Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bryan College - Scandal, Cover-up, or Neither


Finally, truths that my parents tried to teach me as a child are becoming relevant. They always ALWAYS taught me to tell the truth, even if it was bad, because the consequences would be worse if I lied. I may have gotten a time out if I admitted that I stole a cookie, but if I lied about it, I was going to get a time out and a spanking. As a child, it made more sense to try to lie and avoid consequences altogether. But as I’m learning, every single action has a consequence – good or bad.

 One day, my sweet daughter is going to break a table lamp or knock down a picture frame, and I’m going to say, “Shiloh, did you do that?” If she answers with the truth, she won’t be punished. I don’t even like our current lamps. J But I’m sure that she’s going to try to lie to protect herself. And she will face the consequences for trying to hide the truth.
Note: I'm not trying to say that anyone at Bryan lied, I'm simply saying that things do not get blown up like this if they are handled in the first place.

Recently, Bryan College student, Alex Green, discovered the truth as to why Dr. David Morgan resigned as an assistant professor of Biblical Studies and assistant director of the Bryan Institute for Critical Practice and Thought. Alex is the editor for the BC student newspaper The Triangle. He printed the facts (all sources are verifiable) and went to run the story, believing that the student body and anyone that receives The Triangle (parents, alumni) deserved to know the truth. The statement from the President’s office said that Dr. Morgan left to “pursue other opportunities.” The truth? Dr. David Morgan had been arrested and faced charges “after having attempted to meet with a minor child” at a gas station in Catoosa County in Georgia.

Dr. Livesay would not allow Alex Green to publish his story in The Triangle, but Alex still believed that the story needed to be told. He used his own money to print flyers and distribute them. On jimromenesko.com, he states,




“I placed them around campus and at the doors of dorm rooms and at public areas around the school. They were primarily in the main administration building, the library and the student center. … [A PDF] was emailed and entrusted to a select few current students and alumni in the case that fake papers began to surface.”


***If you have not yet read the article and the editor’s note, please do so now. Before I was given a copy of the article, I was worried that it would be full of scandal. I was concerned for Dr. Morgan and his family because his life and career are already being turned upside. Whether he’s guilty or not, accusations and charges like this stick with you for the rest of your life. I believe that the actual story that Alex wrote is unbiased, and the editor’s note for Alex’s motivation for printing the article is obviously his own opinion.***
Go to the following link to read the article:
http://jimromenesko.com/2012/09/25/college-editor-publishes-story-on-his-own-after-its-spiked-by-administrators/
 
Local and national news blogs and papers have been picking up on the story. I found out through a friend at Bryan, that Dr. Livesay, President of Bryan College, would be holding a meeting for anyone that wanted to come, yesterday in Rudd at 4:30. He was going to give his response to the printing of the article, and answer as many questions as we had. Or so I thought…

Dr. Livesay started the informal assembly by stating that no one was allowed to record it. “We’re all family,” he said. Problem number one: “Family” does not only include the 150 students and few faculty that showed up yesterday. As said by my good friend, “Family includes anyone who attends Bryan, any parent that sends their student to Bryan, and any alumni who still read The Triangle.” The students who attended the meeting yesterday aren’t the only ones who have read the printed article. I wish that Dr. Livesay would’ve allowed “outsiders” to hear his reasoning for not allowing the story to run. My Facebook Newsfeed is full of people that weren’t there yesterday, who are trying to excuse what Livesay did. But they don’t know why, they are just trying to assume what he was thinking.

He prayed and gave his announcement as to why he wouldn’t allow Alex to post his story in the school newspaper. A brief summary of his announcement was that he met privately with Dr. Morgan, and had a private discussion with him, and agreed to keep everything private. He said other things, but like most political speeches, it all circled around to the idea that Livesay believed this was a personal matter, and would be dealt with as such.

 When Dr. Livesay’s official statement was over, he opened the floor for questions. I wish that I had written down more of the questions and responses, but I was holding my wiggly 9 month old. These are questions that I specifically paid attention to:

Q: “Dr. Livesay, you mentioned that there are some inaccuracies in the article. Can you please list what those were.”
A: “Dr. Morgan is not the Director of the Bryan Institute. Also, the way the article says his classes were picked up is not entirely accurate.”

Problem 2: These are very small mistakes, and all of the police and FBI release info. can be checked.

Q: “You said that the charges listed in the article are not the actual charges that Dr. Morgan is facing, but are simply categories with several options under them. Are you trying to make light of his actions?”
A: (I’m not sure that I can direct quote this one, but this answer is very close to what was said.) In legal terms, there are broad categories. It is not for us to decide Dr. Morgan’s guilt or innocence. That is for the court.

Problem 3: I *completely* agree that Dr. Morgan’s guilt or innocence is to be determined by the court. Not one single student yesterday asked if Dr. Morgan privately admitted his guilt. And not one single student asked if there had been other alleged victims in the past. But the original question was not answered. So to clear things up, I DO believe that article states the charges for him. You are charged with charges, not categories.

 Q: (I asked this) “Hi, I have not read the actual statement that was released by the President’s office, but I’m going off of what the article said, so correct me if I’m wrong. It said that you said that Dr. Morgan left “to pursue other opportunities”. Can you share what those other opportunities were?”
A: “No I cannot. Those were shared in my private meeting with Dr. Morgan. Those were his words that he wanted me to pass on.”

Problem 4: Maybe this isn’t an actual problem (more of an observation), and maybe those were Dr. Morgan’s words instead of Dr. Livesay’s, but I feel that a better way to phrase it would have been “personal reasons”. I understand that perhaps Dr. Livesay was trying to spare Dr. Morgan’s family, and rightly so, but many of the students felt lied to because of this phrasing. Even Alex states that these words solidified in his mind that Dr. Morgan had left for a better job opportunity. The way the statement from the office was portrayed is almost deceitful, although, because I respect Bryan College and Livesay, I will not say that he lied. I don’t believe that was his intention. He even stated yesterday, “Have I ever lied to you? If I start lying, then it’s time for me to step down.” I’m thankful that he takes his position and his authority seriously.
Q: (I also asked this) “Bryan College encourages its students to seek justice and to stand up for what is right no matter what. Because Alex printed this article with his own money, rather than putting it in The Triangle like you told him not to do, what will the repercussions for his actions be? He was doing what he had been taught.”

A: “I cannot answer that at this time, because I do not know. It has to do with Spirit of the Law and Letter of the Law.”

Problem 5: Or maybe I should call this Observation 2. Either way, an alum a few seats down from me said, “What the f*** does that even mean?” I was wondering the exact same thing. According to Wikipedia, “When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.” I believe that Dr. Livesay was trying to say that while Alex did not actually publish the article in The Triangle (obeyed the letter of the law), he still printed it and posted it around campus (disobeyed the spirit of the law and the idea that the students would not benefit from the information).

 There were many more questions asked, but most of them were answered with something along the lines of “private, personal, or it’s not for us to decide innocence or guilt”.

Yesterday, I immaturely referred to Dr. Livesay’s responses as “bullshit”. And I said it over and over and over. Not because I felt that we were being lied to, but because I felt that we left the assembly with no real answers to our questions.

In one final statement, Dr. Livesay said, “"I will always be transparent with the students. Transparency *does not* mean revealing those personal things that are private and confidential." Very well said Livesay. While it may not be his job to relay public record or private information to students, another student wisely stated, “It is the Triangle's duty to make things public record, even when the President will not. It is not Google's job to tell me if my hometown is safe, that is primarily the job of the local news service.”

FINAL THOUGHTS:

We cannot change anything that has happened. Would it have been better if the initial statement from the President was phrased differently? Yes…maybe. We’ll never know.

 Should The Triangle have been allowed to publish the story? No…maybe. Yes…maybe. It is the school’s job to protect their employees, but also their students. I’ve heard from many alumni that they have invested so much into Bryan College that they feel they have a right to know what’s going on. And students that were close to Dr. Morgan feel they have a right know. I understand there are big liability issues that can happen if something in the article was false.

Was Alex Green wrong in printing the article? No. I don’t believe so. But that’s just me. I have an opinion about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  He didn’t put it in The Triangle. I believe the main issue was not what Dr. Morgan had done, but the students’ “right to know”.

And to those who keep saying, “This shouldn’t be compared to Penn State!!!” Duhhh! Alex specifically says, “…the minds of many people will jump without much thought to draw similarities between us and Penn State. … Bryan College is not Penn State because there are people here that will not try to save face by dusting over the arrest of Dr. David Morgan. Printing this story will not cause a Penn State situation for Bryan. I believe it will prevent one. That’s why I’m dispensing it. ‘We are Penn State’ was their approach. ‘Christ above all’ is ours.”
He’s saying that there is no comparison. They were trying to protect their reputation. I believe that Dr. Livesay was trying to protect his colleague. Did he do it the right way? Well, is there really a right way in a situation like this? A way to make everyone happy? No. Was Livesay trying to protect Bryan College’s reputation? Yes. Also, duhhh. It’s his job as President.


We need to put Christ above all, including our own opinions of what is right and what is wrong, and extend grace to those we disagree with. Just because they are on the other side of the issue believing that the article should or should not have been printed does not make them dumbasses or stupid. These are friends we are talking about. Peers.

So thank you Dr. Livesay. I would not want to be in your shoes. You made a tough decision, and while I may not completely agree with it, you did what you thought was right at the time. You kept what you believed to be personal information private.  And thank you Alex Green, for sharing public information with the public.

I don’t believe that this is some huge cover-up by Bryan College. I also don’t believe that the story published is some big scandal. It’s neither. It’s a tragedy in this fallen world. In putting Christ above all, my prayers go out Dr. Morgan and his family, to the entire Bryan community that is trying to make sense of it all, to Alex Green and to Dr. Livesay. I pray that the students and the administration will handle this with deep wisdom, showing grace to each other. I pray that the college will realize that they are speaking to adults, not children. And I pray that the students will respect their authority.
 


 

13 comments:

  1. Very well said, Rebecca. This has been a huge issue on a lot of people's minds for quite a while, but I think you got to the core of it in a lot of ways. Neither Dr. Livesay nor Alex were 100% in the right with the way they acted, but I do believe that they were trying to do what they thought was right from their perspective. I wish that we could know exactly what Dr. Livesay was thinking or going through in regards to this situation, because I am sure there are things that he is aware of regarding this situation or reasons he has that the story shouldn't be published that would help ease up all of the questions from the student body. I also think that Alex had some real guts for publishing the story and speaking out what he felt needed to be said. I think there are many things that I would change about the way it was handled if I could, but I think they were both doing their best with a very yucky situation, and I think that Alex was ultimately right in that the story needed to be shared somehow. The rumors were getting out of control and students were just getting more and more confused by the whispers. It was time for someone to say something. I just wish everyone could have been on a more unified team.

    However, there is one question that has been whirling around in my mind that I still cannot think of the answer for. How different would everything be if someone outside of the Triangle published the story? Either a third party source that Alex gave all of his research to and asked to compile it into an article for Bryan College, or if an alumni or professor had offered to write it instead. Would Dr. Livesay have responded better? Maybe not. But part of me thinks that there would be less potential drama. During all of my years at Bryan, and even since I've left, the Triangle has increasingly held a reputation of pushing the envelope, going against the grain, stirring up touchy spots, and trying to make Bryan students think about uncomfortable subjects. Now, to be fair, I do not think that these things are themselves bad, Bryan needs to be willing to deal with things that are uncomfortable, but it has made a huge impact in the way a good amount of students view the Triangle. This has given the Triangle the reputation of the "drama causer" in a lot of ways (I am not in a position to say if this is their intent or not, but it is a reputation they have received.) Things coming from the Triangle are met with heated disputes and uncomfortable mutterings. Part of me wonders what would happen if Alex, who is very much affiliated with the Triangle, gave his research and vision to someone else not affiliated with the Triangle. Would things be less dramatic then? Would the stir be less? Would the way the student's responded to the story be different? Would we be able to learn from the story better?

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  2. (Continued) I think there is so much potential growth that Bryan College could have undergone through the sharing of this story, but I think the way that both Dr. Livesay and Alex have handled it (even though they were trying to do their best) has stunted that growth. When I first heard about this story I had hoped that it would be shared and make Bryan College a more honest community. A community where people acknowledged that everyone sins and has sin problems. A community where students learned that they did not have to portray themselves as perfect all the time, but where forgiveness and redemption in Christ were evident through the forgiveness and love of the students for one another. I had hoped that the story could be the first ripple in the pond, but I am not so sure it will have that effect any more and that saddens me.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. I'm not sure if I got them all out correctly, but they have been on my mind and I thought that your post was a good one to interact with. Thanks for writing what you did. And, just to repeat, I do think that Dr. Livesay and Alex were both doing the best they knew how. Neither were completely right, but neither were completely wrong, either. I do agree that, bottom line, the story needed to be shared, but the “how” is such a murky area. The best thing to do now is to pray for both of them along with the rest of the Bryan Community as we all move out from here.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Stacia. We will never know if things would be different if they were handled differently. I also hope that the college grows together through this experience.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. Are there any additional accounts by students who were present? Will BC make an official statement? Will the alums (I'm 2005) get our own Q&A session?

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    1. As of right now, I don't know of any other full written accounts by students, although there have been many FB statuses.

      I am not a spokesman for Bryan College, so I cannot state whether or not there will be an official statement released or if your questions will be answered.

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    2. Dr. Livesay has made this statement regarding the situation: http://www.bryan.edu/response.html

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    1. Oh. I didn't even get to read your comment. :/

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  5. I just want to say that I asked that second question (:

    But I completely agree with you! I felt like he kept saying the same thing over and over again, not answering anyone's questions. I also feel like BC administrators are trying to make light of this situation.
    I do, however, have to commend Dr. Livesay for getting up in front of people to attempt to answer some of our questions. I also am HIGHLY supportive of Alex Green in his decision to publish his article. If this situation has done anything, it has made it almost impossible for Bryan College to expel Alex because of all the attention this "scandal" has received.

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    1. Dr. Livesay has already confirmed that Alex will not be expelled on C9 news, but seemed to indicate that yesterday as well. Maybe I was just reading into something he said.

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  6. I would not have expected this action of Mr. Green to be an "expellable"offense. I am sure that Dr. Livesay was disappointed and maybe a little angry but I have always known BC to look at situations like this as a teachable moments for both parties. Rebecca you made many good points, thank you for your insights AND opinions.

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  7. Thank you for writing this....as a Bryan Alum, it's good to have a snapshot of what's happened on campus. This feels like the latest incident in the administration stonewalling against students' attempts to determine what's *really* happening on campus, and this time, there have been serious consequences for the administration. The whole thing is quite sad and shocking (even for me, as someone who had a horrid experience there and have since done my best to disassociate with the school).

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