A Georgia college's controversial "personal lifestyle statement" which includes rejecting homosexuality has led to an exodus of faculty members.
Inside Higher Ed cites an anonymous survey which found that a mere 12 percent of the faculty said they planned to stay at Shorter University, a 139-year-old Baptist school located in Rome, Ga. In addition, more than two dozen staff members had already resigned before their new contracts -- which included the "pledge," condemning homosexuality, premarital sex and public drinking -- were even distributed.
The Religion News Service notes that the school usually has about 100 full-time faculty members.
An online campaign called "Save Our Shorter" seems to blame the departure of many employees on the pledge, even though the university's president told the Religion News Service that some of those who resigned did not state their reason for leaving.
"I feel that Shorter, the GBC, the Board of Trustees, and/or whoever can do what they want to the school," one student writes on the site. "It’s their school, but I cannot personally attend a school so full of hate. The personal lifestyle statement is picking and choosing which sins are worse than others, but a sin is a sin. Why were homosexuality, premarital sex, and adultery singled out? What about child molesters?"
One of the school's tenured professor felt similarly. "Lest anyone think I am 'promoting' homosexuality, please know that I am not," professor Sherri Weiler, who resigned last week, wrote in the Rome News-Tribune, according to the "Save Our Shorter" site. "I am simply not going to judge anyone who expresses his/ her sexuality in this way."
She continued, "All I know is that I cannot sign a document that “reject[s] as acceptable” any one of God’s creatures, be they adulterers, sexual 'sinners' of any stripe, or drinkers of alcohol in public. All I know is that I cannot 'reject as acceptable' people who have sinned in any way, because I’ve sinned, too, and no doubt will again."
Still, Nelson Price, who was chairman of the Board of Trustees when the lifestyle statement was approved, denounced the survey cited by Inside Higher Ed, describing it as "skewed" to the Rome News-Tribune . "The senders sent it to a group they selected and left out persons known to be in support of the direction the school is going," Price noted. "It was not an objective blind survey...the questions were highly biased."
Donald Dowless, Shorter’s president, released a statement to Inside Higher Ed saying he could not comment on any other individual faculty members’ employment situations. “I can tell you that I and the board of Shorter University understand that some members of our faculty and staff disagree with the university’s personal lifestyle statement and therefore have chosen to resign,” he said. “While we hate to lose members of our community, we wish them well.”
Dowless previously told WSBTV that the goal of the "lifestyle statement" is "not to offend people," but to "declare who we are."
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