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Ga. convention, Shorter College remain at odds over new trustees

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)–The Georgia Baptist Convention averted a floor fight over Shorter College during its Nov. 11-12 annual meeting by referring resolution of the current dispute into the hands of the convention’s executive committee.

At issue is the process by which Shorter College trustees will be selected. The convention wishes to maintain the process which has given its committee on nominations the sole prerogative to nominate all trustees who are then elected by the convention. The college wants to be included in that process to the extent that all new trustees would be nominated from a list of multiple suggestions approved by trustees before being submitted to the committee on nominations. Shorter College has changed its bylaws accordingly, but the convention states that those new bylaws are in conflict with the school’s charter.

While the various Georgia Baptist institutions and entities are able to suggest names for their boards of trustees, the committee on nominations is free to consider or even decline those suggestions. The one exception to that rule is in relation to Mercer University, which according to its charter has the right to recommend its own trustees. The GBC’s nominating committee is free to reject suggestions from Mercer, but they must go back and seek additional suggestions from the university rather than choosing anyone they wish. Basically, Shorter trustees want a system similar to what Mercer now has.

The Shorter board of trustees is not unanimous in its insistence that the nomination process be changed. Perhaps as many as one-fourth of the current trustees are generally siding with the convention in the dispute.

When the GBC committee on nominations made its report during the Nov. 11-12 convention in Marietta, it nominated eight new trustees, who were subsequently elected by the convention. It was stated that all those names came from current board members, but they were solicited from individual trustees rather than the full board. After the election, it was stated by college officials that they had no problem with the individuals elected but they were opposed to the process and that it was in violation of their new bylaws.

A called meeting of Shorter trustees’ executive committee was held on Nov. 13, the day after the convention meeting ended. They issued no statement following that meeting except to say that the full board of trustees would meet at a date yet to be announced to consider their options in responding to convention actions.

Meanwhile, convention officials are waiting to see how Shorter trustees respond to the election of new trustees before deciding what further actions they will take. The convention’s executive committee has scheduled a meeting Dec. 10 at the Baptist Center in Atlanta.

The resolution as passed by the Georgia Baptist Convention on Nov. 12 states:

“With the ongoing disagreement between Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Convention regarding the process for election of trustees for Shorter College and the difficulties created by Shorter’s unilateral action in amending its bylaws in an attempt to change this long-standing process, and with the understanding that the Convention has worked with Shorter College in a fair and impartial manner to elect well-qualified and committed Georgia Baptists to serve as trustees of Shorter College, the Administration Committee recommends to the Executive Committee that it encourage Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Convention and its Committee on Nominations to continue to work together as has been done over the past 44 years. Further, that the Executive Committee encourages each to comply with both Shorter’s Charter and the Convention’s Constitution in the process of electing and seating trustees. All Georgia Baptists are called upon to pray God’s blessings upon Shorter and that God would bring about a resolution of the issues.”

In approving the 2003 Cooperative Program budget, messengers agreed to stipulations that those monies designated for Shorter College would be held in escrow through the Georgia Baptist Foundation until the conflict is resolved.

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  • William Neal