A few hours ago, Louisiana College graduate student Joshua Breland reported that his website, The Daily Bleat, and two other sites, SBC Heritage and LCStudents.org, have been blocked from the campus internet service and that he and another graduate student, Drew Wales, are now under active investigation for violating the Student Handbook. Mr. Breland and Mr. Wales, both of whom are enrolled in LC’s Caskey School of Divinity, published articles criticizing President Joe Aguillard for not renewing the contracts of three professors because the professors believe in Calvinism. Aguillard has never disputed the characterization; instead, he published an article on the frontpage of Louisiana College’s website attempting to justify his efforts to expel Calvinists from campus.
Mr. Breland and Mr. Wales are both self-described Southern Baptists; they both earned their undergraduate degrees at Louisiana College; and although they’ve published and re-published blog posts that are critical of President Aguillard, they have both remained extraordinarily respectful and deferential (in my personal opinion, almost to a fault). Breland’s “crime,” as far as I can tell, is that he accurately described Aguillard’s termination of these three professors as “targeting and persecuting” these men for their personal religious beliefs. It’s the truth. Aguillard, by his own words, acknowledges as much.
If I were in their position, I wouldn’t be nearly as patient and gracious toward Joe Aguillard; frankly, he has done very little to demonstrate that he deserves any respect, and this is yet another example of his thin-skinned, anti-intellectual, and vindictive style of leadership. There is now a well-established pattern of Aguillard using the resources of Louisiana College to threaten, humiliate, and bully his critics. Meanwhile, under his leadership, Louisiana College continues to suffer, or, to use Mr. Breland’s word, continues to “burn.”
Under Aguillard’s leadership, Louisiana College remains on academic probation, perilously and some may say inevitably close to losing its accreditation. Under his leadership, more than half of the faculty have either resigned or have been forced out. Under his leadership, the campus is crumbling and in need of tens of millions of dollars in repair, and because he’s alienated so many private donors, he was essentially forced to ask the Southern Baptist Convention for a bailout (only after asking the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for $70 million, a request that they denied and one that Aguillard worked his best to cover up). Under his leadership, he’s spent tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars marketing and promoting a law school that he promised would open years ago and is now without a Dean and, shockingly, even a working phone number. Quoting from The Shreveport Times via AboveTheLaw (bold mine):
Pineville-based Louisiana College announced news of the law school in 2007, with plans to start classes in 2009. It will have a “biblical worldview,” school leaders said, to train future lawyers to defend conservative Christian values in courtrooms and politics.
I’m not a student of Louisiana College, and Mr. Aguillard cannot bully or threaten me with reprisals or calls for investigations, though I’m fairly certain that he’s ensured my website is also blocked on campus as well.
Here’s what I know:
Academia should celebrate and encourage the free and open exchange of ideas, particularly ideas that threaten our own deeply-held beliefs. When the university targets its own, when it threatens students because they dare to be critical of their leaders (not of the institution itself, but of its leaders), then it’s no longer a university; it’s a sham, and its tax-exempt status should be revoked.
I’ve got news for President Aguillard: He can block websites on campus until he turns blue; he can investigate students who have the courage to criticize him for firing people for being Calvinist (seriously).
But he can’t change the results you get when you search his name on Google.