Watchful Dragons: An interview with Dr. Deborah Higgens
Adventist University Students Stay Neutral in New Guinea Political Crisis
Why the Sale of the PUC Land Is a Bad Idea
Don’t Pray to be Safe, Pray to be Brave
Photos by S M Chen, posted 5-25-16 by D Kovacs
…except ye become like little children…Matt. 18:3
By Malaika Childers, posted 5-25-16 by D Kovacs
Photo caption: Evan Young makes last minute preparations with coach, Stephanie Mowrey, for Team MGAES Mustangs. All photos used by permission of Meadow Glade Adventist Elementary School.
On April 10, 2016, 16 teams from around the Northwest and Saipan met at Walla Walla Valley Academy for the 10th annual First Lego® League Robotics Regional Tournament. This year’s theme was, “Trash Trek.” At the tournament, teams demonstrated proficiency in robot design, innovation in creating a new product that reduced trash, cooperation and teamwork in the core values, and efficiency in robot engineering and programming when they “ran the board” (set their robot to perform pre-programmed tasks to earn points).
Two teams from Meadow Glade Adventist Elementary (MGAES), comprised of eight fifth-seventh grade students each, competed in the tournament. Peter and Heidi Schmalenberger coached Team MGAES Robotics (in blue). Their team included: Dylan Farrell, 6th grade; Braden Haberthur, 6th grade; Lucas Havens, 5th grade; Ayden Martin, 6th grade; Ryan Mowrey, 7th grade; Aidan Scalf, 7th grade; Preston Schafer, 7th grade; and Noah Schmalenberger, 6th grade.
Michael and Stephanie Mowrey coached Team MGAES Mustangs (in red). Their team included: Tommy Aitchison, 6th grade; Marideth Childers, 6th grade; Jordan Clark, 6th grade; Maisyn Douglas, 6th grade; Joshua Mowrey, 6th grade; Nicholas Palmer; Dawson Schaffer, 7th grade; and Evan Young, 5th grade.
Malaika Childers, 5th and 6th grade teacher at MGAES, served as faculty sponsor for both teams, who worked together on the campus of Columbia Adventist Academy during the week and on weekends for months preparing for the event.
“When students have the opportunity to get involved in a program like this at the grade-school level, we (CAA) are excited to provide the space to nurture that interest. I’m very proud of what these students have accomplished and look forward to what the future holds for them,” says CAA principal, Jeff Jackson.
“I can’t begin to tell you the positive impact Lego® Robotics has had on our son, Nicholas. It has improved his self-esteem and he has learned presentation and teamwork skills that will help him throughout his whole life!” says Marcé Palmer.
Nicole Scalf agrees her son has benefitted in similar ways saying, “Aidan is so motivated since the robotics competition. He wants to take the next level of math during the summer to get ahead in math and pursue engineering.”
With the intent of more focused instruction in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education, last year MGAES added the Lego® Robotics Club to the list of after school activities. This year, the elective Lego® Robotics class became an option for upper grade students as well.
Prior to the tournament, both MGAES teams met at Sweet Basil Pizzeria in Walla Walla, Washington for a special dinner with their families. Following dinner, many families went to an evening vespers service and tours of the Walla Walla University engineering department. Getting caught up in all the engineering excitement, Noah Schmalenberger, said, “I thought it was awesome because it was cool to see the room at the university where they design and program robots. Braden and I spent extra time there because we were having so much fun! We didn’t leave until 10pm!”
At the tournament, teams participated in four events: Core Values, Robot Design, Project Presentation, and Board Performance. In Core Values, teams were asked to explain what “Gracious Professionalism” means and then demonstrate teamwork when asked to complete a task together.
“Gracious Professionalism is competing not to destroy but to better ourselves. Like when our basketball team rescheduled a game because the other team couldn’t make it due to weather and would have had to forfeit,” said Maisyn Douglas. During the task, both teams had no trouble working together to demonstrate that they put the Core Values into action.
In Robot Design, teams had the opportunity to show off their robots to the judges and explain what made their robot unique. They also had the opportunity to explain why they chose to build their robot the way they did and to run the programs they were most proud of. Team MGAES Robotics designed a very unique gearbox for their robot. During Robot Design, they were able to discuss the specifics of the gear box with the judges and explain their reasoning for using it. “We designed a gearbox that uses two motors that can output to five different attachments to allow versatility and efficiency in robot design,” said Ryan Mowrey.
The Project Presentation event gave teams a chance to present an innovative idea to the judges. Prior to the tournament, teams developed a new invention that would reduce trash and prepared a presentation for the judges to explain their invention and why it would reduce trash. “We developed the Horseshoe Trashcan Cleaner (or HTC for short). It is a lid that snaps on to a trashcan with a brush that moves to scrap dirt and gum off the inside. There is also a hose that attaches to a sink and sprays water into the trash can while it cleans. We hope it would be used in hotels, schools, and hospitals to replace the use of the plastic trash bags,” said Marideth Childers of Team MGAES Mustangs.
When teams entered the Board Performance portion of the tournament, they were met in the Walla Walla Valley Academy gym by an audience of family and friends from all over the tri-state area and Saipan. Here they were able to “run the board,” the highlight for most of them. During Board Performance, the robots were placed on an FLL mat with Lego® recycling centers, trash, trucks, and even animals that the robots had to maneuver into position or trigger. By programming their robots to perform particular tasks, teams earned points. During one run, a few spontaneous shrieks of joy emitted from Team MGAES Mustangs as their robot performed above expectation. At the end of the run, they looked at the scoreboard and realized they had beat their team best of 580 points by scoring 591 points.
Despite nerves, both teams enjoyed the opportunity to meet fellow robotic enthusiasts and show friends and family what they had been working for so long to accomplish. At the end of the tournament, friends and family gathered with the robotics teams in the WWVA auditorium for closing ceremonies. At the closing ceremony, Team MGAES Robotics learned that their team had earned 2nd in Project Presentation, 2nd in Robot Design, 1st in Core Values, and 3rd in Board Performance. Team Mustang Robotics found that they had earned 1st in Project Presentation, 1st in Robot Design, 3rd in Core Values, and 1st in Board Performance. Team MGAES Mustangs was also invited to attend the National Tournament in Sacramento, California on May 1 as the Northwest Regional FLL Robotics Champions.
Both teams returned home with more than just really cool robots, projects, and plaques that will be displayed in the halls of MGAES. They also came home with great memories. Ric Peinado, MGAES Principal said, “I am amazed by the commitment and dedication of both teams. I am particularly astounded with the MGAES Mustangs’ success at their first regional competition and invitation to the national championship in Sacramento, California. This opportunity to participate in robotics gives our children an engaging way to learn more about STEM education. I am so thankful for our parent volunteers (Peter and Heidi Schmalenberger and Michael and Stephanie Mowrey) and I also want to thank Mrs. Childers for her involvement with this after school activity. It was a great opportunity for our students to gain skills and improve their talents in STEM education, research projects, and presentations. It also gave our students the opportunity to show our community that science and fun can go together.”
After the regionals were over, Team MGAES Mustangs had two weeks to prepare for the First Lego® League National Competition. A total of 17 teams from across the nation who had placed in their regional tournaments met up with Team MGAES Mustangs in Sacramento, California on May 1 for the First Lego® League National Tournament. The opportunity to fly down to Sacramento and meet students from other schools who were as excited about STEM education as they are was thrilling for the entire team. They were able to participate in an event that showcased the robot design and performance they had worked on all year.
Braden Haberthur and Aidan Scalf at the board run.
Team MGAES Mustangs (in red) just before the tournament began.
Back row: Coach Michael Mowrey, Evan Young, Dawson Schafer, Tommy Aitchison, Joshua Mowrey, Coach Stephanie Mowrey
Front row: Jordan Clark, Marideth Childers, Maisyn Douglas, Nicholas Palmer
Team MGAES Robotics (in blue) during a moment of silliness prior to the tournament.
Back row: Peter Schmalenberger, Preston Schafer, Noah Schmalenberger, Braden Haberthur, Aidan Scalf, Heidi Schmalenberger
Front row: Ryan Mowrey, Ayden Martin, Lucas Havens, Dylan Farrell
During the Core Values event, Team MGAES Robotics demonstrates teamwork by building a tower with paper.
Team MGAES Mustangs (in red) pose together in Sacramento, California before the national tournament begins.
Coaches Stephanie and Michael Mowrey, Nicholas Palmer, Maisyn Douglas, Jordan Clark, Marideth Childers, Evan Young, Joshua Mowrey, Tommy Aitchison, Dawson Schafer, Sponsor Malaika Childers
By S M Chen, posted 5-25-16 by D Kovacs
“Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Long ago, in grade school, I encountered the concept of contrast of good and not-so-good things that can happen, as described in the following chain of events:
A man went for a ride in a biplane in the country.
Fortunately, the plane had seat belts.
Unfortunately, he did not buckle his.
The pilot performed some aerobatic maneuvers.
Fortunately, no one threw up.
Unfortunately, the passenger fell out.
Fortunately, he was wearing a parachute.
Unfortunately, he lacked the presence of mind to deploy it.
Fortunately, there was a haystack in the field below him.
Unfortunately, there was a pitchfork in the middle of the haystack, tines pointing up.
Fortunately, as the man fell, he missed the pitchfork.
Unfortunately, he also missed the haystack.
Life in other ways often conforms to this interplay of point and counterpoint (perhaps one reason some of J. S. Bach’s compositions are deemed so wondrous).
For instance, a mundane example:
I discovered, a couple weeks after delivery, that the lower connection of the long vertical freezer door handle of my new side-by-side refrigerator was loose; I could wriggle it laterally both directions several millimeters. While it was a minor annoyance now, I knew that, with time, it would likely loosen further. Ben Franklin’s adage, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ came to mind. However, I did not think this situation necessarily warranted a service call.
Fortunately, I had been given a user manual.
Unfortunately, nowhere did it address the issue of a loose door handle or how to install/remove the door handle on my specific model. After careful visual and tactile inspection, I could not find a way to tighten or remove the handle.
Fortunately, the unit was under warranty.
Unfortunately, as I learned during a phone discussion with a manufacturer’s representative, the warranty does not include door handles. She was sympathetic but possessed no information beyond what was contained in the user manual. She did offer to send me a new handle, with installation instructions. With gratitude, I assented.
Fortunately, a short time later, upon searching the Internet, I discovered how to remove the handle. I’d tried this maneuver initially, but lacked the confidence to exert requisite removal force out of concern for inducing damage; after watching the short YouTube video, I proceeded with alacrity.
After what turned out to be minor repair, I called back, but the manufacturer’s office was closed; I left a voice message and sent an e-mail.
Unfortunately, the next day I was told the replacement handle had already been shipped.
Fortunately, I thought to call the parts dept., whose contact number was included in the e-mail reply from a different individual. I was able to cancel shipment.
As William Shakespeare wrote, “All’s well that ends well.”
While grace (Eph. 2:8) looms large in the believer’s ethos, I think it also manifests itself in many small ways we often take for granted. Despite life’s aggravations, things could almost always be worse.
“For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth” – Heb. 12:6. If we take the position that all are loved, then it follows that none would be spared chastening, in one form or another, from time to time. While Paul was likely addressing a different, deeper issue of spirituality, I think it not too much of a stretch to apply the text to contemporary life, including its vicissitudes.
It occurs to me that more weighty matters of ultimate concern lend themselves to similar portrayal.
Fortunately, God is all good things. He created not only the universe but also angels.
Unfortunately (at least in the minds of some), in so doing, He created Lucifer.
Fortunately, Lucifer was magnificent.
Unfortunately, Lucifer knew that. A little knowledge truly is a dangerous thing. Mythical Narcissus had nothing over Lucifer. Iniquity, ever a mystery, lodged and grew. Within him the seeds of self-destruction found fertile soil.
Fortunately, heavenly forces for good spoke to him, urging him to reconsider rebellion.
Unfortunately, he did not listen. Rather, like Pharaoh and countless others, he hardened his heart.
Man was created, like all sentient beings, with free will.
Fortunately, God warned our first parents about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Unfortunately, they failed to heed the warning and were cast out of Eden.
Fortunately, a plan had been formulated for the redemption of man.
Unfortunately, Satan, né Lucifer, knew of the plan, and determined to thwart it.
Fortunately, when the fullness of time had come, as had been predicted and promised in Holy Writ, Christ was incarnated on Earth.
Unfortunately, in his attempt to eradicate the Messiah, Herod killed all male infants below age two in the environs of Bethlehem.
Fortunately, Joseph and Mary had fled to Egypt, and Jesus, as a baby, was spared.
Unfortunately, as an adult, He was, without justification and with cruelty, crucified.
Fortunately, mission accomplished, He overcame death and gravity and rose again.
Unfortunately, few will choose to accept His gift and follow the path of Life.
Fortunately, some will.
Unfortunately, the Second Advent has not occurred.
Fortunately, it will. Everyone now living will either die or witness that momentous event.
Unfortunately, for us, time is short and grows shorter with each passing day. As has been observed, for the young, days are often short and years long. For the old, the opposite holds true.
Fortunately, for the Almighty, time has no meaning.
So it seems that what really matters is the terminus of things.
In ‘The Hollow Men’ (1925), poet T. S. Eliot wrote:
“This is the way the world ends
This it the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
But that need not be the case.
As William Henley wrote in the 1888 poem “Invictus,” we are the ‘masters of our fate.’
That sober realization induces not a little humility and a profound sense of gratitude.
Sam Chen–Just a fellow pilgrim on this pale blue dot in the vast universe, an infinitesimal speck miraculously held in high regard by the Infinite, whose love, mercy and power will ever transcend understanding. Seeking a closer walk and transformative sensory connection – the crack which allows ingress of light; the whispering of the still small voice; the sweet fragrance (floral?) of the divine; the quickening touch of the Spirit.
Attempting to discern the uncommon in the common, the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ineffable in the effable. And grateful for the serendipity of grace encountered at an unexpected time and place.’
Art and story by Debbonnaire Kovacs, 5-25-16
Based on Luke 7:1-10
I can only remember the beginning. I remember starting to feel sick, and drinking extra water, and trying to hold it off. I remember the headache that made me finally realize there was going to be no holding it off. I was really sick.
But I’m a slave. I can’t just say, “Sorry, can’t work today!” So I tried to keep going.
It was the master himself who made me go to bed. I was helping him get into uniform, and when I lifted the breastplate it suddenly seemed to weigh far more than usual. I remember wavering, and turning my head to try to figure out where the rushing water was. I distinctly heard a loud sound of rushing water…
I’m told I fainted. Embarrassing! Like a nervous maid!
I woke up in a bed that wasn’t my own. For a minute I was disoriented. Then I realized I was on a couch in the master’s room, and tried to get up. There were other slaves there, and they tried to hold me down. I couldn’t fight them off. Then the master came in, and sternly ordered me to desist.
“But master, this is your room!” I protested, and the words felt like glass in my hot throat.
He bent over me and put his hand on my forehead. I could feel the calluses and the strength. I could feel the coolness. I stared up at him, though his face wavered before my eyes, as if I were looking underwater at him. “Do you think I can afford to lose you?” he asked. “Stay there and rest.”
I knew an order when I heard one. And I am a slave. I stopped fighting.
But I couldn’t understand anything. I knew he cared about me. Sometimes he almost treats me like a son, rather than a possession. I care about him, too. He’s the best master I’ve ever had. But for him to put me in his own room, and touch my fevered forehead with his own hand! It was amazing…
The memories turn weird at that point. Sometimes I think I was aware of voices, and hands, cool cloths on my face and noxious liquids poured down my throat. I remember disjointed, dreadful nightmares. Then…there is a blank. A blackness. Nothing.
Then I woke. It was the strangest feeling. My head no longer banged like a war drum. My throat felt normal. I lifted a hand, expecting it to be weak and pale, but it felt like any normal morning. I sat up and looked around. The house slave sitting nearby gasped, and several more came into the room.
“What are you doing? Lie down!”
“I feel fine,” I said, and my voice was normal. My strength was my own. I stood. Everyone was staring at me as if I were a ghost. “What?” I asked. What was the matter with everyone?
No one seemed to be able to form a sentence.
“I’m hungry,” I said. “Is there any food?”
They just gaped.
I pulled on a robe and walked out of the room. The others fell back before me as if I were Caesar himself. I heard a clatter outside the courtyard and recognized the sound of my master’s chariot. Then his swift footsteps. He came through the gate and stopped, staring at me like the others.
No. Not like the others. He didn’t seem shocked, he seemed…I couldn’t define the feelings I sensed emanating from him, but suddenly he rushed toward me and grabbed my arms. “Are you all right? You’re all right! I knew it!”
It was joy. There were tears standing in his eyes, and I knew I was staring like the rest of the slaves. My master whirled to the others. “When? How long?”
“Just a few minutes, master. He just…woke up. We couldn’t keep him down.”
My master laughed suddenly and pounded my back. “Of course not! He’s well! I told you he would be well. I’ve been to see the Galilean.”
Slowly, then with gathering excitement, the others gathered around the two of us, some of them reaching out to touch me as if to be sure I was real.
“What happened, sir?”
His face glowed. “You were dying. There was nothing more we could do.” (I gulped.) “I went to find the Healer. Well, actually, I sent Linus first. He came back and said the Healer was coming. Well, I knew he shouldn’t come here. I went out to meet him. I explained that I know about authority. I tell one of you to do something, and you do it, no questions asked.”
We nodded, avoiding each other’s eyes. I felt like laughing.
“I told him I, too, am under orders, and do what I’m told. He could just command the illness to leave, right where he was.”
My mouth came open, but I didn’t speak. Command the illness?
My master seemed to grow an inch taller before my eyes. “He said…he looked around at the others there, and he said, ‘I have not found such faith even in Israel!’ He said that about me—a pagan Roman! Then he smiled at me, and I stood there for a minute, feeling…well.” The master cleared his throat and didn’t finish his sentence. “I about-faced and rushed home, and here you are. Completely healed!” He gripped my arms again.
I gazed into his eyes, and felt as if I, too, were an inch taller.
I want to go and meet this Healer.
Debbonnaire Kovacs is a speaker and the author of 25 books and well over 600 articles and stories for adults and children. She lives and works on a smallholding in central Kentucky. You can learn more about her and her work at her website.
May 24, 2016: This past weekend the Adventist denomination’s Columbia Union Conference held its constituency meeting that is scheduled every five years in the year following General Conference (GC) Sessions. Delegates from the eight local conferences voted to reappoint the top officers and expressed support for the organization’s goals and strategy.
This union conference includes a region in the eastern United States with about 150,000 members in 800 congregations, one of the largest in North America. It includes the most urbanized population in the country and many Adventist institutions, including Washington Adventist University (WAU), the GC office, the Washington Adventist Hospital and affiliated health care agencies, and the international Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).
Pastor Dave Weigley was re-elected president, Pastor Rob Vandeman executive secretary, and Pastor Seth Bardu treasurer. The delegates also re-elected four vice presidents and appointed a new vice president for education due to the retirement of Dr. Hamlet Canosa after 44 years of service as an Adventist educator.
A significant feature of the constituency meeting was the graduation of the first class of 13 young adults from the REACH Urban Evangelism School, an urban outreach training program that the Columbia Union Conference operates in collaboration with WAU. Student came from across North America to spend a school year in a combination of classes and practical internships in Philadelphia under the leadership of Pastor Tara VinCross, an experienced church planter and youth worker. The curriculum includes Christian discipleship, community development, urban agriculture, evangelism learning to live incarnationally in various neighborhoods and understand the cycle of transformational mission. This program is one of the very few places in the worldwide denomination where specialized education in urban mission is offered.
Weigley grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Blue Mountain Academy in that conference as well as WAU), later graduating from Southern Adventist University. He also completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and will soon complete a Doctor of Philosophy at Andrews University (AU). He has served as a pastor, evangelist, conference ministerial director and president in the northwestern U.S. He has served as union conference president since 2006. Weigley and his wife, Becky, have two adult children and five grandchildren.
Vandeman, born in Hinsdale, Illinois, graduated from Union College and AU, and has served as a pastor in Colorado, Minnesota and Maryland, and later as a conference ministerial director and president. He was elected to the number two officer position in the union conference in 2011. Vandeman and his wife, Judy, have two adult children and three grandchildren.
Bardu was born in Liberia and has a degree in accounting from Oakwood University and an MBA from AU. He has three decades of experience in denominational finance management, previously in the Northeastern and South Central conferences and for the Adventist Health System and Southern Union Conference. He was appointed treasurer of the Columbia Union Conference in 2006.
Delegates voted to appoint Donovan Ross as the new vice president for education. He has served in Adventist education for 21 years, most recently as the union conference’s associate director for secondary education. Reappointed were Pastor Frank Bondurant, vice president for ministries development; Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president for communication; Walter Carson, vice president and general counsel; and Pastor Rubén Ramós, vice president for multicultural ministries.
Four years ago in the summer of 2012, the Columbia Union Conference became the second union conference in North America to vote to end gender discrimination in the ordination of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, as Adventist Today reported at the time. Four out of five delegates at a special constituency session voted in favor of ordaining women to the gospel ministry despite a personal appeal by Pastor Ted Wilson, GC president, against the action. This action has been implemented under the GC Working Policy that assigns the approval of ordinations to the union conferences despite the vote last summer at the GC Session in San Antonio, Texas, against allowing the regional Division organizations of the denomination to deal with the issue.
Feature photo: Columbia Union Conference officers: Bondurant, Blyden, Ramós, Vandeman, Weigley, Bardu, Carson and Ross.
From ANN, May 23, 2016: More than 500 Adventist business professionals raised approximately $50,000 (USD) to help fund the construction of the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) Medical School in Kigali, Rwanda, in order to address the nation’s tremendous need for expanded health services. The fundraising event took place May 15 on the campus of the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA).
According to denominational leaders, there is one doctor for every 17,000 people in Africa’s east-central region. Through the medical school, the Adventist denomination will equip future doctors and medical professionals to help the countless individuals who lack access to quality health care.
Completing the school, which is slated to be the denomination’s seventh medical school, will consist of a four-phase project. Phase one, which is expected to be completed by September 2017, includes constructing student residences, a state-of-the-art science lab, a teaching hospital, cafeteria and a housing complex for guests.
The Adventist denomination also operates medical schools at Adventist universities in Montemorelos, Nuevo León, Mexico; Liberator San Martín, Entre Rios, Argentina; Ñaña, Lima, Peru; Silang, Cavite, Philippines; and its flagship school in Loma Linda, California, United States.
The fundraiser took place three days after Ted Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, laid the foundational stone.
The fundraising event was a collaborative effort between the East-Central Africa Division and the education department of the Seventh-day Adventist world denomination. Keynote speakers included education director for the Adventist denomination, Lisa Beardsley-Hardy; Adventist architect and philanthropist Zuki Mxoli; education director for the East-Central Africa Division, Andrew Mutero; and president of the Adventist denomination’s East-Central Africa Division, Blasious Ruguri.
For more information on the ECD Medical School, visit the official website of the East-Central Africa Division at ecdadventist.org.
Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the denomination’s world headquarters in Washington, DC.
Featured image: Lisa Beardsley-Hardy and Blasious Ruguri with business professionals during the fundraising event that took place May 15 on the campus of the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA). Photo credit: ANN/Philip Baptiste.
A corrected version of this story reflects the fact that in an earlier version we mistakenly reported a demonstration at Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea
May 19, 2016: There was a demonstration at Pacific Union College (PUC) in California, but no demonstration at Pacific Adventist University (PAU) despite political pressure from students at the state universities in recent weeks. The issue at PUC was academic freedom and rumors about firing a popular psychology professor. The issue in the island nation across the Pacific was national politics and a student boycott which the students on the Adventist campus have refused to join.
Dr. Aubyn Fulton, a PUC faculty member, wrote on his Facebook page that he would be fired at the end of the spring quarter because of the conflict he created last fall when he invited Dr. Ryan Bell, a former Adventist pastor and PUC alum who turned atheist, to address a class. About 60 students marched to the college president’s office on Wednesday, May 4, expressing concerns about academic freedom, reported the Napa Valley Register.
Dr. Heather Knight, the college president, met with the students and agreed to set up an opening meeting the next day where about 250 students showed up. Knight admitted that she had canceled the speaking appointment for Bell last fall, but stated that Fulton had not been told he was going to be fired. “I have not fired anyone and I have not told anyone that they’re going to be fired,” Knight told a reporter from the St. Helena Star, the local community newspaper near PUC.
Knight said PUC has set up a taskforce to coordinate a discussion of academic freedom on campus and study the wording of the institution’s policy on academic freedom. She told journalists that she was open to a proposal from the Academic Senate to create an Academic Freedom Advisory Council where faculty members could consult with their colleagues on potentially controversial speakers and topics.
Fulton has previously clashed with college administration in the 2013-14 school year because of comments he made in class about premarital sex and homosexuality. Students “praised Fulton for showing unconditional love for all, Christian or non-Christian, gay or straight,” according to the Napa Valley Register. A psychology major said he helps students to “live the way we should as psychologists and social workers, practicing unconditional love toward everyone, even if we disagree.”
Fulton declined to comment to journalists. He has been a faculty member at PUC for 28 years and he is not an atheist, according to students who praised him for following the example of Christ.
There is also concern that behavioral science programs at PUC are being damaged by this conflict. Four other faculty members have left since 2014, the Register reported. Earlier this month Dr. Greg Schneider announced that he is stepping down as chairman of the psychology and social work department effective July 1, although he will continue to be a full time faculty member.
The academic freedom policy at PUC, as it does at other Adventist colleges and universities, states that faculty “will not teach as truth what is contrary to” the denomination’s fundamental beliefs. “Dedicated scholars will exercise discretion in presenting concepts that might threaten Church unity and the effectiveness of Church action.”
Students at PUC and other Adventist campuses feel that this policy is used to enforce the views of conservative denominational officials, alumni and donors.
“There are a lot of students who are standing up and saying we don’t want our education to be closed off based on what other people tell us we don’t need to hear,” the Register quoted a student. “As Christians, I feel like we talk a lot about other people without talking to them,” another student was quoted. “As future psychologists and social workers, we can’t afford to let ourselves be uncomfortable around people we disagree with or even disapprove of.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education and the online publication Inside Higher Ed have reported about and commented on the unrest at PUC. This has included speculation about maintaining the accreditation of the institution which Newsweek described as “America’s most beautiful college” in 2012. Other commentators have pointed to the situation as an example of a Christian college maintaining the freedom to teach the faith upon which it was founded.
Papua New Guinea Situation
Yesterday (May 18) Pacific Adventist University released a statement about recent student unrest in the island nation. Pacific Adventist University Student Association “is not affiliated with Student Representative Councils at other PNG universities and [does not] represent PAU students in external issues.” Student leaders “are elected only to represent the students … to the University Administration in matters relating to their education and campus life.”
For the past two weeks students at the public University of Papua New Guinea have been demanding the resignation of The Honorable Peter O’Neill, prime minister of the country. The student council has enforced a boycott of classes due to allegations of corruption on the part of government leaders.
Pacific Adventist University “respects individual freedom of choice on political issues,” the PAU statement said. “We do not take sides in political debates or support any one particular political party. … Nor do we tell students or staff what they may think politically, nor tell them who they should vote for.” It also noted that politicians from all parties have supported the Adventist university over its 32 years and its mission is “training teachers, nurses, scientists, ministers, accountants and business people who are “educated to serve,” the motto of PAU.
PUC is one of three Adventist universities and colleges in California, the U.S. state with the largest number of Adventists. The other two are in Southern California; La Sierra University in Riverside and Loma Linda University in San Bernardino about 20 miles apart. Papua New Guinea has a population of seven million and according to the most recent census ten percent of the residents identify themselves as Adventists.