Protesters gather outside Southwest Baptist University

Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 9:45 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A group gathered in front of Southwest Baptist University Friday afternoon. They were protesting recent actions by the board of trustees and the removal of professors. It’s feared the university is shifting toward indoctrination instead of education.

“The university that I and my wife and our friends and colleagues, that shaped us, shaped our faith in really profound ways is being dismantled right before our very eyes,” said Brian Kaylor.

Kaylor graduated from SBU to become a minister and the editor of a Baptist magazine. He has been writing about the conflict between the Missouri Baptist Convention and SBU for the last few years. He said the convention has always played a part in deciding who is on the board of trustees for the university. Kaylor said now, that convention has rewritten the rules to exclude all input from SBU.

“I grieve that the next generation of students aren’t going to have the opporunity to learn from the type of professors we had, who are being driven off,” he said.

Kaylor said several professors have recently taken an early retirement because they don’t agree with the direction the university is going or have been denied tenure and indirectly terminated.

Kathryn Boone and her husband met in college at SBU. She said universities are meant to teach students how to examine the world around them, including their faith.

“I feel like what’s happening here is that the trustees are trying to shut that down and they’re trying to keep the professors from teaching students how to think, how to think critically,” Boone said.

The couple said they’re embarrassed by how faculty have been treated.

“They make a pretty big deal about being Christians. This doesn’t seem like it follows the example of Jesus. Jesus was a person of compassion, not condemnation,” Boone said.

Junior Jessica Paxton said students have started writing letters to the board of trustees, asking them to reverse their decisions about the professors.

“We are being adversely, negatively affected,” Paxton said. “They are such big parts of our lives and without them, our education and its quality really just falls.”

Dr. Bill Little taught chemistry at SBU for 41 years. He said he’s concerned for the university’s accreditation.

“I think you may have a for sale sign out here if you’re not careful because parents aren’t going to send their kids to school that doesn’t have a good name,” Little said.

Little said the goal of SBU, at one time, was to prepare professionals for their field, while expanding students’ minds to make them witnesses to others. He’s concerned the university is now pushing narrow-minded thinking by getting rid of programs and professors.

SBU said the Philosophy department was eliminated in June 2020. A spokesperson said that decision was made based on very low enrollment in the program.

SBU said there are no plans to eliminate the Behavioral Sciences department, but Kaylor said he believes it’s being targeted next.

“What is even the point of a liberal arts college,” Kaylor said. “Is education about indoctrination, only teaching one way to think? Or is it about helping students see all these different perspectives to broaden their horizons?”

SBU would not do an interview, but sent a statement about the protest:

“We are thankful for people who care so passionately about Southwest Baptist University, its people and its future. The Executive Committee of the SBU Board of Trustees and representatives of Faculty Senate both have expressed the desire to open lines of communication between the two groups. This increased communication will help to develop mutual understanding as we move SBU forward together.”

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