Louisiana College Grows in Tension

The new controversial policies cause more conflicts, leading the college board chair to resign.
( [email protected] ) Jul 14, 2004 12:59 PM EDT

After Louisiana College (LC) -- a private Baptist liberal arts and science school located in Pineville Louisiana, instituted new controversial policies, the tension between the conservative majority and a moderate minority at LC grew stronger, leading to resignation of the chairman of Louisiana College’s board of trustees.

On June 27, pastor Joe Nesom resigned his office as chairman of the college’s board citing concerns over recent decisions made by his fellow trustees. Such conflicts which grew out of the decisions also led the school’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools(SACS) to investigate Louisiana College. SACS officials announced July 9 that the group would send an investigating committee to the school in the fall to investigate complaints that the board may be violating a provision of the association's principles for governing boards. The provision prohibits member schools' boards from being controlled by interest groups.

In his resignation letter, Nesom denounced "unwise unilateral actions taken by certain board members" as well as some of the board's recent majority decisions. Nesom said those trustees "are determined to use the board to humiliate and punish those that they despise and reward those they love."

Newsom further expressed his disappointment toward the board's decision: "Our concerns have turned from academic excellence, and from a desire to see the college embrace its Baptist heritage with enthusiasm, to concerns that have nothing to do with historic Baptist doctrines or practice."

He added he could "see nothing good coming of this situation."

Among the negative consequences he listed in the letter include:

-- "A loss of donors who will justly be concerned about the academic integrity of the college." Nesom cited one potential endowment gift of "better than five million dollars" that he knows to be in danger;

-- "A genuine threat to the accreditation of the college because of investigations that are certain to come" from the accrediting association;

-- "Litigation, for sundry reasons, that will be harmful to the college;"

-- "A general loss of good will from the constituency of the college;" and,

-- "A loss of students and qualified faculty and staff members who will not want to remain under leadership of questionable integrity."

Nesom also said he feared that some board members "are trying to frustrate the selection process for a new president."

According to Associate Baptist Press, the conservatives and moderates at the college have been engaged in controversies for several years. The tension has reached its peak in recent months as the faculty members disagreed over certain issues the new policies required which include requiring new faculty to submit outlining their “worldview,” as well as a policy forcing faculty to have all classroom materials approved by the academic dean.

Many faculty members have protested the policies, saying they endanger academic freedom. On the other hand, the conservative board members have defended the policies as necessary to maintain the school's fidelity to its Baptist roots.

The college's president and academic vice president resigned earlier this year. Although they did not cite it in their reasons for leaving, many observers believe the controversy played a decisive role.