Preserve the Educational Mission of GCC (Grove City College)
As friends of Grove City College, we write regarding recent controversies over Critical Race Theory and conversations about race at the college.
On Wednesday, April 20, a report from the Ad Hoc Committee of the Grove City College Board of Trustees was released to the public. Since the release, reaction has been strongly negative from many who signed a petition we initiated in March of this year.
John Inazu, Law Professor at the University of Washington at St. Louis read the report and said the following: "The balance between maintaining a distinctive missional identity (religious or otherwise) and honoring principles of academic freedom and intellectual inquiry is not always easy to strike. But based on this report, Grove City hasn't even come close."
We have reviewed the Ad Hoc Committee’s report and we are even more strongly convinced that the formation of the committee and now the committee report and recommended actions will only serve to inhibit racial justice and important conversations about race and racism on Grove City College campus.
Thus again we call on the Full Board of Trustees not to inhibit discussions of race and racism on campus and in the classroom. Furthermore, we amend this petition to urge the full board of Trustees to reject the board committee report and leave the issues of diversity in the trusted hands of our college administration, staff, and faculty.
As before, we do not write to endorse or condemn CRT as a legal theory. In fact, CRT continues to be a distraction. In their report, the Ad Hoc Committee fell into the trap of viewing any discussion of racism as indicative of CRT. In fact, the committee expanded its critical lens to include terms like “pop-CRT,” CRT-adjacent, and social justice. The casualties of this dramatically expanded critical eye included Dr. Jemar Tisby’s chapel message (which wasn’t about CRT), the Office of Multicultural Education and Initiatives (which may be renamed) and the EDUC 290 course (which includes books also recommended by Board members to their congregations – these were labeled “pop-CRT”).
More troubling for the credibility of the report and the committee was the inaccurate description of CRT. One example will illustrate. The board report said the following:
"CRT evaluates people on the basis of race, alleged racial traits (e.g., so-called “whiteness”), and the sufficiency of their “antiracist” works. The Bible rejects such biological distinctions and focuses on the heart. And it describes justice primarily in terms of our relationships with one another."
Although it is true that the Bible rejects "biological distinctions," so too does CRT. One of the tenets of CRT is that race is socially constructed. Critical race theorists hold that racial distinctions are not biologically real and don't correspond to real categories of existence. This is just one of several mistakes made by the report which renders its findings untrustworthy.
In discussions with faculty since the report was published, we have confirmed that some faculty will be limiting their course content to avoid allegations of teaching CRT. This is what we predicted would happen. With the threatening tone of the interviews and the board report, faculty are understandably nervous about discussions involving race, racism, etc.
There are Good Reasons to Reject the Report.
We note that Board Chair Ed Breen said when he took office that he “would also like to see the diversity of our student body and faculty reflect the world around us.” We believe the board report will make that more difficult. Grove City already is 92% White with very little change over the history of the school. Renaming the Office of Multicultural Education and Initiatives, shutting down the Diversity Council (how can you say its work is through?), and denigrating all efforts at diversity awareness cannot send a welcoming message to minority students, families and prospective faculty.
At the companies that Ed Breen and Anne McClelland lead and work for, employees are expected to respect robust diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. In 2020, Mr. Breen told his company that “DuPont stands together to strongly condemn the racism, injustice & violence in our society which present a daily burden for those in the African American community.” He also added on the organization’s website “For too long, systemic racism has prevented Black-led business owners and entrepreneurs from participating fairly and fully in our economy.”
The board report said EDUC 290 taught "pop-CRT" and listed three books to illustrate this concept. Two of those books, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates are also recommended to his congregation by Pastor David Forney, a GCC Board member. In the past, ad hoc Committee member David Rathburn has been an elder in Rev. Forney's church, First Presbyterian Church of Charlottesville, VA. We cannot fathom how these books are reprehensible when assigned to college students but are fine resources when recommended by a Board member to his church.
Anne McClelland’s company TSIA is committed to the following principles:
- Promote a work environment that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusive policies.
- Operate without prejudices.
- Increase awareness of personal conscious and unconscious biases.
- Support moves to stop racial injustice with our words and actions.
We ask why these principles are valuable, good, and true for the employees and officers of these companies but not for the students, faculty and staff of Grove City College?
How is it possible that the Gospel could be compromised by racial justice, condemning racism, and seeking to operate without bias?
We believe in fact that the Gospel requires justice and that justice cannot flourish without addressing social justice (Isaiah 10). And in Isaiah 58, God makes it clear our personal and community health is dependent on our service and love for our fellow man.
We do not ask you to reject this report to comport with a legal theory but for the sake of the Gospel of Christ and those who bear His image.
Grove City College stands at a crossroads.
The board committee report is defining the college as an institution committed to limiting healthy discussion of important issues. We do not believe much of the board believes or wants this outcome.
We ask the full Board of Trustees to reject the Ad Hoc Committee report.
The committee opens their report by acknowledging their appointment is unprecedented. Think about that. No committee was formed to discuss the rise of Eugenics, Suffrage, Communism, Socialism, the formation of Unions, Imperialism, Desegregation, or Egalitarianism. Those topics have been discussed in Grove City College classrooms for decades, preparing graduates to be salt and light throughout the world. So why a committee now?
As a result of this unique situation, the eyes of the Church and the world are on this Board, maybe even more so than when the college fought for their freedom all the way to the Supreme Court. This is an amazing opportunity for the Board to show that Christian Academia does not need to censor speech or thought. In fact Christian institutions are able to be the most free because Gospel Truth can withstand all scrutiny. We say to each Board member, “Who knows but that you were appointed to the Grove City College Board of Trustees for such a time as this?”
Initial Petition Starts Here
As parents, former students, students, and friends of Grove City College, we write regarding recent controversies over Critical Race Theory and conversations about race at the college.
Recently, we became aware that the board convened a committee to "review alleged instances of mission-drift, summarize facts, identify remedial actions already implemented by President McNulty, and recommend any additional measures that may be appropriate."
As part of that statement, the board stated: "In particular, the Board categorically rejects Critical Race Theory and similar “critical” schools of thought as antithetical to GCC’s mission and values."
As a part of the board's review, we want to add our voice to your deliberations. In essence, our request is this:
Please do not inhibit discussions of race and racism on campus and in the classroom.
We do not write to endorse or condemn CRT as a social science theory. In fact, in many ways, CRT has become a distraction. In recent times, many topics relating to race, the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and so on have been artificially attached to CRT. The definition of CRT has been expanded so that it is difficult to pin it down.
In discussions with faculty, we have become aware that some faculty may be limiting their course content to avoid allegations of teaching CRT. Under the circumstances, this is understandable but unfortunate. Legitimate discussions of race and racism should not be truncated due to fear of violating a perceived or real ban on teaching CRT. We are concerned that the board's strong statement may place a chill on legitimate dialogue and instruction on campus. We want students to be challenged and edified by an open environment.
We commend the administration, staff and faculty for their efforts to facilitate diversity and understanding. We agree with fellow Grover and board chair Ed Breen that we "would also like to see the diversity of our student body and faculty reflect the world around us." This is not a negative or something for which to apologize.
One way to achieve this end as well as the other ends sought by Grove City College is to stick to what has always made Grove City great. Grove City prepares students to live out their faith, build strong families, and make a difference in their vocations. Grove City helps students learn how to think, not what to think. From the classrooms to cafeteria discussions, professors invest deeply in students to frame arguments and work through issues logically.
We ask that the board make a strong commitment to academic freedom and not ban whole theories or perspectives. Furthermore, it is a mistake to think that hearing other voices, whether in chapel or the classroom, is indoctrination. It is an insult to students and an institution of higher learning. Let students hear. Let them think. This has been one of the great strengths of Grove City and what has separated it from other Christian institutions of evangelical conviction.
Please hold on to the Grove City distinctives and send thoughtful, brave leaders out into the world.
Collectively we ask: Please do not inhibit discussions of race and racism on campus and in the classroom.
Natalie Kahler, GCC Class of 1994 Contact the author of the petition
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