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By Racenut
Registration Days Posts
#624428
As I sit here on Easter morning, I am seriously addressing those on this thread who think Liberty needs a "culture change". With the glaring exception of Jr's moral downfall and his personal proclivity to state political views in a less than diplomatic way, what exactly do you want changed about the "Culture" at Liberty?
From the outside, I see a thriving, growing institution that is delivering more than even Jerry Sr could have imagined when he felt God encouraging him to engage in this vision. The programs and fields of endeavor have grown exponentially in the last 50 years, enabling Christians to enter any profession or career field as fully qualified, properly trained ambassadors for Christ. I see missionaries abroad, I see graduates in media, I see Churches planted and I see athletics performed with excellence and coaches speaking boldly on national TV about the emphasis and impact of Christ in the lives of young men and women.
One reason that I am sitting here on Easter morning, is that I have seen the dangers of infighting on God's people. I have seen leaders stumble, and I have seen over zealous boards of Elders and Deacons wax poetic for hours on end with their solutions to problems in the Church, only to see nothing accomplished, but the self aggrandizing of those who have only been given positions because no one else agreed to serve. Parishioners are many times no better as they put their pet "one issue" concerns over the health of the fellowship. I confess to adding to that chaos at times in my life, and at the age of 62, I pledge that I will strive to do better.
These are problems that have surfaced throughout the history of God's Church and yet He continues to accomplish great things in spite of us. One great miracle that He has performed in front of our very eyes is Liberty University. My hope is that we would pray for the leadership at LU and for every movement to be orchestrated by His perfect will. I pray that every success would be magnified in His light and that we would soften our hearts to His mission over ours.
So, what are the specific "Culture" changes, if any that need to take place, and how will they positively impact the University and His mission. I hope the discussion is tempered in grace and humility.
I hope that the inclination of many Christians to throw the baby out with the bath water is avoided in these troubled times, as I for one see Liberty and all the good things that are going on there as a true light in the darkness.
#624434
I appreciate your thoughts, racenut, I can’t speak for everyone here, but I consider myself in the culture change camp.

I think there are two different “cultures” being discussed here.

I think you’re right for the most part about the culture of the school- if you’re talking about the students and a majority of the faculty. Liberty is a great place and most of us here think of it very fondly.

Where I see culture change necessary is in administrative culture, and there’s a few things I’d like to see change there, mostly having to do with structural accountability. It’s not enough anymore to say “well, Jerry was the bad apple, but he’s gone.” Jerry’s behavior didn’t exist in a vacuum. He didn’t have anyone around him to keep him accountable to Christian values. To reverse a sports analogy, this is about Jimmies and Joes andit’s about X’s and O’s.

Jimmies and Joes:
Those on the board that chose to either ignore or enable Jerry need to go. It’s telling that not a single person on the board has offered an apology or Anyone who gained their position because of a personal relationship instead of actual qualifications needs to go (unless they are also qualified).

Xs and Os:

We need to stop any of the nepotistic hiring practices. Hire the best people, not your buddies.
What is it about the structure of the administration that allows someone to operate the way Jerry did for years before it finally became too much?
What ways can we restructure so someone doesn’t hold power the way Jerry did?
How do we keep the next guy from filling the board with sycophants and repeating the cycle?

Working on some of these would go a long way to changing the administrative culture. IMHO for the most part, so far, the students and faculty have been insulated from the toxic administrative culture. That can’t last forever, though. We’ve already lost some important professors because of the administrative culture.
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#624435
Let the gospel unite us, not politics.

Jerry Jr said in a statement that “People who should be natural allies, and always were, have been divided in the last few decades.” He even blamed politicians for that division! While I agree with him on both of those things, his suggestion to fix it was more politics. Prevo has continued going down that route as well.

Politics will never unite us though. They never have and they never will. Even the disciples of Jesus were divided politically. Their unity came in the cause of Christ and following his teaching. They didn’t always agree on government, but they did agree on Jesus.

Our school has always been conservative – and it always will be! Doc said to burn it down if it ever gets away from that.

We have the unique opportunity in front of us to unite us as people who are theologically conservative but politically diverse. We might disagree on the role or government in many places. But what we do agree on is the right to life, on God’s design for marriage, a literal interpretation of the Bible, and most tenets of the Gospel. Imagine if Liberty became a university where tens of thousands of students could unite around those ideas and then have the freedom to debate the best way to implement those beliefs into a modern society. We would attract the best of the best and could truly train champions for Christ to the fullest extent of that mission. It would be the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose as a school.

Use athletics as a vehicle, not as an idol.

I fully believe in Doc‘s idea of reaching young people through sports and music. Athletics are a huge part of my story. If it weren’t for Liberty Football, I never would’ve transferred to Liberty and who knows where my life would’ve been today without that decision. I worked for the football team while in undergrad and was a grad assistant for the athletic department in seminary. I started a student fan club to support our teams and led the student section at games. The reason my life was changed started because of athletics.

Athletics are important.

But we have to make sure we don’t let the vehicle we use to reach people become the idol we worship.

In recent years, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on athletics facilities and increasing budgets all the while slashing programs in the School of Divinity and eliminating the entire Philosophy department. We’ve lost some of our best professors while stretching others so thin they can’t make the impact on students’ lives like they could a decade ago.

I’m by no means trying to say we should spend equal amounts on each of those things, but what good is a first class athletics program to attract new students if the school we’re attracting them to is sub par?

We have the money. Let’s invest in the things that make us a world class Christian university in all facets, not just in athletics.

Value people over profits.

Jerry’s main business attributes are as a lawyer and administrator. He’s made tons of money both personally and for the university by being a shrewd businessman and making great business deals.

But we don’t change the world through great business deals.

We change the world through great people doing what Jesus has made them to do to the best of their abilities.

For people to do that, they can’t just be an employee ID number that can be replaced at any time by another person who will accept less pay.

We have to value our faculty and staff. We need to make Liberty the place the best and the brightest want to come to so we can train the next generation to be even better. To do this, there will have to be decisions made that don’t make the most business sense. It’ll take investing more in people and less in buildings. We will need to grow the endowment at a slower rate.

Here’s the kicker though:

We’ve got enough money already.

There’s never been a better time in the history of our school for us to turn inward and focus on our people. We’re no longer on the brink of bankruptcy like in the 90s. We have prosperity seeping from everywhere. Now let’s take the next step and use that prosperity to show the people who have sacrificed to get us here that we really do care about them.

Those are just three ideas. There are more, but these three are where I’d start.
#624440
A lot of good points have been made here. One thing I believe should be pointed out is that throwing $$ at dying programs is not going to help anything. Resources need to go where there is a demand. We no longer have a philosophy department because students were not enrolling in it.

It certainly looks like Faculty and Staff compensation needs to be addressed, and whatever remains of the culture of fear JR created should be eliminated.
By Racenut
Registration Days Posts
#624445
Exactly the type of response that I hoped to get when starting this thread. Thoughtful, detailed suggestions by those who love this University and what it stands for.

While politics are woven into nearly every aspect of life today, there is a way to speak the truth in love and disarm those who see Christianity as their enemy. It starts with being able to articulate why we believe what we believe. Christ's love for us and His desire to save us from the consequences of our actions is hard to argue against in any conversation on any subject.
Can these governmental, societal and legal issues be addressed by leadership in a more thoughtful way than in recent history without sacrificing doctrinal truth? Probably so.

Concern for faculty and staff seem to be a common concern over many threads in these Forums and I believe it is important for the next generation of leadership to prayerfully consider these issues. I have not dealt with anyone in these areas, but I can safely say that there are few if any institutions of higher learning in the country where message boards full of students, former students and friends of the University waste any amount of time advocating the wages and treatment of faculty and staff of a particular school. Quite the contrary, most view the professors at those schools as absolute blowhards, undeserving of even what they currently receive. Time to review these processes.

I may be in the minority, but I applaud the use of sports (and even Motorsports) to put a positive, National face on Liberty. I would imagine that the past 24 months have seen LU gain more positive National exposure than at any time in the last 50 years. I don't view the players, coaches or driver as idols any more than I cheer on any Christian brother or sister in any endeavor. Letting high school students know that they can come to a Christian school and be successful in the highest levels of medicine, electrical engineering, sports, media, graphics, aviation, music, business, etc. is what it's all about to me.
As Jonathan stated, Liberty has the funds to do these things and treat faculty and staff fairly.

Though Liberty is relatively inexpensive compared to most private Universities, I believe that more could be done to make attending more affordable.

Having said all that, Liberty did not get where it is today by doing things terribly. Much focus on these threads seems to be focused on changes in the Board of Directors and some critisism does seem to be in order. I see their point, but there is much conjecture on what shape an entirely new Board would look like. I don't think much gets done if the Board is entirely punitive in nature. I know there is a fine line between having a Board that is on the same page with a President in terms of vision and direction and a Board that rubber stamps every move. There has to be a balance where personal preferences are subservient to the Mission of the University and a strong leader is needed to channel a team in a one direction.

Obviously, there is a different set of rules for blatant immoral behavior and these things must be dealt with decisively, but the problems start when individuals on a board or a President let their set of legalistic standards dominate a new vision on the basis of "Changing the Culture". I would question any move that totally changes the trajectory of the University because of the failings of a leader.
IMHO, any move involving the majority of leadership should be done with great trepidation and with the utmost prayer and heeding of scripture. Who can know what was known and when individuals knew things?
I do know that entirely new leadership is like a box of chocolates.......

Hopefully, some thoughtful insight from those on this thread might find it's way to those in charge of these weighty issues.
#624446
olldflame wrote: April 4th, 2021, 7:00 pm A lot of good points have been made here. One thing I believe should be pointed out is that throwing $$ at dying programs is not going to help anything. Resources need to go where there is a demand. We no longer have a philosophy department because students were not enrolling in it.

It certainly looks like Faculty and Staff compensation needs to be addressed, and whatever remains of the culture of fear JR created should be eliminated.
I’ll push back a little on that. Having a Thought Leading Christian Philosophy Department is a big deal despite the number of students. LU could become a beacon of 21st century Evangelical Thought and Discernment. For most parts I’d agree but there are some disciplines where numbers are not the most important thing.
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#624448
If we want to be the leading evangelical school in the world, we need to be concerned with leading in the departments that matter to faith and religion. This is one of those places where the best business decision might not be the best academic decision. It’s why getting someone in place to lead who has real experience leading an academic institution is so important.
#624450
Jonathan Carone wrote: April 4th, 2021, 7:29 pm If we want to be the leading evangelical school in the world, we need to be concerned with leading in the departments that matter to faith and religion. This is one of those places where the best business decision might not be the best academic decision. It’s why getting someone in place to lead who has real experience leading an academic institution is so important.
I would love to see LU’s Seminary mentioned in the same breath as Fuller, Dallas, TEDS etc. And with the available resources no reason it can’t be. Perhaps a “Falkirk Center” of Christian thought and World view. Study
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By JK37
Registration Days Posts
#624452
What has to be sacrificed to be mentioned among those? Wasn’t that always one of Doc’s greater fears, and the whole point behind the Politically Incorrect marketing tag line for a decade?

I agree it would be nice to be mentioned among those, but at what cost? It may not be possible to maintain what makes us different just to be included in the “in” crowd. And I’m ok with that.
#624453
We’d have to sacrifice something to be mentioned among the best evangelical seminaries in the country? Other than some profit margin, I don’t see what we’re sacrificing there.

It would take a commitment to bringing in the best instructors and theologians and paying them what they’re worth.
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By Sly Fox
Registration Days Posts
#624454
The "Culture Change" is less about philosophy and more about accountability and meritocracy. Over the past 15 years the decision-making by the administration has been based on fear and intimidation with a dose of cronyism. The university deserves better. Prevo and the Board appear completely tone deaf.
#624455
JK37 wrote: April 4th, 2021, 9:24 pm What has to be sacrificed to be mentioned among those? Wasn’t that always one of Doc’s greater fears, and the whole point behind the Politically Incorrect marketing tag line for a decade?

I agree it would be nice to be mentioned among those, but at what cost? It may not be possible to maintain what makes us different just to be included in the “in” crowd. And I’m ok with that.
Nothing. LU can build a Workd Class Seminary espousing the Evangelical theological world view. That’s sort of Foundational to LU’s mission and original vision
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By JK37
Registration Days Posts
#624458
You can’t just make that blanket statement and convince me. All kinds of bells and whistles go off when the solution appears to boil down to “throw money at personnel and the accolades will follow.” And we all know there are nuances of evangelicalism. Who defines “best”?

I can get behind what Sly said. Leadership culture change may be in order.
#624459
JK37 wrote: April 4th, 2021, 11:49 pm You can’t just make that blanket statement and convince me. All kinds of bells and whistles go off when the solution appears to boil down to “throw money at personnel and the accolades will follow.” And we all know there are nuances of evangelicalism. Who defines “best”?

I can get behind what Sly said. Leadership culture change may be in order.
Considering it’s a joke now anything is better. I don’t have the bandwidth to put together a list of established or up and coming thought leaders that LU should bring on board to help facilitate that change. But I do know a more scholarly approach and a more serious curriculum and faculty will help. Currently LU doesn’t have that
By Racenut
Registration Days Posts
#624460
Since my daughter graduated from LU with a degree in Graphic Design and her husband graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and both walked off campus into great jobs into their chosen fields, I call BS on your claim that LU needs a more serious curriculum and faculty. This is the kind of crap that I hear from people in the Triangle when they want to disparage a Liberty Degree. Since I attended a secular State sponsored University, I can readily explain the differences. Christ made the Gospel simple to understand from the beginning so even the simple could understand and I'm not quite sure that "all of today's up and coming thought leaders" are necessarily qualified. Critics of LU will always fail to recognize all the great things happening on Liberty Mountain. Friendly fire from so called supporters of LU is the last thing this situation needs.
#624461
Racenut wrote: April 5th, 2021, 12:17 am Since my daughter graduated from LU with a degree in Graphic Design and her husband graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and both walked off campus into great jobs into their chosen fields, I call BS on your claim that LU needs a more serious curriculum and faculty. This is the kind of crap that I hear from people in the Triangle when they want to disparage a Liberty Degree. Since I attended a secular State sponsored University, I can readily explain the differences. Christ made the Gospel simple to understand from the beginning so even the simple could understand and I'm not quite sure that "all of today's up and coming thought leaders" are necessarily qualified. Critics of LU will always fail to recognize all the great things happening on Liberty Mountain. Friendly fire from so called supporters of LU is the last thing this situation needs.
As some have pointed out, TDS plays a roll in some of the spin here :lol:
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By jbock13
Registration Days Posts
#624463
TH, do you think maybe you might have TDS in that you think Trump needs to be involved with everything anyone does?

I felt like he was a decent president but a university should not exist just to be a rubber stamp for his policies. Rather, it should be about the acquisition of knowledge, not just becoming a talking points memo for the Republican Party.

Even though I usually vote Republican, I can’t stand either party. I didn’t pay $25k a year to learn how to be a good Republican. I spent it learning how to be a Champion for Christ in my career.
#624466
JK37 wrote: April 4th, 2021, 9:24 pm What has to be sacrificed to be mentioned among those? Wasn’t that always one of Doc’s greater fears, and the whole point behind the Politically Incorrect marketing tag line for a decade?

I agree it would be nice to be mentioned among those, but at what cost? It may not be possible to maintain what makes us different just to be included in the “in” crowd. And I’m ok with that.
I think there’s a couple things we would have to give up here, but I’m all for giving them up:

1. The no-tenure rule. The best minds aren’t coming to a school where they have to anxiously wait each year for their contract to be renewed.

2. Doctrinal certainty. This is probably going to be a sticking point for a lot of people, but you’re not going to get the best scholars or scholarly work at a school who only allows scholarly work that serves as an apologetic for a certain view of scripture, especially if they don’t have tenure and can be non-renewed if their scholarly work goes in any direction the administration doesn’t like. I’ve seen the faculty doctrinal statement they have to sign. It’s long and needlessly specific at some points. I wouldn’t want to be doing scholarly work in Biblical studies here. Some might say this is the slippery slope towards liberalism, but if your view of scripture can’t stand up to scholarly scrutiny, it’s not the scrutiny that’s the problem.
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#624468
The fear of appearing to go liberal or appearing to go woke has negatively influenced our leadership. Prevo has told those close to him he's concerned about the conservative watch dogs and what they might say if we do anything that's not in line with the hardcore political conservatism we've been spouting the last six years.

When we talk about the School of Divinity specifically, we have 44 people listed as faculty on the website. Of those 44, 36 (81%) of them are white men. Not counting the Global Studies department, only nine (21%) have any listed experience outside of America. Over 1/3 of the faculty have most of their advanced degrees from Liberty. We cannot be a world leader in theology, apologetics, and evangelism when we do not have diversity in experience, training, and approach.

Again - I'm not pushing for diversity in a virtue signaling or woke way. It's not to check a box. If we want to lead in this field, we need to have smart, God honoring men and women from many different backgrounds working together to make us all better and train the next generation of church leaders. I'm better when I study under people from different cultures and backgrounds and see the Bible in a way that is different than an American Baptist view point. We all are.
#624469
stokesjokes wrote: April 5th, 2021, 8:20 am
JK37 wrote: April 4th, 2021, 9:24 pm What has to be sacrificed to be mentioned among those? Wasn’t that always one of Doc’s greater fears, and the whole point behind the Politically Incorrect marketing tag line for a decade?

I agree it would be nice to be mentioned among those, but at what cost? It may not be possible to maintain what makes us different just to be included in the “in” crowd. And I’m ok with that.
I think there’s a couple things we would have to give up here, but I’m all for giving them up:

1. The no-tenure rule. The best minds aren’t coming to a school where they have to anxiously wait each year for their contract to be renewed.

2. Doctrinal certainty. This is probably going to be a sticking point for a lot of people, but you’re not going to get the best scholars or scholarly work at a school who only allows scholarly work that serves as an apologetic for a certain view of scripture, especially if they don’t have tenure and can be non-renewed if their scholarly work goes in any direction the administration doesn’t like. I’ve seen the faculty doctrinal statement they have to sign. It’s long and needlessly specific at some points. I wouldn’t want to be doing scholarly work in Biblical studies here. Some might say this is the slippery slope towards liberalism, but if your view of scripture can’t stand up to scholarly scrutiny, it’s not the scrutiny that’s the problem.
I appreciate your honesty stokes, seriously. And I disagree with making both of those changes, because of the slippery slop.

And to the post directed @ me. I'm not a good republican in fact I'm not even a registered republican. And as far as TDS, if I could vote for anyone today it would be Mike Pompeo and Tim Scott. And if I voted for a Democrat it would be Tulsi Gabbard. I am thankful Trump pulled the curtain back and exposed all that is in clear site now.
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By Sly Fox
Registration Days Posts
#624470
Count me among those who believe a qualified tenure based on adherence to clear doctrinal positions would be a step in the right direction. We are a unique institution as it relates to our mission and I consider that a strength. I do recognize that what is considered dogma, doctrine and preference has ample room for discussion.

Frankly with the ongoing purge of conservative faculty at many seminaries we are uniquely positioned to benefit if we are viewed in the proper light by the talent. And I agree that we need for rigorous scholarship in not only the Divinity school but across the entire university. With our position in the academic world, we should have an outsized influence and not a hidden one.
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