In October Shorter President Don Dowless announced that employees will have to sign a lifestyle statement that he called an “affirmation of our Christ-centered mission.”
The lifestyle statement says that employees must find premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality “unacceptable.” Employees of the university are also forbidden to drink alcohol in public.
In January, 109 surveys were sent out by the Committee for Integrity to staff and faculty members asking for their thoughts and feelings about the lifestyle statement and the direction Dowless is taking the university.
The purpose of the survey was to “give the faculty a voice that has been denied them throughout all the changes that have taken place,” said Betty Zane Morris, a member of the committee and a former chair of the communications department at Shorter.
Sixty-one people responded, she said.
The responses to the survey indicated there are objections on campus to signing the statement and unhappiness with the direction in which the university is headed.
Many of the survey respondents indicated they plan to leave the university.
The survey is skewed, said Nelson Price, who was chairman of the Board of Trustees when the lifestyle statement was approved.
In an email response to the Rome News-Tribune, Price said, “1. It infringed on the name of the University by its heading implying it was an official survey. 2. It was anonymous. 3. The senders sent it to a group they selected and left out persons known to be in support of the direction the school is going. It was not an objective blind survey. 4. The questions were highly biased.”
Morris countered Price’s response in an email of her own.
She wrote: “1. The Committee for Integrity wanted to see integrity AT Shorter University. There was no way the committee intended to represent itself as a current part of the University, or officially affiliated in any way. It is a question of semantics certainly not an infringement on the name. 2. Yes, it was anonymous because current faculty who were on the committee feared reprisal if their identities were known. This is a good example of the fear felt by the faculty under this regime.
“3. The committee sent the questionnaire to all full-time faculty members at the Rome campus. That was the only selectivity involved since those are the people most affected by the new administration 4. Highly biased? Each of the four questions asked for information on actions, feelings and beliefs and gave choices for both positive and negative responses. What is biased about the question that asks for a choice of answers such as ‘I have CONFIDENCE in Dr. Don Dowless and believe he is taking Shorter in the right direction’ and ‘I have NO CONFIDENCE in Dr. Don Dowless and believe he not is taking Shorter in the right direction’?”
Dowless and Price said there are staff members who are happy with the university’s direction.
“There are persons not pleased with some recent actions at the school,” Price said. “These persons are loved and respected and their opinions valued. I am on the campus a lot and encounter some of these persons who aggressively confront me. For every one of them there are several times more who are content and productive.”
Dowless added that the faculty and staff have a way to voice their concerns — to the Board of Trustees, through the provost of the school and through himself.
“We are excited about our future,” Dowless said. “We are moving forward.”