Why I don’t want my daughter going to Rollins College…

25 Feb

Some of my closest friends, my boss, and my wife all graduated from Rollins. It’s a beautiful campus in a great city and by all accounts the students receive a first rate education. I don’t want my daughter going there, and you should be wary as well, because Rollins cares more about a token appeal to diversity and tolerance than the freedoms and interests of its students. Instead of fostering an environment of learning it has recently become a place of fear and uncertainty for students in the religious minority.

A token diversity and tolerance

In our diverse and pluralistic society we are guaranteed to run into folks with divergent views. For many, college will be the apex of this experience as we tend to filter ourselves in to more homogenous groups as we grow older. Last week Rollins’ board of trustees decided to deny an appeal from some students on campus that would allow their organization (a religious one) to select leaders using religious criteria. The board feels that you can hold your own religious beliefs – as long as they don’t conflict with the college or the opinion of the majority. Instead of protecting these students whose beliefs are in the minority on campus, the college said “There is no place for you here. Conform or be gone.” Students have reported being called out in social settings and in classes and it’s only going to get worse. Perhaps you’re thinking “finally the pendulum has swung and the Christians are getting a dose of their own medicine!” That may be, but the will of the crowd is fickle and there is no telling when it will turn against a given opinion or belief. Instead of fostering dialogue and working towards a respectful disagreement (because some deeply held beliefs truly can’t be reconciled) the school disbanded an organization with a 30 year history on campus overnight.

True tolerance means inviting folks to the table and respecting them despite differences in opinion and belief. Diversity means not kicking out anyone with whom you disagree but instead looking for points of commonality and welcoming different viewpoints.

Student freedom and interest

It’s a private, secular school. Students do not have the right to be recognized as an organization, but the seeds have been sown for even informal gatherings to be off limits. Students who were meeting in the lobby of a residence hall of their own accord to read and discuss the Bible were asked to disperse and the student who was leading the discussion was told to leave. Since when should tuition-paying students be told they can’t sit down with their friends and read whatever they please, religious text or otherwise?

Rollins College: Where students of all backgrounds and beliefs are welcomed - as long as they align with those in power!

Rollins College: Where students of all backgrounds and beliefs are welcomed – as long as they align with those in power!

The Bottom line

I’m an evangelical Christian – but I’ll feel this way about my daughter attending Rollins whether or not she rejects or accepts my beliefs. This should matter to everyone – regardless of affiliation – because Rollins has proven that they do not care about the rights, freedoms, or the best interests of the students. They will decide what they decide and no one is protected. If your view or belief could possibly be the minority it means that you’re not safe at a place like Rollins. They practice tolerance by promoting intolerance and celebrate diversity by institutionally excluding minority views.

Rollins College as an institution cares about only Rollins College: how it appears, how it will be received, how it can distinguish itself. I hope that the school gets a black eye over this and the administration comes to its senses because there are plenty of things to love. Until that time however, my encouragement to those who value religious and intellectual freedom and who understand what it truly means to be tolerant and to value diversity is this:

Parents, don’t send your tuition dollars there. Professors, don’t take your talents there. Alumni, don’t send your donations there. Students, don’t send your applications there. I hope my daughter doesn’t.

I don’t often appeal to my readers to promote my work – hoping that if it connects in a meaningful way that it will be shared – however I ask that if you are sympathetic to the cause of religious freedom and freedom of expression and believe that the faux tolerance of academia has gone too far, please share this. Twitter and Facebook buttons are located on the bottom of the post.

**UPDATE** While the above sentiments most accurately reflect how I feel right now, they don’t accurately reflect what I hope and believe. The inestimably wise (and more diplomatic) Greg Jao has suggested a few wording changes that I agree with (even through gritted teeth):

1) I don’t wish a black eye on the college, I just hope they change their stance. Principled pluralism looks very different than the policies currently in place at Rollins which reflect a simple and unyielding commitment to ideology.

2) While I do hope that donors stop giving money to the school, it is still a mission field. In that regard, students and faculty who are led there by God to be salt and light on the campus should not abandon ship because it will now be harder.

I’m leaving the original rather than editing the new wording into it because situations like this are complicated. Also, due to a high volume of traffic and feedback (here and on facebook) I’ve written a follow up post here.

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12 Responses to “Why I don’t want my daughter going to Rollins College…”

  1. Amy Hauptman February 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I think it’s interesting that we in America assume that we should have a ‘right’ to religious liberty or tolerance, when this wasn’t the reality for Jesus or his disciples or the early church. Its not a promise that Jesus gives us. In our American culture, its hard to remember that suffering is actually a major part of what it means to be a follower of Christ, and to not give into the temptation of losing our souls in the process. While I recognize your frustration and want to empathize, I also am afraid this kind of blog post will certainly burn bridges that intervarsity staff and students are trying to forge at Rollins. Just from the title alone, if I were a Rollins faculty/staff reading this. . .I would be hurt/offended.

    • stevewimmer February 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      If we were in the people’s republic of China I would not be complaining about religious freedom. I know it is not a right and that Christians should expect some degree of disapproval and even persecution no matter their circumstance. My beef is with an administration shouting “Tolerance!” while shoving any dissenters out the back door. I don’t feel that I’m burning any bridges, I feel they’ve been burnt down by the board of trustees and I’m simply lobbing water balloons of truth at the smoldering ashes. Lastly – people should be offended. This situation is offensive. I hope any Rollins faculty/staff reading this will reconsider what it means to promote a culture of learning and apply pressure to the administration.

  2. Jaison J. Raju February 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Thanks for speaking out!

    • stevewimmer February 25, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      Thanks for the encouragement jaison!

  3. santosh February 26, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    Thank you for sharing what is happening.

    • stevewimmer February 26, 2013 at 7:21 am #

      You’re welcome Santosh, thanks for taking the time to read.

  4. Myron February 26, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Thanks for your courage and your prophetic words, Steve!

    • stevewimmer February 26, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement Myron – I hope that things turn around.

  5. rapsheetblog February 28, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    I think both the poster and the commenters are perhaps underestimating the right of the student organization to be recognized by Rollins. I encourage all interested parties to visit the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, particularly the section on religious freedom on campus (http://thefire.org/article/5061.html). The Guide is very instructive. If Rollins were a public university, there would be no question that the group should retain its status and should have the right to set criteria for its membership. But even as a private school, depending on the common law in Florida and the contractual promises Rollins makes to its students, it might very well be the case that religious groups have a legal right to equal access to funds, meeting space, and recognition.

    Furthermore, the argument can certainly be made that, if Rollins is worth its reputation as a premier liberal arts college, that it should not stand for any policy less than the active encouragement of students to think about and speak about the big issues in life. Likely on legal grounds, but certainly on ethical grounds, Rollins should be permitting and encouraging this student group (on an equal footing with non-Christian religious groups, atheist groups, and groups with a purely secular mission). This latter argument is made very well in this blog post.

  6. rapsheetblog March 1, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    Here’s Rollins policy: http://www.rollins.edu/csr/policies/code.html. Find the small link to Open publication. I’m no lawyer, but there are some statements in there that make me think Rollins is committed to non-discrimination on the basis of religion. The section on Student Organizations requires them to be reviewed every year, but courts find language like that capricious and less binding than language like “we don’t discrimination against religious organizations.”

    • stevewimmer March 1, 2013 at 7:12 am #

      Thanks so much for the links and doing that research. Ethically, I agree that it is unprincipled pluralism to discriminate against one group and not another. (The college’s rebuttal would be that WE are discriminating first – thus forgoing the privilege of protection under the policy). Additionally, the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Legal_Society_v._Martinez) decided that colleges DO have the right to bar from recognition any student groups which do not conform to college non-discrimination policy. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

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