The Demise of a Great Educational Institution

references.docHistory of the School

In an historical document from 1967, Stetson University is noted as having its beginning on a four acre plot of land that was sold to the Florida Baptist Convention for $10,000 from Mr. DeLand in 1883. The school was to be a women’s college. Mr. DeLand had a desire to see the school succeed so he donated a $10,000 endowment. In 1889 the school was officially named “John B. Stetson University” after Mr. Stetson, a businessman who donated large amounts of money to the school (Bowen, 48).

In 1920 the Florida Baptist Convention became responsible for approving persons to the Board of Trustees (no one could get elected to the Board without the approval of the Convention) (Bowen, 50). The Florida Baptist Convention had all intentions of making the school into a “great” Baptist institution of “moral, religious, and financial influence” (Bowen, 51).

Mission Statement 1980

The mission statement closest to 1976 is the one from 1980 which was provided by the archives department of the school. In the document, the purpose of the school was to “promote excellence in education…prepare its students for purposeful life experiences…build and maintain an environment where the Christian ethic may nurture the development of meaningful personal and societal values.” This environment consisted of a learning community of faculty and students that emphasized “open communication” and “search and inquiry” since “man’s understanding can never encompass all truth.”

The image of Stetson University in 1980 was “a Christian university at the highest possible standards of academic excellence, one that encourages free and honest inquiry, and acceptance of responsibility.” The school’s main purpose was not only to “educate young people to take their places in the world adequately prepared in their vocations,” but it was to provide a foundation of Christian faith that stems from the knowledge of God and man. This foundation promised to help students in their “fulfillment of their obligations” and be reactive to the “needs of the world in which they live.”

The school expressed in their 1980 mission statement their gratefulness to the Florida Baptist Convention and to the churches it represented since the inception of the school, and hailed the school’s motto, “For God and Truth” as its “vital principle” that showed their commitment to spiritual values.

Mission Statement 2006

The 2006 mission statement is drastically different from the 1980 version. The most glaring is that the school no longer promoted a Christian faith foundation. In fact, the motto, Pro Deo et Veritate (Latin translation of “For God and Truth”), is deemed a symbol of the “commitment and determination to integrate the pursuit of a liberal education with the search for meaning.” The “God” part of the motto is said to represent “the importance of spiritual life” and the “Truth” part stood for “the quest for truth in educational mission.”

In the 2006 mission statement, the school gives credit for its “inclusive community” to the “historical relationship” Stetson University had with the Baptist denomination. The school proudly proclaims the following:

“Today, the University includes people from diverse religious, ethnic, cultural, economic, and intellectual backgrounds. The art of teaching is practiced through programs solidly grounded in a tradition of liberal learning that stimulates critical thinking, imaginative inquiry, creative expression, and lively intellectual debate…We embrace diverse methodologies that foster effective communication, information and technological literacy, and aesthetic appreciation. It is thus from varying perspectives that members of the University community have joined together to affirm collectively the centrality of knowledge, examined ideas, and independent judgment in the life of an educated person;

¡ The inherent dignity, worth, and equality of all persons;

¡ The importance of community in human life;

¡ The role of religious and spiritual quests for meaning in human experience;

¡ The value of diverse persons and differing ideas in an educational community;

¡ The responsibility we share to work toward social justice;

¡ The necessity for decisions to be guided by ethics and social responsibility;

¡ The obligation of individuals and communities to act as responsible stewards of the natural environment” (2006-2007 Catalog, 4).

The student handbook reiterated the same thoughts but in a more condensed manner: “We aim to infuse liberal education with the values of religious and spiritual life, ethical decision-making, human diversity and commonality, gender equity, community service, environmental responsibility and health and wellness” (Student Handbook 2006, 6).

Missional Shift of Stetson University: April 1997 Article

The article posted on the Stetson website (http://www.stetson.edu/tools/articles/view. php?type=oldnews&id=1003) claimed that the “transition” of the university from its Baptist identity to one that reflected a “diverse interfaith” started in the early 1990s. The Florida Baptist Convention actually parted from the school in 1993, but the school did not consider the split “official” until the “Trustee Religious Life Council” allowed representation from various religious groups. The objective was to show “diversity” and “inclusion” from all faith groups, hence groups such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship—the rogue group that formed their own convention after the “Conservative Resurgence” took place within the Southern Baptist Convention (3/201%20fuss.htm) and the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida—a known religious liberal organization (div_epis.htm) now played an important part in the school.

This transition was led by the school’s president, H. Douglas Lee, who said that the future of Stetson was to become an “independent” university. Lee claimed that the separation from the Baptist convention only made the school “stronger” because it was more religiously diverse. He justified the split by pointing out that only 17 percent of the undergraduates were Baptist. Lee also said that religious diversity actually reflected the original mission of the school, which he claimed was “a commitment to excellence in education and to liberal learning, faith and ethics.” He shared that various religious viewpoints were “fundamental” to the “evolution of the human community.”

The article quoted Rabbi Barry Altman, who supported what the school had done, “Stetson has seized the unique opportunity to build on its heritage and become a model for religious and cultural acceptance” (News Release, oldnews&id=1003).

College Guide Information 2006

Stetson is advertised as a private institution with a reputation for “excellent liberal arts teaching” and proudly claims the title of “Florida’s first private university.” On the college guide website, Stetson University lists no religious affiliation (Guide, CollegeID=105).

In its advertisement, the school highlighted three verbs: “Intimate. Interactive. Inclusive.” They promised a “challenge” for those who “pursue intellectual endeavors while exploring new worlds beyond the classroom” (Guide, CollegeID=105). Not only does the school tout their academics (which centers on “teaching/mentoring…that encourages students to take an active role in their learning”) but they also appeal to the student’s need for socialization: “Lifelong relationships…close-knit community—with more than 100 student organizations to choose from” (Guide, CollegeID=105).

The Future of this Institution

Riley’s book, “God on the Quad,” illustrates that the purpose of a college is to indoctrinate its students. Indoctrination at Stetson is no longer based on Christianity, but rather on a “liberal” philosophy that focuses on feminism and gay/lesbian issues. Stetson University is not listed in ChristianCollegeGuide.net. It is predicted that the school will no longer mention its historical Baptist roots in any school publication. Stetson is currently a quasi-religious institution, but if the trend continues, Stetson University will simply be a private secular college with no religious offerings of any sort.

Since Stetson severed ties with the Florida Baptist Convention, there has been an increase in feminists, and gay and lesbian activity at the school. The college library has a subscription database that lists the “Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History.” The Librarian’s “Top Internet Picks for Women and Gender Studies” include links to “QueerTheology.com,” “The Feminist Majority Foundation Online,” and “Gay and Lesbian Politics & Law” (Ryan, gender.html). Stetson University is featured as a gay-friendly school and is said to be listed in the current “Lesbian and Gay Studies Newsletter” (Younger, lgbtqprogs.html). The “Women and Gender Studies” department at Stetson University publishes a newsletter online and offers classes such as: “Gender and Film: Cross dressing on the Screen,” “Feminist Philosophy,” “Outlaw Feminists Connect with Girl Power,” and “Feminist Ethics” (Women, offerings.php).

Stetson University was the first contributor to the “Journal of the Association for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues in Counseling” (a division of the American Counseling Association) (Burnett, ID=71203). Stetson’s Law School trained its students to defend gay and lesbian rights, and was active in gay adoption debates and issues (Palmer, news.asp?id=204).

The school has steadily declined, having gone from a strong religious base, to the elimination of Baptist doctrine that allowed for the inclusion of all faiths, to the welcome of feminists, gays and lesbians. Its moral decay cannot get any worse. Stetson will continue their reputation as a prestigious private college, even though students who graduate from the institution are only prepared to help people on a secular level rather than a spiritual one. It is predicted that Stetson University will become an outspoken advocate for the gay, lesbian, transsexual and feminist community. This alliance will increase the number of the gay, lesbian, and feminist student population in the school. The presence of a small conservative Baptist student group as a moral compass will be eradicated and the remaining students will be completely left to their own devices as the presence of God departs (Jude 18, Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Jn. 2:16, Eph. 2:3, Phil. 2:21, Jer. 17:9, Rom. 1:22-32).

(SEE REFERENCES)

Copyright © 2007 M. Teresa Trascritti

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