May 24, 2013 | Comments 8
Chairman ConnerHear me now Oh thou bleak and unbearable ARP Church, Thou art base and unreasonable as can be; And a chairman with his banners all spottedly unfurled Now hurls down his galluses to thee! I am I, David Conner, The Lord of Erskine, My destiny calls and I vanquish presidents, And the wild winds of evangelical conservatives Will carry me somewhere over Due West, Oh whithersoever they blow. Whithersoever they blow, Onward to ignominy I go!
Squire LisaI’m Squire Lisa! Yes, I’m Squire Lisa! I’ll follow my master’s plans for an independent Erskine. I’ll tell all the world proudly I’m his squire! I’m his toady! Nothing in all the world could be better than this! .
With the meeting of the Erskine board Thursday and Friday, the question in ARPdom is: WHAT IS CHAIRMAN CONNER UP TO? At this point, Conner has demonstrated considerable ineptness in dealing with the issues of Erskine College & Seminary and the General Synod of the ARP Church. For example, (1) as I recall, he and Andy Putnam led the board to rewrite the bylaws of Erskine College & Seminary in such a manner as to write the ARP Church out of the bylaws, and, in so doing, created a firestorm with the ARP Church; (2) when the General Synod (with the full approbation of Erskine College & Seminary representatives) asked the board to write the General Synod back into the bylaws, he and former Chairman Joe Patrick set up an ad hoc committee, made Conner chairman, and he authored the committee’s report to General Synod, reporting the board could not do what General Synod requested and then was caught misrepresenting the truth by a Minority Report from the board to General Synod; (3) he authored a covenant of separation which would have separated Erskine College & Seminary from the ARP Church, and saw his covenant ignored; (4) on his watch, Erskine College & Seminary was placed on academic “warning” by SACS; and (5) he so mishandled the removal of President Norman so as to make himself look like a mean-spirited tyrant. Now, what is Chairman Conner up to? I wonder if he is capable of creating another embarrassment for Erskine College & Seminary. Well, I have faith in him. As a member of the board of Covenant Way (formerly the Due West Retirement Center), he was involved in decisions which lead to the closing of Covenant Way this year. If given enough time, I think Conner can do the same for Erskine College & Seminary.
1. Search Committee for the Interim-President
Chairman Conner has announced the members of the Search Committee for the Interim-President, and they are: Lisa Senn (chairman), Bill Cain, Jerry Clemons, Dixon Cunningham, Bryan Rush, Crosland Stuart, and Anne Marie Tribble. Well, isn’t this just precious!!
The only two members of the committee with loyalty to the ARP Church are Bill Cain and Dixon Cunningham (who is not an ARP but should be!).
The choice of Lisa Senn as Chairman insults the ARP Church. She has no use for the General Synod. She was one of the 14 trustees chosen for removal by the Moderator’s Committee in 2010. At the “Snow” Synod, with great drama, Ms. Senn said the most wonderful thing to happen to her in life is her appointment to the Erskine board. I believe her. As a former trustee, I know that the Erskine board is a chore instead of the most wonderful thing in life. Nevertheless, with the exception of Mr. Steve Southwell, the alumni representative on the board, the person most vehemently biased and opposed to the desires of General Synod is Ms. Senn. She is Chairman Conner’s squire, Sancho Panza, to carry out his bidding as they sally forth on their great crusade to free the holy land of Due West from the ARP infidel.
Crosland Stuart’s appointment to this search committee is bizarre. She rotates off the board on July 1, 2013. I wonder if Chairman Conner will be asked to explain this appointment. Do you think it might be a grab for power? I wonder if a debt is being paid.
The makeup of this committee is outstandingly bad! There is not a single ARP minister on the committee. There is no college faculty representation on the committee. There is no seminary faculty representation on the committee. With all due respect to Bryan Rush, what is the compelling argument for his appointment to the committee? He is a middle-level administrator. Did Conner choose him because he is easily controlled?
Without college and seminary representation on the committee, I wonder if SACS protocols have been violated. Has anyone checked? I wonder if Chairman Conner is like his former Pastor, Dr. Harvey N. Gaston, who said he didn’t give a damn what the accreditors said. And that did not go well for Dr. Gaston or the seminary, did it?
The only hope for thwarting the grand quixotic quest of Chairman Conner and Squire Lisa is the arrival of the new board members on July 1, 2013! I don’t think the present board can stop the knight and his squire.
2. Chairman Conner and Squire Lisa Senn
What is Chairman Conner up to? What was going on in the smoke filled room when he and Squire Lisa came up with the idea for her being the Chairman of the search committee for the Interim-President? Certainly, Conner is aware of the level of distrust and dislike there is in General Synod for Squire Lisa. Surely, he calculated her appointment. Does he scheme his appointment of Squire Lisa is offensive enough to the ARP conservative right and middle to unite them and move them to vote for separation from Erskine College & Seminary? Well, if I were in his socks, this is exactly what I would do!
Let’s take this a step further. If I were Conner and really wanted to offend the ARP Church, I would lead the committee to recall Dr. Randy Ruble. That is, if he can stay awake long enough to accept the position! A better scenario for Conner is to induce the committee to appoint Dr. Gid (“Jump Rope”) Alston. As Randy Ruble’s Acting Academic Dean, he is partly responsible for the “Warning” by SACS; nonetheless, he is a favorite of the loony alums who, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, are convinced he did a commendable job. Such a move would anger many in the ARP Church. Obviously, with the seating of the new trustees on July 1 and the formation of an evangelical conservative majority, Conner’s goal is to get a visceral response from the ARP Church now. Here is the response he is looking for: “Erskine is too far gone; let’s get rid of it!”
3. Chairman Conner’s crusade for ethics: that is, “Who told Chuck Wilson what I’m up to?”
This is exciting. Chairman Conner is in a tizzy over leaks on the board. He is unable to figure out how Chuck Wilson knew of his and the Executive Committee’s plans to ask for President David Norman’s resignation. He thinks a board member leaked the information. He thinks there is a mole. Well, Chuck Wilson did not learn Conner’s plans from a board member. Chuck Wilson even warned President Norman months ago this was coming.
Nevertheless, Conner is conducting an ethics investigation. He’s convinced one of the conservative trustees told Chuck Wilson something. What unrepentant hypocrisy! What does a lawyer know of ethics? What does a man who was caught telling a lie last summer in his report to General Synod know of ethics? And, yes, I can say what I have just said with impunity. I did my home work last year. I still have the letter.
Do you remember speeches about transparency from board leaders? I do. Mr. Conner, what happened to transparency? Mr. Conner, why are you acting like the Obama administration? Do you have something to hide?
4. The ad hoc committee
Again, the question regarding the writing of the ARP Church back into the bylaws is on the table – particularly, General Synod’s trustee removal policy. This time Conner is not the chairman of the ad hoc committee. This time Conner is not the author of the report. Lo and behold, it has been discovered General Synod’s request is not only possible but desirable. This will be recommended. Will it pass? Will it be the recommendation to Synod? I think it will.
5. Presidential Search Committee
Well, this should be a humdinger. What will Conner do? Are there enough levelheaded trustees on the board to hold him back? In two months, the board is going to have a different look. As I count heads, there will be an evangelical conservative majority for the first time in over 40 years. Because of imminent change in the board’s direction, I think Conner is going to forge ahead with his anti-ARP Church agenda. In the words of his former pastor and mentor, I don’t think he gives a damn. Don’t expect Conner to show consideration to the ARP Church’s aspiration for Erskine College & Seminary! We can expect Conner do all he can to push forward his agenda before the seating of the new class of trustees on July 1.
6. The freshman class
If what I hear coming out of Due West is true, the freshman class this fall is expected to be 200 students. The goal of 200 has been unreachable for years. There is great optimism 200 students will matriculate this Fall. How can this be? In a time of internal and academic troubles at Erskine College, how is admissions awash with new students?
Instead of having a party, the trustees need to ask how this has been achieved. If what I suspect is true, this class has been bought. When I was a trustee, the Board was up in arms about the discount rate being too high, and things seem to have gotten even worse. Presently, the word on the street is that the average discount rate for a non-athlete is high, and for athletes it is significantly higher. Is anyone watching what the recruiters are doing with the discount rate?
Buying 200 students is easily accomplished. The difficulty is the damage done to the endowment over the four years of a class. With all the disruptions at Erskine, is anyone watching the admissions recruiters and the discount rate? Chairman Conner probably has more important things on the mind than the mundane discount rate!
7. A “wet” campus
Presently, Erskine College is an alcohol-free campus. From what I hear from students, administrators, and faculty members, the policy is not enforced. I can attest to this. When I was on the board, one day I went for a walk through one of the men’s dorms. It is amazing what one can learn by walking down a dorm hall and looking through open doors. The alcohol-free policy was not enforced during the Carson administration. It was a joke then; it is a joke now.
Well, the student body has voted to ask the board to lift the alcohol-free policy. I wonder what the board will do with this request.
8. The new representative of the Alumni Association: Steve Southwell
Replacing Nan Campbell as the representative of the Alumni Association is Steve Southwell. It is good to see her gone from the board. However, Southwell is no better suited to serve on the board than Campbell was. Though an elder in the ARP Church, Southwell has made it very clear his first loyalty is to Erskine and not to the ARP Church.
Why is the Alumni Association’s President still a voting member of the board? The Alumni Association is a subsidiary of Erskine College & Seminary. The Alumni Association is not an independent organization. Buddy Ferguson is the director of Alumni Affairs and oversees the Alumni Association. If the board is going to give an agency of Erskine representation, why not give it to the director and be done with the pretense of independence and impartiality?
At this point, neither Nan Campbell nor Steve Southwell is qualified to serve on the Erskine board. The new class of trustees who will be seated on July 1, 2013, went through a strenuous vetting process. Neither Campbell nor Southwell can pass the new vetting process.
In fact, Southwell’s name was put forward last year for the Erskine board. His name was rejected outright.
A few weeks ago, at the last meeting of the Alumni Association, Southwell spoke of people giving sacrificially to Erskine College & Seminary. I wonder if he were speaking of Erskine grads. Of the 11,000 Erskine grads, does he realize the average contribution to Erskine is about 65 dollars per year?
Sanctimoniously and contemptuously, he spoke of the choices of the ARP Church to the board in this manner: “When trustees are appointed by the Church that have never contributed to the Institution, never served on the Alumni Board, never served on the Board of Counselors or Flying Fleet Club, that will obviously raise questions from the alumni as to whose best interests are they serving?” Obviously, Mr. Southwell, unlike you, they are serving the interest of the ARP Church and her agency, Erskine College & Seminary. Indeed, when comparing the contribution of the new trustees with the alums, the new trustees will not need to do much to exceed the high mark of 65 dollars set by the alums.
My prediction: everything Chairman Conner, his Squire Lisa, and the host of loony alums can do to thwart the ARP Church’s efforts of restoration and reformation at Erskine will be done. With the seating of a new class of trustees on July 1, they know their time is short.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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