Article Archive

Editors note: These articles make clear what would have happened to Texas Baptist Universities without the hard work of TBC and others. Thank goodness we have been able to protect our institutions from this kind of abuse and control.

Students, Alumni Protest LC's Direction
Bill Sumrall

Seventy-one-year-old Joe Richardson of Homer woke up at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Pineville, he said. The longtime Claiborne Parish educator joined about 50 other alumni and students on Louisiana College's campus protesting conservative policies they believe threaten the liberal arts college.

Hymie Bradford, 63, of Pineville, a 1966 graduate, took a cue from his grandfather, H.F. Bradford, who'd served on the Board of Trustees from 1920 to 1948 and as a past LC president. "He'd say we need to let the teachers teach," Bradford said.

Moderator Ida Sampson, who hosted the demonstration in the absence of Vernon Beall, a former LC alumni director still hospitalized from bypass surgery, echoed Bradford by saying, "As a former teacher, I say amen."
About 50 alumni and students attended the protest, timed with Tuesday's meeting of Louisiana College's Board of Trustees.

A mixed crowd of adults and youth, some holding "Free LC" signs that displayed manacled praying hands, listened as eleven spoke on the lawn of the Lynn Alumni Center.

Sophomore Keith Courville, 18, a chemistry major from New Iberia, said the Board of Trustees acted without sympathy for the students' concerns. Courville later expressed that his fears seemed realized with the resignations of LC President Rory Lee and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ben Hawkins.

"I do believe that the Board does have the best intentions of our college in mind yet at the same time their methods are questionable," Courville said.

Paul Hand, 18, a freshman philosophy and religion major from Shreveport, told the group it's a very trying time but added, "we have common ground, regardless of what we think of the new policies, in Jesus Christ." Hand later said, "We think that this is the ideal venue for Christian education, a marketplace of ideas that allows our faith to be tried and therefore strengthened."

Hearing the students gave courage to 1981 alumna Barbara Bailey, 65, of Natchitoches, who attended LC in 1957 before becoming a missionary in South America. She voiced fears about seeing an all-encompassing education "slipping away."

Joseph "Paco" Stanfield, 23, a 2003 LC graduate in religion whose wife is an LC nursing student, credited his spiritual growth to guidance by professors in religion who are now being persecuted under new policies he called a tragedy.

"I wouldn't be at this point spiritually if it hadn't been for the guidance of the religion department and the professors I had," Stanfield said later, adding he hoped trustees would reconsider the policies.

Stanfield added he feared possible withdrawal of alumni financial support for the college "and also the professors that are here not being able to stay here and teach and guide students spiritually as well as academically the way I was guided."

In his remarks, Michael S. Tudor, a local attorney and civic leader, blamed a radical fundamentalist agenda begun 25 years ago but adding he was disturbed by those who might not support the college, as "this is a community asset," and hoped the institution "can outlast these political movements."

LC Board Meeting Quiet on Controversial Issues
Emily Peters

With a looming lack of leadership, the Louisiana Board of Trustees went on with business as usual at their tri-yearly meeting Tuesday. No comments were made in public session about finding replacements for the school's president and dean of academic affairs, who both resigned in recent days. A special meeting of the trustees was called for April. The date and agenda will not be released until later. Joe Nesom, chair of the board of trustees, would not comment on the board's plan to replace the college's two top leaders by the time they leave in June.

Board members also remained silent concerning policies they made last year that have drawn heated opposition from faculty, students and alumni. No trustees would comment on the allegations made by the 50 alumni and students who met early Tuesday to demonstrate opposition to what they call an ultra-conservative political agenda behind the new hiring policy and book screening process approved by the trustees last year.

Visit for additional articles and information about the situation at Louisiana College.


Louisiana College President Resigns Amid Concerns Over Academic Freedom
Bob Allen

Louisiana College's president announced Monday he is stepping down, heightening tensions at a Baptist school already marred by a controversy over academic freedom.

Alumni and friends moved ahead with plans for a vigil Tuesday morning as trustees gathered to meet on campus. Monday's announcement by President Rory Lee that he will resign at the end of the semester to run a children's home in Mississippi--which followed by only a few days a resignation by another top administrator--made it "even more important" for alumni to let trustees show their support for faculty and students, vigil organizer Grace Beall said in a e-mail.

Lee, who has led Louisiana College seven years, declined to comment on his reasons for leaving, according to a Tuesday report in The Town Talk newspaper in Alexandria, La. He issued a statement expressing good will for the school on the Louisiana College Web site.

Lee has been at the center of a controversy over a vote last December by the college's board of trustees revising the school's policy on academic freedom. The change came in response to Lee's earlier decision to remove two books from the campus bookstore after a student complained about profanity and a love scene in the books, which had in the past been used in a class.

The new policy requires that faculty, who previously selected their own textbooks, now submit them for approval by the department chairperson and vice president for academic affairs. That VP, Ben Hawkins, announced Thursday that he would leave after six years to become dean of Campbell University's business school in June.

Hawkins told the local newspaper that his decision had nothing to do with his new responsibilities under the textbook-selection policy, and that the new job was "already in the works" prior to the change.

While viewing Hawkins as an open-minded administrator, moderate critics of the book-selection policy had worried openly about what might happen if he should ever leave and be replaced by someone more likely to advance the agenda of conservative trustees, who have gained power on the board in recent years by winning elections at the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

About 200 people gathered Dec. 12 to protest the textbook-screening policy, which the critics say violates the academic freedom of professors and threatens to limit educational opportunities for students.

"Louisiana College is today at the center of an education and cultural issue that is playing out across the land," rally coordinator Vernon Beall said in a Tuesday e-mail. "It asks the question: How do conservative religious doctrine and the secular liberal arts accommodate each other in an institution of higher learning?"

Beall said the college "has done reasonably well in answering that question for quite a long time," and in so doing has gained a reputation for "quality education" as a private, Christian college.

President Lee is leaving to become executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Children's Village, an agency of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

"After serving three different colleges, I have now been offered the opportunity to use those wide-ranging experiences to administer the program which benefits the children under the care of Mississippi Baptists," Lee said in a statement. "I look forward to returning to my home state and working in an environment that is exceptionally beneficial to young people at such a critical point in their lives."

Lee is a former vice president for development at Mississippi College who served briefly as president of William Carey College before being elected as Louisiana College's seventh president in 1997.

While Lee's announcement did not mention controversy over academic freedom, he said in an open letter in December that the textbook-selection policy "has been misunderstood by many people."

He said no books were "banned" by the policy, as some charged, and described it as being in keeping with the Baptist Faith & Message article on Christian education calling for "a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility."

April 2004