Dr. Livesay Should Step Down From Bryan College Leadership - And Response (11)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I am writing in response to the July 25th article, "Online Petition Seeks Removal of Bryan College President, Board Chair". 

As a graduate of Bryan College (1984), I am saddened by the response of Dr. Stephen Livesay and the Board of Trustees regarding the online petition.  The purpose of the petition really has little to do with the school’s “clarification” of its views on creation.  It has to do with the heart of the man who is leading the college into decline, despite his protestations to the opposite. 

Bryan was once an institution that was grounded firmly in biblical principles – the essentials of the Faith – but there was always room for discussion for ideas that were open to interpretation.  I recall vigorous debate over issues and interpretation, but in the end, folks still loved each other and agreed to disagree on ideas that were not “essential.” 

Here is my problem with the turn Bryan’s leadership has taken:  Dr. Livesay has put his own interpretation of Genesis before the essential teachings of Christ.  His doctrine is more important to him than the well-being of other believers and the reputation of Christ in the world.  Believers agree that God created the universe, and that man was created in His image.  This is an essential doctrine of the Faith.  But I know strong believers who have cogent arguments for a variety of interpretations of the creation narrative.  Whether you believe in a young earth or theistic evolution, you still believe God created the world and has a plan for its redemption. 

I have non-Christian friends who look at this kind of situation and laugh at the hypocrisy.  It verifies to them their notion that Christians are ignorant and judgmental.  This is the saddest part of all. There is no Christian distinctive in this situation that shows the love of Christ within the Christian community. Why would anyone want to be a part of a community where you are fired from your job for expressing an opinion?  

All of this is to say that Dr. Livesay appears to believe that his own interpretation of Genesis is superior to everyone else’s, and this is the motivation for his actions.  I was always taught that such an attitude is the sin of pride.  This pride is why I want Dr. Livesay to step down from leadership at Bryan.  The one who leads needs to be the servant of all.

Jean Breeding 

* * * 

I wanted to write to thank you for the article concerning the online petition seeking the removal of President Livesay and Chairwoman Bice. This petition is something I have been watching and aware of for some time, as has my sister (an alumna) and father (who was the former director of Public Information at Bryan College for over 20 years).

Media attention is something those of us who have signed the petition desperately want. However, I wanted to make sure that you had the full story and not the story from Bryan. Lies and deceit from the President and Board is, in my opinion, at the heart of the issue.

The petition is not about creation and evolution. This is not a group of people angry over a belief on origins. Both creationists and those who have a different view of how the earth came to be have signed the petition. This petition is about bringing to light that which has been done behind closed doors in the dark. It’s about tenured professors being forced out by dishonorable means. It’s about dishonest, if not illegal, land acquisition. It’s about a cover-up of a Bible professor who solicited sex from a minor. It’s about a vote of no confidence the faculty took in the ability of the president to lead the school (30-2, no confidence). It’s about the subsequent decision from the board to ignore that vote and disallow faculty from meeting together any more. It’s about the lack of academic freedom the school used to proudly boast that has disappeared since my graduation in 2010. It’s about a place that we alumni of Bryan desperately love being systematically ripped apart at the seams for what appears to be selfish, greedy reasons. 

Andrew Davis 

* * *

I am dismayed to see that the president of Bryan College continues to spin the alumni desire for his resignation as being about creation vs. evolution. He clearly isn't reading, listening or acknowledging anything that has been said or written in the petition, phone calls, letters and emails being sent to him.

So for clarity's sake let us be clear. Dr. Livesay, we don't care that you want the school to be known for having a young earth position - in fact many alumni share that view. The problem is the environment of deceit and fear you have inculcated. The problem is that we see you trying to turn our alma mater into a place where abuse and the silencing of victims are norms, and we are saying no.  

We do not respect leadership that covers up for a man who was arrested for soliciting sex with a minor. We do not respect leadership that is so weak it is threatened by academic freedom and diversity of thought. Godly leadership doesn't push out and fire brilliant, godly men and women over different opinions.  

We love the Bryan faculty and the ways in which their diversity enriched our lives during our time at Bryan. We respect the way they persevere under your continued restriction of their professional freedoms and advancement.  From the time you arrived at campus, and tried to change our slogan to Faithful Brilliance, it became clear that you do not understand the grace and freedom of our motto Christ Above All. It means we acknowledge Him above all our opinions and differences, not that we use him to subjugate everyone to our personal way of thinking as you seem so intent on doing.

So know that we will persist in calling for your resignation. We will persist in telling students how special Bryan was and how sad and upset we are that you are ruining that legacy.  We will persist in talking about how much we love the faculty and staff who actually make Bryan a good place and how little you have to do with that. Know that we are fine with a young earth position, what we aren't fine with is you.  

Jessica Williams
Class of '05  

* * * 

Thank you for the story about the petition seeking the ouster of Bryan College President Stephen Livesay. I appreciate your also running Wayne Cropp's letter--very informative. 

One point I would like to add: Dr. Livesay is wrong when he attributes opposition to his leadership to dissatisfaction over the clarification of the statement of belief. I, for one, and I know  of a good number of others, who agree with the intention of the clarification. My objection, and that of many--if not most--signatories is over the style, tactics and manner of leadership practiced by the board and the president. 

Despite Dr. Livesay's protestations to the contrary, the petition is in response to what we believe makes a lie of the college motto "Christ Above All." 

Tom Davis

* * * 

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14, ESV).  Bryan is indeed a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, but at this point and time the light has been replaced with a dark cloud of deceit, lies, and greed.  

The current administration has tarnished the school, the town, but more importantly God’s name through its actions and associations with things that completely contradict the preaching of the Bible.  This cloud on the hill will not stay on the hill unless concerned citizens (whether alumni or not) take a stand against the administration and by doing so take a stand with Christ.  If there is no interference to stop this train wreck then the ramifications for Dayton could be devastating. We have already lost so many phenomenal professors to this absurdity, which is only hurting the community both on the hill and at the foot of the hill. As Christians, we are called to stand up 
against the injustices within the world, but especially within the Christian community. 

I do not understand how you as board members can sit back and let Dr. Livesay destroy Bryan college.  He is firing Godly people who have brought so much to the community.  Praise God that God is so much bigger than Dr. Livesay and He has seen to it that each person who has been unjustly fired or forced to resign is fairing so much better than they ever did here.  It is Dayton and Bryan that are suffering at the hands of this man.  

I do not know most of you, but some I am ashamed to admit that I do know.  I am only hoping that you are biding your time and waiting for enough evidence to be collected before you act.  If that is not the case than I will be devastated. 

The community knows that Bryan is paying insurance money to an individual who was convicted of horrible crimes at Fort Bluff as well as consulting fees to his wife.  The community also knows that the acquiring of Fort Bluff is shady to say the least.  

You have allowed Bryan to become a dictatorship, and the community will no longer sit by quietly while you do nothing to stop the madness.  As many of you know Bryan suffered a fire many years ago, but the flames of greed and selfishness that you have allowed to spread through the administration have caused far more damage than that fire ever did.  However, God is in control and it is my prayer that just like after that fire Bryan will rebuild and be better than ever.  You as the board can choose to be part of that rebuilding or you can continue down the path you have started and be part of the destruction. 

Dr. Livesay needs to resign just as any other leader within a Christian organization should be called to do who chooses to align himself with the world.  Any board members who are not willing to stand up against, or worse yet do not see that there have been any transgressions committed should also resign.  

This request for his resignation has nothing to do with some redone statement from a few years ago.  It has to do with the college's connection to things that no institution (especially a Christian college) should be connected with. It is regards to a man who has guided the school into the tar-pits.  It is in regards to leadership that cares more about dollar signs than students' souls.  It is in regards to an administration that would rather hide and “sweep under the rug” anything that is wrong rather than facing it head on.  It is about an administration that chooses to fire or force out any faculty that do not agree with him.  Welcome to Bryan leave you right to free speech at the bottom of the hill please. 

Ultimately if Bryan failed it would be Dr. Livesay’s and the board members’ fault, but indirectly that fault would also lie with all those who stood silent when they should have spoken. 

The college of Bryan says it holds itself up to the standard of “Christ Above All” and it is time that the leaders are held to that same standard. 

Jennifer Terry
Bryan Alumni 

* * * 

I find it interesting that so many alumni are bashing Stephen Livesay and the Board of Trustees at Bryan college. Frankly, what's happening there is simply the logical result of all fundamentalist religions that take their scriptures literally. Livesay is simply behaving as an Old Testament tyrant, squelching any dissent, ridding his theocracy of suspected heretics, promoting an anti-science and anti-intellectual position of creationism and superstitions, and taking no prisoners. His Board of sycophants are similar to Stalin's commissars and the Spanish Inquisitors who committed atrocities out of fear of the Big Boss and/or true believers who really believe in the suppression of free thinking individuals who question dogma. 

How does Livesay's tactics differ from tactics of fanatical imams, rabbis, and others of religious fundamentalism? Only so far as he has not yet set up stations on campus to burn suspected witches, stoning pits to kill those who work on the Sabbath and talk back to parents, and torturing suspected gays on the rack to save their souls. At least not yet he hasn't, but isn't that the next step for literalists? 

To those who are alumni, past financial contributors, students and professors, just like Dr. Frankenstein you created the monster. 

Now the monster has turned on you. What did you expect? 

Stephen Greenfield 

* * *

That Livesay responded to the petition, which does not even mention the ‘clarification,’ by saying that his opposition is all due to the clarification, demonstrates that at best he is still unwilling to actually listen to the many concerns and criticisms which have been brought to him repeatedly, and at worst that he knows his opposition has valid criticisms and rather than address them he would prefer to deflect the public eye away from the real issues at hand.  This refusal to engage in meaningful conversation and insistence on deceitfully spinning stories to make himself appear a persecuted martyr is one of the issues the Bryan alumni have repeatedly stated is motivating them to seek a change in leadership. 

The petition is motivated by love for our school, including and especially the faculty and staff.  Bryan has suffered for over a decade under the mismanagement of a man who has made himself into an autocrat, dictating policy and procedure even to the Board of Trustees which should be directing him.  In the process of accumulating his power Livesay has repeatedly demonstrated that he cares more about achieving his vision of Bryan Remade than about doing so in an ethical and responsible manner; he has created a climate of fear and repression among the remaining faculty and staff by firing or silencing with threat of firing those who dare to vocalize concerns or criticisms.

So many wonderful people have left that Bryan never can or will go back to the way it was before, but we the alumni hope that if an effort is made now to refocus on the essentials that make Bryan exceptional we can save our school from loss of accreditation and financial ruin, or worse yet, becoming a culturally and academically irrelevant institution that only brings embarrassment to the name of Christ.  I know I speak for the alumni at large when I say that we are grateful for the wonderful experiences we had at Bryan and we hold deep love and appreciation for the hardworking faculty and staff at Bryan who helped us become the people we are today; it is in the hope of freeing them from the toxic and abusive management of the Livesay regime that we started this petition. 

In addition to the reasons listed in the body of this petition I signed to voice my concerns about the school's financial troubles, which have almost cost Bryan its accreditation, and which the Administration covered with the unethical Fort Bluff acquisition.  The financial struggles began well before 2013 when Board Members began resigning in protest of Livesay’s leadership and stem from the expenditures and accumulation of debts caused by Livesay's ill-advised and unswerving determination to rush hastily through the construction of the new entrance, Robinson Dorm, the upperclassmen apartments, and multiple other major projects and renovations despite multiple complications and setbacks such as received donor contributions not matching donor pledges, struggling new and returning student enrollment rates, and key partners backing out of agreements.  The recklessly impatient speed at which these projects were completed needlessly multiplied their cost, lead to shoddy construction which has necessitated early repair costs, and lead to the debt and increased facilities and infrastructure costs which did and still do threaten the well-being of the school.  This accumulation of debt in violation of a literal interpretation of Proverbs 22:26, Romans 13:8 makes Livesay and his administration's claim that they are currently standing on a literal interpretation of Scripture when persecuting fellow Christians a blatant and base hypocrisy exemplifying the duplicity and arrogance that have been hallmarks of Livesay’s career at Bryan. 

Thank you for covering this story in a balanced manner; such coverage helps us bring to light all that Livesay has tried to hide and speed his overdue departure from Bryan. 

Andrew J. Goggans 

* * * 

 To begin I would like to say that, as a young earth Creationist who believes that the world was created in a literal six days, that Adam and Eve were real people, and that God accomplished creation with just His words, this petition and my signing it are not about the "clarification" statement. Rather, I willingly signed and support this petition because I have seen the "clarification" used too many times as an excuse to bend the college to the administration's will while adamantly posturing "Christ above all."  

When I was a prospective student, I chose Bryan College for many reasons, the beautiful campus, the excellent professors, the intimate and manageable size of the college, but there were two things that pushed my decision to attend Bryan over the edge. The first was the quality and high caliber of the academics, including the diversity of opinions and beliefs of faculty and other students, leading to stretching and growing discussions, while still maintaining the integrity and validity of Scripture. The second was the loving community that welcomed students from all different backgrounds and denominations growing together in love, honesty, humility, and grace.  

Both of these things no longer exist at Bryan College. The ability to have discussions with those of varying viewpoints for the purpose of strengthening faith in God and the Bible are now seen as dangerous to the administration's agenda and squashed as quickly as possible. The administration is threatened by those decrying the lack of "academic freedom" because it does not conform to their, specifically the President's, agenda. As a result, they label themselves the recipients of "persecution" for upholding the Bible and parade under the banner "Christ above all", while ignoring the very commands of Christ. As a result, the loving, warm community has been replaced with an environment of suspicion, distrust, and personal preservation. 

Those faculty accused in the statement published in The Chattanoogan of "intentionally deceiv[ing] those in authority" were just some of the sacrificial lambs on the altar of President Livesay's narrow and un-Christlike agenda. How many more quality, God-fearing faculty and staff being terminated will it take for the Board of Trustees to wake up and see the destruction being wrought on Bryan College's campus? "The role of the president and the Board’s charge is to preserve and uphold our Statement of Belief as given in our charter," reads the college's response, but I would argue that the role of the president and Board is to uphold the school motto, "Christ above all" in a way that demonstrates the love, humility, compassion, integrity, honesty, and grace that Christ exemplified. This is not the case at Bryan College.

Please, I beg of you as a sister in Christ, do not let your pride keep you from seeing the truth. Do not let one man's quest for Bryan to fit into a narrow box of fundamentalism cause this place of community, growth, and discipleship to be completely destroyed. We need to uphold and stand behind the validity of Scripture, 1,000 times yes, but we need to remember that in doing so, we cannot cease to love one another, walk in humility, speak the truth, and not be overcome by pride or greed. 

I am proud to be a member of the "coordinated effort" to "undermine the leadership at the College", as the college's statement reads, because I love Bryan College and hate to see it destroyed by leadership that has been unchecked for too long. It is time for President Livesay to either step down or be fired, and it is time for the Board to recognize and repent. It is time to once again see "Christ above all" at Bryan College. 

Molly (Gehring) Sutton, Class of 2010

* * * 

The genesis of Bryan’s leadership crisis occurred years before the clarification. 

My late father taught at Bryan for decades, my siblings and I, my wife, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, two nephews and niece went to Bryan. I believe in a six day creation and that Adam and Eve were real people.

I would never allow my children to go to Bryan because of this administration. As an Army officer with seven years in the reserves, and most recently 13 years on active duty, I know the difference between toxic leaders and good leaders. Good leaders build their people up. Toxic leaders tear people down. Good leaders serve the organization and recognize that service to their organization is service to their subordinates. Toxic leaders act in their own best interests, and they refuse to hear anything from anyone that does not match their narrative.

Bryan College needs a good leader, not a toxic one. It is time for Dr. Livesay to go.  

Timothy Fary 

* * * 

Thank you for covering the ongoing events at Bryan College. As a student at Bryan from 2010-2014, I was there when the statement of faith issue, referenced in the college’s recent response to the petition, was unfolding. As someone who lived on campus through the events of spring 2014, I find their response incredibly troubling for many reasons. Perhaps most troubling is the way in which the response asserts that opposition to current college leadership is due to the college’s stance on creation. This is simply not true. 

I personally hold to the young-earth creation view and believe in the historicity of Adam and Eve, and if I had to sign my agreement to the contents of the 2014 “clarification” statement, I could in good conscience. But I opposed the implementation of the clarification because of the way it was done. It quickly became apparent that this action was less about affirming young-earth creationism and more about deflecting attention from the problems that had been growing for years and were finally coming to a head—problems that I personally began to see in 2012 with the administration’s imprudent handling of the situation involving a Bible professor and an FBI sex sting. 

Even then, in 2014, Dr. Livesay and others repeatedly misrepresented the concerns that I and others expressed about the change to the statement of faith, as has been done again in their July 25 response. We students who voiced concern were painted as puppets of the faculty (another accusation repeated in the July 25 response), as having no respect for authority, and worst of all of being enemies of the Bible. 

The effect of claiming that this is all about a “stand on the truth of God’s Word” is to give the impression that the president and administration are the righteous champions of Scripture so that any who voice opposition to them in any way can be discounted as dangerous to the Christian faith. The reality is that to me, and many others, our grave concerns with the leadership at Bryan College were never about the content of the clarification statement or the issue of creation. We do, in fact, care about standing for biblical truth, which is all the more reason that we are calling for change in leadership. We want Christ to be well represented through the actions of those at the top. 

It is my further hope and prayer that Bryan College can once again become a place where the student body, faculty, and staff are valued, respected, and cared for by the administration and vice versa, where they are free to engage in deep, honest conversations and scholarship without fear of retaliation, and where Christ is honored through the application of minds and the stirring of hearts for his purposes.  

Olivia Eanes
Bryan College, Class of 2014 

* * *

I find it interesting that this ongoing debate about Dr. Livesay and Bryan College is centered around creationism and the belief many people have which contradicts all known scientific evidence to the contrary.  Believing that the earth is around 6,000 years old despite the mountains and mountains of contradictory scientific evidence is an example of a problem that our society is having on a larger scale.  People seem to want to determine for themselves what truth is based on what they want it to be.   

This story is just one of many in the news these days of Christians exhibiting very un-Christian behavior.  Whether it's stories of priests sexually abusing children, or the Ark encounter violating its tax agreement with the state of Kentucky, or Hobby Lobby funding ISIS by illegally buying artifacts, or university presidents stifling dissent by firing professors, it would seem that modern Christianity has lost its way because a great many actions that its proponents engage in these days are decidedly un-Christ-like. 

R.J. Mitchell

* * * 

President Livesay’s recent response claiming the alumni petition asking him to resign is due to the creation/evolution debate is a complete red herring and an intentional distraction from the true reason for the petition. 

There is little productive reason to list or go into all the issues (though there are many), but what is abundantly clear and indisputable is the fact that Dr. Livesay no longer has the credibility or support of the Bryan College alumni, donors, faculty, and community to effectively lead the school. 
Delaying the inevitable will only serve to prolong the situation and prevent the Bryan College community from being able to move forward.  The Bryan College community is completely fractured right now, and only new leadership can start the process of bringing people to back together. 

Dr. Livesay has been president for going on 15 years now.  The average length of time a university president serves is eight and one-half years according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and seven years according the American Council on Education.  

Even without all the controversy, an effective leader knows when to move on and put the needs of the institution above their own.  Dr. Livesay, please do the honorable thing and step aside. 

Nathan S. Humphrey
Bryan College Class of 2003

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