Dr. Gary Nelson responded to our requests and decided to meet with us today. I am glad, not only did it help me better grasp the situation as a whole, but I hope it will also allow me to better explain to everyone else that is on this site what happened or is happening. Dr. Gary Nelson and Dr. Barry Smith were gracious to have met with us, and for that we are thankful. I was really hoping a Larry would be in attendance just so it all rhymed.
My biggest disappointment through all this has been Tyndale’s lack of communication to the public. I recognize that they have spend a lot of time with their current students/faculty trying to work through these issues. However a decision like they made and the accusations and assumptions that were floating around on the Internet, especially international media, in my opinion made it mandatory that Tyndale have public statements to clarify, put falsities in their place and stand firm on decisions that they have made.
I’ll take it as my duty to post now what I was told from them as to shed some light on the conversation for everyone.
So here is some definitive statements that Dr. Nelson made just to clear the air and since I’m not sure if they will ever make these statements themselves.
- Tyndale never made a penny from the event directly with Bush, in fact they probably lost some.
- It was not just wealthy people that were invited to the event.
- It was a combination of things that caused the cancellation of the event, it was not them “caving in” to a petition or protest.
- He admits they were caught off guard and didn’t know how to communicate well in a social media/viral world.
- Arthur Boers was not censored. He was not asked to remove the paragraph from his article. He was asked to clarify it or leave a disclaimer that gave more information about what actually happened but Boers decided just to remove it instead.
- Dr. Nelson did not call Boers a liar or a slanderer, in fact he was clear in his meeting that Boers was not a slanderer. He was not angry either. He did say though that because of Boers article it is causing slander to happen.
- In no way was he intentionally manipulating students. It was all very bad timing and chose to be silent after rather than engage the criticisms or make more statements.
- In hindsight, having the event as a public forum with a controversial figure such as Bush would have been a wiser move rather than a private invite-only event that was seemingly secretive (but not intentionally).
I have no reason not to believe him on any of this. I have no clue why in the world they wouldn’t make these statements publicly, but here they are for everyone to read. I think the way this unfolded is unfortunate but I think it was inevitable considering what was at stake and the poor system that was in place to deal with this kind of controversy. Though if it wasn’t for this site and being a way to discourse, there may have been bigger protests that happened.
I think what I have realized through this process is that Tyndale is on a steady path towards becoming a full fledged university. Not just a small time Bible College, but they want to grow into something a lot bigger. This means that they care an awfully lot about reputation, donors, cash flow and appeasing as many people as possible. Whether we like it or not, or we think this is the Christian path or not, this is the direction that Tyndale wants to go. Unfortunately for them, they still have the Christian label attached to what they are doing and with that label comes all sorts of convictions of exactly what that means. For some it means that there is no possible way that George W Bush should be even remotely associated with what the school is doing. For others it means that he is the perfect candidate to speak to us about higher Christian Education. If the system is not in place to deal with that kind of controversy than my assumption is that there is no place for Tyndale in that realm of business. The fact that I can start a website while sitting in my underwear and “expose” anything at all tells me there is something wrong with the level of transparency and communication that Tyndale has with its people. Or at the very least there is no system setup to allow for opposition, or dialogue that people feel safe to express themselves.
A lot of accusations were thrown around on this site. A lot of them true and a lot of them not true. Tyndale’s inability to deal with the issue only made it worse. The commenter’s onslaught of insults and immaturity didn’t help much either. We posted everything that was said, or was sent to us and Tyndale could have set the record straight numerous times but it seemed like they were too paralyzed to say anything. In the end, besides Bush speaking, I think this was the real failure. The fact that I have to write this post clearing the air of all eight of my points, proves that.
The second thing that bothers me about this still is that everything became personal very quick. Whether that was because Dan Oudshoorn’s article about manipulation or the fact that Dr. Nelson cried when dealing with this issue I don’t know where it started. All I know is that this was never personal for me and I know it wasn’t for Dan either, as his article on what love is on this site suggests. I come across as strong towards institutions and systems because I think that’s the only way to expose them. Dr. Nelson in this case was nothing more than a representation of a system that we discerned as being dishonest and possibly oppressive. In being the kind of school that Tyndale wants to be, their president has to grow thicker skin and be able to lead his institution through rough waters without taking offense when someone opposes him. This I don’t think was ever fully understood by the students defending him and and he reassured us he was a good person and wanted the same things that we wanted. This was never about him as a person. The fact that we met with him and tried to meet him from the beginning should tell you that. We do want the same things. Accusations, whether true or false, bring out a lot in a person. If the accusations were false then so be it. Impressions are everything with a spokesperson and the impression that some got was negative. This is the life in the public eye and is a choice of the person there. He did take responsibility for this. I also take responsibility for running a site that hurtful things were said on, and accusations were made on both sides of the debate. We both think what we did was necessary and so we will both leave it at that.
All that said, I don’t think this “fiasco” needs to end with failure. I think there was a lot of lessons to be learned for everyone. For starters, we all know that media distorts and pulls out stories where there are none. They don’t care about context, they just care about getting people excited and then they leave. The hits that this site generated proved that. If I was to do this again, I probably wouldn’t have spoken to any media at all. They didn’t represent any of the moderation, grace or love that I had thought I expressed and only focused on the controversy. Dr. Nelson had a similar experience. There was other lessons we learned. Like how quick people blame the messenger. Or that the messenger could have opinions that are just wrong and offend people by their accusations. Or how fast people degrade to insults and refuse to engage the arguments. Or how quickly people take something personal and internalize it. Or how little people actually want free speech if it goes against their own convictions. All of these realities from this past ten days shows us that we all have a lot to do to grow in character and as a body of believers, inside and outside of the school. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to do my part in this and I’m even more grateful at the grace that was shown to me by Dr. Nelson and Tyndale while I moved forward in what I thought was the right thing to do.