ARPTalk 125 – The Three Amigos of Due West (Part One)

 

There once was a trading post near a native American reservation in New Mexico that was run by a man who was ostensibly a Christian. His custom was to quote Bible verses when he made a sale. For example, when he sold a loaf of bread, he would say, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”; or, when he sold a bottle of milk, he would say, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”

One day an automobile with eastern tags stopped at the store. A man and woman came in, and the man informed the owner of the store that he wanted to buy “real Indian blankets.” Well, the owner of the trading post had a number of blankets that he had piled in three places throughout the store — all about the same quality. The owner led the easterners to the first pile of blankets and told them that they cost $10.00 a piece. After looking disdainfully at the blankets, the lady said, “Do you have better blankets?”

Well, the owner of the store led the couple to the second pile of blankets. They were informed that the price was $20.00 per blanket.” Without looking at the second pile of blankets, the man said, “My wife wants real Indian blankets — authentic quality!!”

As the owner of the store led the couple to the third pile of blankets, he said, “Yes, I have a third pile of blankets, but I’m sure you’re not interested in them. They cost $300.00 a blanket.” The man and his wife from the east wanted four.

The locals who hung around the store were amused at the proceedings. As the owner checked out his customers, they wondered, “What Bible verse will he use?”

As the happy owners of four “real Indian blankets” drove away, the storeowner was heard to say, “I saw them coming from afar, and I took them in.”

FOOTBALL

The Three Amigos of Due WestThe ¡Three Amigos! is a story about three congenial but hapless and ne’er-do-well Hollywood cowboys who think they are heroes who can save a Mexican village from bandits. They take in themselves, they take in a village, and they nearly get themselves and the villagers killed. But, wait! Wait! This is Hollywood — make-believe city. In the end, they save themselves and the village. In the end, they ride off like heroes; nevertheless, they are still blithering twits. The magic of cinema! The moviegoers go home after a pleasant evening of entertainment.

Erskine College & Seminary was NOT established for entertainment. Erskine College & Seminary was founded to educate college and seminary students to the glory of God. In the Philosophy of Christian Higher Education, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church’s reasons for Erskine College & Seminary are clearly delineated (http://arpchurch.org/philosophy-of-christian-higher-education/). The Definition of Evangelical and the definition of The Good News clearly identify both the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Erskine College & Seminary as EVANGELICAL and not secular or Roman Catholic or Orthodox or nonaffiliated (http://arpchurch.org/position-statements/ and http://arpchurch.org/the-gospel-message/).

Presently, the three amigos of Due West (Paul Kooistra, Brad Christie and Greg Haselden), who were called to the stewardship of leading Erskine College and Seminary on behalf of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, are attempting to turn Erskine College from the envisioned roles of an educational enterprise and a “gospel enterprise” to a sports-entertainment enterprise. Incredibly, since becoming the Senior VP for Academic Affairs (that is, academic dean), Brad Christie has overseen the academic demise of Erskine as he has lent his hand in engineering the turning of Erskine from Liberal Arts and academic excellence to the entertainment of sports. It is now no exaggeration to say that it is nearly as difficult to find a non-student/athlete at Erskine as it was to find a natural tooth in George Washington mouth (http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/did-george-washington-have-wooden-teeth). Ironically, a sports program has been built and very few show up to watch!

Most recently the three amigos of Due West have turned to football as the means whereby to save Erskine College. This is nearly as comical and wacky as Hillary Clinton explaining why she did not compromise national security with her e-mails.

Here is the truth: even most of the big universities in the “Power Five Conferences” struggle to break even in football. The small schools find themselves in a “red hole financially” with the tail of football wagging the dog. For example, consider the following nearby schools:

I stand to be corrected, but my preliminary research reveals that Erskine’s total profit from all sports last year is $0. So, why are the three amigos so drawn to football? It is simple: warm bodies to fill dorm space. The goal of the Three Amigos of Due West is 700 students, and football is the way to the Glory Land.

Yes, 700 students, but at what cost to the students? What we have at Erskine presently is the administration of the Three Amigos of Due West that is ready and willing to take advantage of students who are marginal athletes and academically limited. That is, the Three Amigos of Due West are ready to pile on a load of school debt in order to continue their kingdom of make-believe academics and athletics.

Kooistra, Christie, and Haselden have chosen to chase the unicorn of football rather than the mission of Erskine as embraced by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church: a premier evangelical, Christian Liberal Arts college and a theologically orthodox, Presbyterian seminary that are open to all who wish to come and learn. Academic excellence is not on the agenda for the Three Amigos of Due West; their agenda is 700 students. I think of the marginal student-athlete who is recruited to play a certain sport at Erskine; however, after two years, the realization that he/she cannot do the academic work hits, the dream of an athletic careers melts, and the reality of “I-have-nothing-to-show-for-my-two-years-at-Erskine-but-$50,000-of-student-loan-debt-and-it-is-going-to-take-me-years-to-recover” becomes as clear as poverty. I wonder: will the Three Amigos of Due West watch from their perch in Belk Hall as the student drives away in debt and disappointment and say, “Bring us a bowl of water so we can wash our hands; this does not concern us!”? What a wretched thing to do!

ERSKINE SEMINARY

When the ¡Three Amigos! went into Mexico on their mission, they did not have the slightest notion as to what they would do. Amigo Kooistra also seems to have driven into Due West without the slightest notion of what to do. His mode of operation seems to have been: “Have no fear, I am here!”

One of the reasons Kooistra was chosen as the president of Erskine was because he was supposed to have been the Savior of Covenant Seminary. It was ballyhooed, “This man knows how to run a seminary!” Have we been taken in? From where I sit, it looks like Kooistra’s legacy will be “Kooistra Who Tried to Kill Erskine Seminary.”

Head Amigo Kooistra’s leadership of Erskine Seminary looks cannibalistic. In St. Louis, he was the “Savior of Covenant Seminary”; however, in Due West it looks like he is the “Killer of Erskine Seminary.” That is, he is looking at Erskine College & Seminary and saying the college and seminary are conjoined twins and in order to save one, he is willing to eat the seminary bones, shoes, and all for the sake of the college. Incredibly, it seems he has not lifted his hand to help the seminary (and this is one of the loudest complaints that is being noised about). He has been a spectator in what has taken place. It is reported the only things he has contributed are to carp, blame, threaten, and lose his temper. And this is the man who is the savior of seminaries!?!

On Thursday, March 10, the following e-mail was sent out from the seminary to the members of the Erskine board and the Moderator of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Motion from the Erskine Theological Seminary Faculty to the Board of Trustees and the General Synod of the ARP Church:

The Faculty of Erskine Theological Seminary respectfully requests that the Board of Trustees and the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church establish the necessary mechanisms to facilitate the separation of the college and the seminary as soon as possible, and to effect an equitable division of institutional assets (e.g., real estate, endowed funds, library holdings, etc.) in a manner respectful of institutional history and donor’s wishes.

The names of the full-time Faculty who voted (unanimously) for separation are as follows: William B. Evans, Terry L. Eves, R. J. Gore Jr., R. Leslie Holmes, Dale W. Johnson, Loyd D. Melton, Toney C. Parks, Max. F. Rogland, Mark E. Ross, and George M. Schwab Sr.

Note of Explanation from the (Acting) Dean of the Seminary [R. J. Gore Jr.]: The following points reflect some of the concerns that have been expressed by various faculty members during our discussions on the motion to separate. These points are my effort to summarize faculty concerns; they are not part of the approved motion.

  • The college and the seminary have distinct missions and serve very different student bodies.
  • The current structure, a single administrative umbrella for college and seminary, has not served the mission of the seminary well, particularly in a time when resources are constrained and the seminary’s viability is in question.
  • Individuals, per se, are not the problem; administrative structure is the problem.
  • Serving the seminary student body may be better accomplished if the administrative hub of the seminary is located elsewhere in the upstate, perhaps in Greenville, and perhaps even in co-location with other synod agencies at the new ARP Center.
  • We believe that both the college and the seminary can benefit from this separation, as it will allow each institution and its administrators, faculty, and staff to concentrate fully on its distinctive mission.

CLEARLY, at Erskine Seminary, Paul Kooistra is a failure! What did he do to create such a rebellion on the part of the members of the Erskine Seminary faculty? By nature, seminary professors are meek and mild individuals. They are not given to a bold action such as the above petition.

Well, if pushed enough, even a mouse fights back. The members of the seminary faculty have had enough of being taken in by the Head Amigo of Due West and his compadres of disaster.

I think most of the readers of ARPTalk are aware that there has been an audit of Erskine Seminary this month by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). ATS is the accrediting association for seminaries. Most expected Erskine Seminary to fail the audit. In a planning meeting before the arrival of the auditors, Kooistra was rude, condemnatory, and angry. It is reported that one long-time Erskinite responded in this manner: “Why does he always act like this?” In other words, the rumors coming out of Due West about Kooistra’s temper-tantrums, his storming out of meetings, and slamming doors are not apocryphal. The man has acted like a Dutch peasant. I think the Dutch phrase is stijf Hoofd or stijfkop. I understand that stijfkop is Frisian.

The manner in which Kooistra has treated the seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is disgraceful. The seminary has borne an excessive part of the cuts he imposed. According to Amigos Kooistra and Amigo Greg Haselden (CFO), the seminary is a financial anchor on the institution. That is, the seminary deserved to be punished with the deepest cuts. Well, is that the case?

Financial numbers in Due West are often malleable. When I was on the board (1998-2004), I was a member of the Finance Committee. Even back then, we were never sure of the financial information we were given.

It has been reported to me by sources that in the planning meeting before the meetings with the ATS auditors that Amigo Haselden said he kept more than one set of books. Now, I do not know what that means, but, if a board member is reading this article, I would think that he/she might want to ask about this at the next board meeting. Indeed, as it is reported to me, Haselden’s trust level among board members is very low. Confidence regarding financial statements has not improved.

Recently, I discovered some interesting financial information. One of the things I found most interesting is the amount of money that the seminary sends to Belk Hall for ancillary services. Usually, one would think that the largest item in the seminary’s budget is the total for the salaries of the members of the faculty. At Erskine Seminary, the amount for salaries and the amount the seminary sends to Belk Hall for ancillary services are essential the same. How does that take place?

What does this mean? It means, as I do the counting (and, of course, this is an estimation), that the seminary is sending between $500,000 and $600,000 a year to Belk Hall for ancillary services. It means that the single largest donor to Erskine College is Erskine Seminary and not the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Well, what does the seminary get for such an extravagant amount of money sent to Belk Hall? Well, it is not competent and engaged leadership from the president. It is not wise financial management from CFO Haselden. It is not help with recruitment or development. Maybe it is the knowledge that the seminary is making it possible for the college not to be another half million dollars or more in red ink this year.

No wonder the members of the seminary faculty want to be rid of Erskine College and, particularly, Amigo Paul Kooistra and his academic and financial braintrust. It seems the folks at the seminary are tired of being taking in by the Three Amigos of Due West; now they want to be taken away from the Three Amigos of Due West.

If the seminary had the monies that are given for ancillary services (which gain the seminary little more than nothing), the seminary can afford its own president and a dedicated seminary staff. A competent President of Erskine Seminary might even be able to increase the salaries of long-suffering faculty members.

Under Kooistra’s Kakistocracy, property that is dedicated to the seminary is seized without compensation. McQuisten Hall belongs to the seminary. It was given by Associate Reformed Presbyterians and paid for with 1938 dollars. Under Kooistra, the building has been seized by the college and turned into an athletic dorm for male athletes. This means that the seminary no longer has a dorm available to serve DMin students and other students who need lodging. Well, that has a stifling effect on the seminary’s programs, does it not? It also means that the seminary has not been compensated for the seizure of the building and has been denied the income generated by use of the building as a dorm. Well, is there any wonder that seminary personnel want to be free of Kooistra? They do not see him as a friendly amigo! I wonder: do they call him “killer”?

Everyone who reads ARPTalk is aware that the Editor has not been supportive of the seminary in recent years. However, when many of the things which have limited my support are eliminated, I feel compelled to extend my support. Richard Burnett is no longer teaching at the seminary (and, though his photograph is still in the catalogue, it is there as a courtesy for this year). The MEDCOM program will not be continued and is winding down. The seminary’s hiring policy states that new faculty members who are not Associate Reformed Presbyterians must be members of a NAPARC affiliated denomination. Finally, the members of the seminary faculty are making it clear that they want to draw closer to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and not farther from us.

It is time for the separation of the seminary and college. It is also time that the yearly contribution by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to Erskine be redesigned to Erskine Seminary ONLY. If the college and seminary are conjoined twins that cannot be separated without doing harm to one of them, let it be the college. Paul Kooistra can then be called “College Killer.”

By the way, for those trustees who are reading this article, may I suggest a course of action? Consider this motion: that the Executive Committee of the Erskine board appoint an investigative committee to examine matters relevant to the seminary’s faculty’s request for separation of the college and seminary, including the accounting of seminary and college budgets, and the use of restricted endowment funds and other institutional resources.

These are my thoughts,

signature

Charles W. Wilson

PS: Don’t miss ARPTalk(126), “The Three Amigos of Due West (Part Two)”

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  1. Bill Crenshaw says:

    Can’t speak to the seminary side, but, Chuck, darn if we don’t agree on the state of the college.

     
    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Bill Crenshaw,

      Good to hear from you again, Bill. I hope you’re well.

      BTW, do you know what is great about being our age? Answer: we’ll missed every chance we’ve had to die young.

      Don’t make yourself a stranger! Be well!

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
  2. Howard Carlson says:

    Mr. Wilson, thanks for your post. Although not a part of the ARP I am certainly interested in seeing the continued good health of the Seminary. I have considered suggesting our our African Presbyterian friends consider your school for their theological advanced studies. Certainly we want them to enter a wholesome atmosphere. I feel your comments to be very important and appreciated.

     
  3. C.Wesley says:

    Charles,

    If your football profit numbers are correct (or the website you link) for each college being compared, I noticed that some of those colleges (Wofford, PC) secure a BIG PAY DAY at least once a year by playing a big division 1 school. IE, PC played Ole Miss, Wofford Played Clemson and/or South Carolina. When the small schools play a big school, they get a huge, lucrative pay day, perhaps $250,000. So, that means they are getting that huge pay day just to break even or barely make it? And, if they DID NOT get that huge pay day, then they would be in the hole for $250,000?

    If true, then tell me this: What are the odds of Erskine getting to play an Ole Miss or Clemson to secure that big pay day? And, if the odds are nil (which they are) then isn’t it likely we get down the road a year or two and find that Football is actually bleeding us money? Aren’t there other more reasonable ways for a small, uniquely Christian college to grow enrollment and to stay focused on their purpose? This just seems to be the plan of people who “don’t know what else to do.” Or, a “hail mary” as you have said before.

    I thought we were getting out of the woods, not deeper into them.

    A concerned and embarrassed Alum,
    C.W.

     
    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear C. Wesley,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I would attempt to answer your questions but you’ve already answered them.

      I like your “deeper into the woods” analogy. I think I’ll steal it.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
  4. C.W. says:

    I checked your numbers and at least one of them is WRONG.
    Davidson has a (-) sign in front of their $100,000. They didn’t make 100K. They LOST 100K.

    How much money is Erskine claiming they will make from football? It certainly can’t be from ticket or merchandise sales, so it has to be from tuition.

    I just question how the math adds up. It doesn’t seem like it can add up. I’ve heard the numbers guy at Erskine is the same guy who signed off and approved of all the things SACS dinged us for. If true, this seems like more of the same. The definition of insanity. The Erskine way. Same people = Same results.

     
  5. Chuck Wilson says:

    Dear C. Wesley,

    Thanks for your second response.

    Thanks for the correction. I will fix it.

    BTW, you have written the hard thing: “Same people = Same results.” If Kooistra, Haselden, and Christie continue in their leadership roles at Erskine, the result with be ERSKINE RIP.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk

     
  6. Chris Cole says:

    It’s Davidson College, not University.

     
    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Chris Cole,

      Thanks for the comment.

      “University” has been corrected to “College.”

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Drew Collins,

      Thanks for taking the effort to set up the petition. May God make your efforts flourish.

      I have signed the petition. I encourage the readers of ARPTalk to also sign. This is something all of us can do.

      For those who do not know Mr. Collins, he is an AARP. No, he’s not retired. In this case, AARP means ANGLICAN ASSOCIATE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
  7. And it’s Drew — my typo.

    DC+

     
  8. Chuck Wilson says:

    Dear Drew,

    Thanks for the correction.

    I was wondering if you had changed what you wanted to be called. You do live in the Land of Charleston. (-:

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk

     
  9. […] ARPTalk(125), a copy of the petition from the faculty of Erskine Seminary to the board and General Synod was […]

     
  10. […] obtained. It was presented to General Synod, and, since March 15, it has been posted on ARPTalk at http://www.arptalk.org/2016/03/15/three-amigos-of-due-west-part-one/ (paragraph 18). This press release does not reflect transparency or build trust or confidence. […]

     

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