Monday, January 30, 2006

The JBU Thing

Ok, I'm still sorting through issues on the JBU thing.

If haven't heard, John Brown University, my alma mater, dismissed a student, Michael Guinn, earlier this month for violating the school's community covenant. Normally, this would be of no importance to anyone, but since the he is openly homosexual, it has garnered some media attention around here.

Though some sources are implying that he was targeted and ultimately dismissed due to his "sexuality," the reality is that everyone has to sign a contract when they join, committing to certain behavioral standards (this includes teachers and staff, BTW), and violation is grounds for dismissal.

Here are the articles I've amassed so far. For obvious reasons, the articles run short on details, and ultimately, it seems like there are just a handful of sources--the school newspaper, a writer from NW AR (4 articles), an additional article from a competing NW Ark newspaper, AP (3 articles), and a local TV station, KARK.

JBU's School Newspaper (this one will disappear in a few days, most likely, so read it first.)

Article from Benton County Daily Record. Similar information from and the Siloam Springs Herald Leader (Arkasas Democrat Gazette), all by the same writer. The last article, published Sunday, includes a statement from JBU officials made on Friday.

AP's contributions here, here, and here.

Article from the Springdale Morning News.

This online transcript of a KARK news item (note the local angle as they compare JBU first to Harding, and then to Hendrix).

Finally, here's an editorial from JBU alum Lucas Roebuck.

As my thoughts are still muddy, I refer you to Charlie Sebold's post. Charlie and I might not see eye-to-ey on everything (for instance, it may be a stretch to say that the founder's activity with the Salvation Army has anything to do with what's going on today.), but he asks some good questions, not the least of which is "What is the calling of a Christian college?" and "If they don't require Christians to attend, how can they fulfill that calling?"

I would answer in part by saying that our visit to campus last year was highlighted with a chat with five young men and women that really love the Lord, exactly the kind of thing I had come to expect from the school. I think they are fulfilling that calling, but I wonder just how this episode fits in.

The obvious question, should the school have let him in, is one I'll tackle another day (maybe). My main question at this point is, does the school have a stance on homosexuality, and if so, does it resemble this quote from campus pastor Stan McKinnon in the school newspaper: "I don't condone homosexual activity, but I don't condemn homosexual orientation."

I sent an inquiry into the university this weekend, and hope to hear back from them soon; we have a trip planned about 5 weeks from now to let a prospective student have a look around, and I'd like to know before I go.

Update: Charlie sharpens his thinking, but says his questions remain.

Also, here's the JBU Press Release from Dr. Charles Pollard.


Charles Sebold said...

Yeah, I'm not terribly proud of the analysis in my post. Maybe today's post on the subject does a better job.

Hemsch said...

This is definitally a sticky subject, but what I do know is that Satan is out there laughing his butt off.

bill mcneal said...

I would point out two things about this situation:

1) The administration knew he was gay when they let him in. His was a special case that doesn't fall under the description of "normal JBU student" who turned out to be gay, thereby violating the covenant that all students sign. His dad was a professor and his mom was a nurse at the school. The admin knew he was gay, and didn't tell him he couldn't be gay, but to operate with discretion in regards to his sexuality. He was even allowed to tell people that he was gay after getting to know them, but without broadcasting it to everyone (case in point: his facebook site). This is part of the problem with Lucas Roebuck's Herald-Leader column on the matter; he misses the point that this wasn't an ordinary student who just signed the covenant and then violated the code of behaviour without remorse over his sin. JBU admitted him, knowing his sexual orientation, setting up a different set of rules for him because of who his parents are.

2. He mentions in most of the articles that he was celibate. I know he posted pictures of himself cross-dressing, and took other students to a cross-dressing party in Ft. Smith, but he apparently was not sexually active or pursuant of other JBU male students. I think this is what Stan McKinnon is driving at, saying that a believer (or anyone) could be homosexual without living out the life of a homosexual. A gay lifestyle is a choice, but I don't think that some people have a choice in who they're attracted to. That doesn't mean that it's right to act on it. Many people disagree on this one. I think you can be a Christian male who has homosexual tendencies or is not attracted to women. I think you can be believer and struggle with that for the rest of your life just like you or I might struggle with lust for the rest of ours. I think McKinnon is drawing that distinction.

The bottom line is that I think once the word started to get out to other students, the administration at large, and alumni, JBU had no choice but to dismiss the kid. They had bent the rules to allow him admission because of his parents' status, and he had disobeyed the modified rules that they had put in place for him.

I think that the backlash from influential alumni would have been tremendous if they had permitted Guinn to stay, especially considering that he was an acknowledged homosexual that JBU decided to admit.

dean reusser said...

Hey matt, great post, and I'm completely agreed. btw, hello to Holly. Here is a post I left on another site about the whole deal:

this student signed and agreed a behavoiral contract, and then blatantly did something he was asked not to. Regardless of how big or small the infraction was, the agreed consequence was carried out. He's not kicked out of JBU, only suspended for the semester, just like any one of my buddies at JBU who were caught drinking after agreeing not to, kicked out a semester, and then returned to graduate.
Learning to do what we say we are going to do is a part of growing up, probably one of the few lessons among the many various others this young man (and any college student for that matter) will face based on choices one makes.
P.S. I think it's awesome JBU has admitted the student( I'm sure many liars, gamblers, substance abusers, and sex and porn addicts, traffic violators..etc were admitted without any contract), although I may question what was actually agreed to in that contract, for example wearing women's clothing?, I can only assume there is some history of which we know nothing

kind regards, Dean R

The Mains said...

A recent edition of the school paper included a letter signed by a number of alumni:

Seth said...

As a current JBU student, I am definitely interested in this issue. I have just posted a massive round-up of links and comments concerning the Michael Guinn controversy. You can check it out here.

Seth said...

The Michael Guinn story finally scaled the media mountain: it made it to a USAToday cover story. My related post is here.

Gummby said...

Thanks Seth. I couldn't get your link to work, so here's another link to it.

Diamond Dior said...

First off my being admitted had nothing to do with my parents. Second of all, for someone who acts as thought you have so many of the facts all I see is a lot of hearsay.... First and foremost of which I might say is I'm not a cross dresser, I'm a drag entertainer. Secondly, I've never been to a "cross dressing party" much less did I take any other students to one. And lastly they knew I was gay and that wasn't the issue that caused any of this it was that I posted pictures from a drag show before the semester started and those pictures were shown to the Dean who then brought me in for the signing of my second lifestyle contact.

None of it matters now except that it is offensive to call drag entertainers or trans persons "cross dressers". Just to avoid any future issues for you.