Monday, January 25, 2010

The Future of Wheaton?

This is a fascinating article about the current decision being made to replace Dr. Duane Litfin as the president of Wheaton, some of the controversies during his tenure, and the implications of this decision:

This spring, the board of trustees at Wheaton College will appoint a new president. As the flagship evangelical institution—the “Harvard of the Christian schools,” say the tour guides—Wheaton will be closely monitored by other colleges, by pastors and churches around the world, and by observers of Christendom generally. Indeed, in a November 2009 article, the New York Times went so far as to characterize Wheaton, Illinois as a kind of “evangelical Vatican.”

This year also marks the college’s sesquicentennial: 150 years since fiery abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard founded it on land given to him by city father Warren Wheaton. As a result, 2010 promises to be a time of looking forward and looking back.

Friends of Wheaton certainly have much to celebrate: during outgoing president Duane Litfin's 17 years in office, the college expanded the physical plant, grew the endowment, added two doctoral degrees, kept tuition costs impressively low, increased admissions selectivity, and weathered financial crises better than many institutions. Long before the attacks of 9/11, Litfin sent the lance-toting “Crusader” mascot into much-deserved retirement. Many excellent hires of younger faculty on Litfin’s watch bode well for the future. Despite the protests of some deep-pocketed older alumni, Litfin revoked the infamous rule against off-campus drinking and dancing. And in marked contrast to many American colleges with religious roots, Wheaton has not strayed from the core commitments on which it was founded.

Still, when one spends time talking with Wheaton faculty, students, and supporters, alongside real appreciation one is also likely to hear expressions of deep concern about the unusually pro-active roles that Litfin and his provost, Stanton Jones, have assumed as the definers and defenders of orthodoxy across the college. On the eve of transition to new leadership, this concern needs to be aired—not for the sake of settling scores, not in a spirit of smug judgment, but rather to provide one more important perspective as the college and its constituency look to the future. Thus, though it is far too early for a definitive account, perhaps a philosopher can rush in where historians fear to tread.

1 comment:

Andrew in America said...

I liked the article.. my mom told me it made her sad.