will go hard with you when your Lord comes to reckon with you if he finds your wealth invested in superfluous luxuries, or hoarded up in needless accumulations, instead of being sacredly devoted to giving the Gospel to the lost.” There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, powerful and following Jesus; but to center a Christian institution on this goal is to build our house on the sand. For Gordon, the spread of the Gospel and advancement of God’s kingdom was of the utmost importance; and he trusted the spirit to provide the means with which to do this. I certainly do not dispute the fact that Christians in the halls of power can do great good for the kingdom. But so can a social work major who spreads light in broken urban neighborhoods. Jesus cared for the oppressed stranger, not the honored insider.

I am not writing to slander the President or the administration. Rather, I am writing to question a trajectory that seems to miss the essence of Christ’s lowly witness. As many faculty and staff routinely share their frustrations with this lack of candor and clarity, I have started to comprehend the problem. My concern for this school is genuine; if I did not care, I would remain silent, obtain my degree, and move on with my life, but I possess a deep desire to see the school thrive. Stable enrollment, an increasing endowment, and financial stability are of obvious importance for the sustenance of the school, but the spiritual health and moral character of the College and its community have eternal significance.

It is my deep desire to see this school flourish for many years to come. To do so, I believe that the school must redirect its focus on that which really matters: the everyday, sometimes mundane, work of spreading the Gospel and Jesus’ radical message about the kingdom of heaven. If the leadership of the school endeavors to lead in that spirit of honesty and clarity, I need not fear for the future of Gordon College.

2 Comments on Faith in the Halls of Power, Gordon’s Future, and the Clash with Our Founder’s Vision

  1. Bravo! This is very well communicated. Thank you for highlighting some key points that are worthy of discussion (and reflection).

  2. As a Gordon alum 12 years after graduation, my brief thoughts.

    You cannot fathom the despair–the feeling of worthlessness, the complete spiritual void–of financial ruin. And life after college, for some, evolves into a daily struggle to avoid financial ruin. Destitution is not quaint: for many, there’s no ministering to the lost–you’re simply consumed with the need to survive, to make those payments.

    But with the right preparation–with hard work, academic focus, and a career-minded choice of study at Gordon–God’s blessing can multiply your efforts. Suddenly God’s blessing will be apparent. Your field of mission will be all around you: as a doctor in Bangladesh, as a software engineer for an NGO in Burkina Faso, whatever it may be, you will find those who need the gospel, who need hope.

    What you study matters. Degree return on investment matters. It’s built into the shape of our universe. If you make it in this world, fall on your knees, praise God, ask for His mercy, and devote your life to being salt and light. Wherever you go, there will be opportunities to pursue the vision of A.J. Gordon–destitution and irrelevance are not prerequisites.

    Christopher Lovell, Class of 2007.

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