Our Alma Mater – Bryan College

There is much that can be said of our alma mater in these days.  We both received degrees from Bryan College in the late 80s through mid 90s (I have an accounting and elementary education degree; Beth a mathematics degree).  We received a tremendous biblically-based foundation for life at our beloved Bryan.

Times have changed and so has the school.  It still has some bright spots, but in the past decade a new president has set the tone for a different style of leadership.  One that is not based in the servant-leader mold that we were so accustomed to seeing in our years of studying there.  Unfortunately, this mold is not one we’re comfortable with nor appreciative or supportive of.

While you possibly have read some news articles about our alma mater in connection with its statement of faith and a clarification to it, and as it all relates to the creation account, those stories are not the story.  They are a distraction and a red herring to the real story.  That real story is not one the current administration wants anyone to know or to hear or to read about.  You probably won’t hear it or read about it because it has been suppressed.

In addition to that, you might benefit from knowing that the faculty of Bryan College voted just a few months ago and asked for the college president to resign.  The vote asking for his resignation went 30 in favor of his resignation, 2 opposed to his resignation, and 6 abstentions.  I don’t know where one could pretend to lead an organization, no less a Christian institution, with such a tremendous lack of support from one’s employees and fellow Christian workers.  It defies logic that the president did not resign, refused to resign, and that the Board of Trustees continues to support the president’s tenure rather than to remove him from office.

There are many issues that led to the faculty coming to that vote.  The clarification statement was one of the issues, but hardly any faculty disagreed with the substance of the clarification, and none differed with the statement of faith.  The issue for them was the way the issue (and many other issues in recent years) was handled, and the lack of trust by the president and by the board for the faculty to have any real say or role in the process.

There are enrollment issues (declining trend), financial issues (many layoffs and firings to accommodate a balanced budget), debt issues (the college owes millions of dollars with no solid plan for retiring it), accreditation issues (SACS raised several or perhaps many (?) red flags in its recent review of the college, not the least of which is the debt issue), poor morale among the faculty (as evidenced by the no-confidence vote), a number of questionable practices by the administration, including accusations of outright lying in a number of issues over the past few years.  It is an ugly situation.

Interestingly, about a week ago 4 respected members of the board of trustees resigned. One of them, my former professor Dr. Gary Phillips, actually was the board member who authored the clarification to the statement of faith. He made it clear in his resignation statement that he was resigning over serious leadership issues and not over the clarification statement that he wrote nor for any doctrinal issues at all. Unfortunately, several news reports have quoted the president of the college, Dr. Stephen Lindsay, and the chairman of the board, Col. John Haynes, and framed those statements to either implicitly or even explicitly say that these resignations were due to the clarification statement or a doctrinal issue or simply a difference of opinion over the direction of the college and the leadership and the majority of the board.

The Chattanooga Free Press ran an article
that quotes Dr. Phillips and Dr. Mark Senter (another board member who resigned). Those quotes stand out because the administration’s response to their resignations basically glossed over any substantive reasons for their resignations.

Noteworthy from that article are these statements:

Though much focus has been placed on the change to Bryan’s Statement of Faith, the clarification had little to do with why the trustees resigned.

Phillips said that he didn’t resign over the “clarification” statement — because he wrote it.

“My resignation had to do with leadership, not with doctrine,” Phillips’ resignation letter said. “I did not resign due to any doctrinal disagreement.”

His letter listed three reasons for his resignation.

“The ongoing narrative from the president’s office presents interpretations of facts that differ significantly and regularly from what I believe to be true,” Phillips wrote. “Second, I do not believe I could contribute anything substantive to the board that would be heard. … Third, the president indicated that those on the board who do not support his presidency should resign.”

We still love Bryan College and the experiences and memories we have of all that God did in our lives there, but at this point, with the current administration and the board structure, there is nothing we can say in support of that administration or board.  We do not recommend Bryan College to our friends and acquaintances at this time.  Most sadly for us, we cannot include Bryan College on the list of Christian schools our own children might consider for their own future education.

The motto of Bryan College is “Christ Above All” and we continue to pray that Christ’s preeminence over the college will someday be realized through the administration, or rather through a new administration.

Yes, we have beloved friends on staff and beloved friends among the faculty and we would like to support them through encouragement.  Unfortunately, by withdrawing our approval of the college, it does not result in being able to encourage them by supporting the welfare of the college where they work.  We’d love to see the college endure, but with the direction it has taken and has anchored itself to take at the administrative level, we simply wouldn’t advise anyone to attend a school with such leadership.  The leadership example is not being set in a Christ-like way.  Why bother attending a “Christian college” with a leadership that sets an example that is contrary to the motto of the school and the example of our Lord?

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3 Responses to Our Alma Mater – Bryan College

  1. Jon Dewald says:

    Was just rereading your post. Has anything changed at Bryan College in the last year? >

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  2. alanbeth says:

    Jon, I’m fairly well removed from the situation at Bryan College and it is difficult to ascertain much from the distance. However, I do have some contact with people intimately involved in the school to this day, and I’m sorry to say that my opinion hasn’t changed much.

    Rather than publicly declare my personal opinions, here are a couple links that reveal some areas of concern:

    http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/oct/11/professors-president-clash-brycollege/329885/

    https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/data-center/school/hcm (The school was on this list for the March and June reporting periods, but it is good to see it is off that list now as of September.)

    I really struggle with the animosity generated between the president and the faculty and their vote of no-confidence which was completely ignored by the board and the president. This is not an internal environment that will yield Christ Above All (the school motto) outcomes. I want the school to succeed, but at the same time, I don’t want to see it turned into a school I can’t support. I’m sort of on the fence about some things, but fortunately, when it comes to our own boys, Cameron only is interested in MBI, and Dayton has a couple years before he needs to make serious decisions. I think he might become interested in an educational/vocational direction that wouldn’t be found at BC, but it’s too early to say.

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