Recent events at a well-known Christian school got me thinking about proper naming and free speech issues in the kingdom of God.
What Christians Call Their Institutions Matters
Cedarville University has been going through big changes over the past couple of years.
First, faculty and staff started leaving over what they consider interference by school administration that obstructs the employees’ ability to serve God fully in an academic ministry.
More recently the administration has has taken action against the students. Both Rachel Stone and Warren Throckmorton (a Cedarville alumnus) report that administrators are cracking down on a student-run newspaper that printed articles critical of school policies and practices.
Stone and Throckmorton give details of the school president and vice president personally confiscating copies of the newspaper as the paper’s staffers were ready to pass them out to fellow students. The president’s justification is that the newspaper distribution was “unauthorized” and violated a school policy he interprets as prohibiting students from criticizing the school in print.
My point in writing is not to reiterate Stone’s and Throckmorton’s reports. Rather I want to point out one thing this type of administrative action proves:
Cedarville does not live up to its claim of being a university.
They should just drop the word from their name.
They Could Do So Much Better
Technically, universities are almost exclusively higher education institutions that confer doctoral degrees. In a more general sense, universities are also generally understood to be places where higher education occurs in a marketplace of ideas marked by academic freedom and robust student participation.
Cedarville’s recent actions hinder that marketplace freedom and robust experience.
Here are some tips for Cedarviulle if it desires to be a real university.
- If the student journalistss need guidance, offer it to them.
- If their articles are critical, listen to them.
- If there is a difference of opinion on how the school should operate, live together as fellow believers striving to follow Paul’s wisdom in Philippians 3:15:
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
Paul offered this irenic advice on differences of opinion relating to core doctrine, so why can’t a school administration follow suit on matters of mere school policy?
Perhaps Cedarville could call itself a Bible college or Christian training center or something similar but its actions these last couple years, especially the latest about the newspaper, show that Cedarville is not what most people think of as a university.
They really ought to stop calling themselves one.