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Shorter College independence plans hit with temporary restraining order


ROME, Ga. (BP)–A temporary restraining order has been issued to prevent Shorter College officials from transferring the college’s ownership and assets to an independent foundation.

The order, issued Dec. 19 in DeKalb County, Ga., stops the plans by college leaders that were scheduled to take effect Dec. 31, according to a report in the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune.

Two suits are now in the courts, one filed by the college seeking more than $9 million in funds being held by the Georgia Baptist Convention and a countersuit filed by the convention which has been joined by several Shorter trustees.

The college, with 2,100 students, is located in Rome, Ga., and has been affiliated with the Georgia convention since 1959.

The Georgia convention, in a news release, said its Dec. 12 countersuit seeks to prevent “a scheme and conspiracy by Shorter’s president and members of its board of trustees to illegally convert, take over and steal Shorter from the GBC.”

The college and its Shorter Foundation, founded by trustees in November 2001, sued the convention Nov. 27 — five days after trustees voted to sever ties with the convention — to recover $9 million-plus in funds escrowed by the GBC since January, encompassing Cooperative Program and capital improvement funds, scholarships, endowment and interest income, the News-Tribune reported.

The Georgia convention, in its news release, stated that its countersuit “came in response to the latest of several attempts made by Shorter president Ed Schrader and certain members of the Shorter board of trustees to transfer ownership of the college and its assets — valued at more than $50 million — to a new corporation they controlled, without the consent of or representation by the documented owner: the GBC.”

The news release quoted Robert White, the convention’s executive director, as stating, “We have sought to reach a peaceful resolution to this matter without resorting to legal action. But it is now evident that Dr. Schrader and his followers on the Shorter board will not stop until they take away the school and create a crisis for the students, their parents and the faculty.”

Schrader has said changing Shorter College’s charter to make it independent of the Georgia convention was a response to a report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which stated that “undue pressure is being placed on the Board of Trustees by an outside agency, namely the Georgia Baptist Convention.”

The involvement of five trustees with the GBC countersuit, Schrader told the News-Tribune, “is a good example of why SACS has, in its criteria, that board members must have its highest allegiance to the college and not an outside organization.” Two individuals elected by the Georgia convention but deemed as “not qualified trustees” by Schrader also have joined the suit.

SACS reaccredited Shorter College for an additional 10 years in mid-December, the News-Tribune reported.

The GBC news release recounted that in 1959 — “at the college’s request” – the convention “assumed ownership of the school to help it avoid financial ruin. Since taking ownership, the GBC has invested nearly $26 million in Shorter, and the school has thrived, having recently been ranked by US News & World Report as one of the South’s top 20 comprehensive liberal arts colleges.”

White said the convention is “committed to maintaining Shorter as a fully accredited liberal arts college with a faculty that enjoys its academic freedom and a student body that is free to learn in an environment of intellectual honesty. Any representations to the contrary by Dr Schrader or others are simply untrue.”

The news release stated that the GBC countersuit “alleges, among other things, that Schrader and his group used false information and misrepresentations and, in violation of Georgia law, have attempted to coerce the present board of trustees into effectively removing the GBC from ownership of the college.”

“The college’s administration and the GBC enjoyed a harmonious relationship until recently,” the news release continued. “Beginning in 2001, a rift began between the college’s administration and the GBC — less than a year after the arrival of the school’s 17th president, Ed Schrader.” White is then quoted as stating: “Since being named president of Shorter College in 2001, Dr. Schrader has made no less than three attempts to transfer control of the school and its assets away from the GBC in violation of Georgia law. Facing this potential theft of Shorter College by Dr. Schrader and his group, and having already been sued by Shorter, we have been forced to respond with our own legal action.”
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