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College president affirms autonomy, won’t intervene in homosexual issue

LIBERTY, Mo. (BP)–William Jewell College President David Sallee said in a Dec. 17 press release that governance of the college will not be compromised by pressure from any external organizations, institutions or individuals.

Sallee affirmed the college’s autonomous system of governance following a meeting of the board of trustees’ executive committee and in response to public pronouncements by leaders of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) that were critical of William Jewell’s administration. Since its founding in 1849, William Jewell has been governed by an independent, self-perpetuating board of trustees.

Sallee noted: “We have always had a strong covenant relationship with Baptists and I feel certain that that will continue; however, we will not cede control of William Jewell to the Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”

Missouri Baptist leaders have been flooded with messages from Baptists upset over the college’s alleged acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. Additional concerns about the college were raised over the administration approving a student production of “The Vagina Monologues,” a sexually explicit play scheduled for February on the Liberty, Mo., campus.

The Missouri convention, under its covenant agreement with William Jewell, contributes about 3 percent of the college’s annual operating budget, Sallee said.

“The College’s responsibility is to provide a superior liberal arts education in a Christian environment, as described in our mission statement,” he said.

“Decisions about how the College is managed are made by our Board of Trustees, by our faculty and administration, not by others. At this moment in the history of William Jewell College, it must be clearly and firmly stated that we will vigorously defend both the way we do our work and the systems of governance under which we operate,” he said.

“One of the defining characteristics of William Jewell College is our commitment to create a distinctively Christian environment in which a free exchange of ideas can occur that respects the intersection of faith and learning, as well as the individuals who participate in that process. We will not change the basic tenets of our educational process or the way that Jewell has governed itself for the past 154 years,” Sallee stated.

Its mission statement maintains that the college will provide students with a liberal arts education of superior quality; serve communities beyond the campus educationally, culturally and socially; and be an institution “loyal to the ideals of Christ, demonstrating a Christian philosophy for the whole of life and expressing the Missouri Baptist heritage which is the foundation of the College.”

“William Jewell College has always maintained an atmosphere of inclusiveness in which people of diverse belief systems are welcomed,” Sallee said. “This is essential to a true liberal arts education. Our Baptist heritage of soul competency and liberty of conscience calls upon us to be open to and ultimately respectful of a diversity of ideas. In doing so we exercise the freedom to examine our differences, as well as the commonality of our beliefs.”

Controversy has been building over a student-initiated amendment to the student bill of rights that would add “sexual orientation” to the section addressing discrimination. Sallee pointed out that “the Student Bill of Rights has been in existence for over 30 years and is recognized as the students’ expectations of all members of the William Jewell College community. It is a student document, created by students, for students.

“If the Student Senate and the student body approve the amendment, there would be no change in how our Student Affairs staff or the administration handles issues of discrimination, threats or abuse. We already take aggressive disciplinary action in any case where any student is threatened for any reason,” Sallee said.

“We will continue to reach out to Missouri Baptists who desire a superior liberal arts education. We have many, many supporters among Missouri Baptists, as well as people of other faiths. We are very grateful for their support and will continue to work hard to merit their trust,” he concluded.

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