On Saturday, February 6th, Gordon students became aware of a private letter written by members of a Facebook group titled “Concerned Gordon College Parents.” As reported by The Tartan, it detailed many parents’ concerns over Gordon College’s response to racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. The letter was sent to the Board of Trustees.
A copy acquired by the Gordon Review can be read here.
News of the letter ignited storms of conversation on campus. Many students and alumni expressed anger on social media. One described it as “heartbreaking”.
The Gordon Review reached out to members of the Facebook group about the content of the letter. Many took issue with the Tartan’s summary of their claims, particularly that parents argue Gordon “presents itself as conservative but capitulates to the demands of Black Lives Matter culture” and that “the school’s focus on racial issues is harmful to Gordon’s Christian witness.” Mary Siegler, a member of the Facebook group, believes that this analysis fails to “accurately explain…the reasons why the parents feel they were deceived. It falls woefully short.” She further elaborated:
“The parent’s private letter thoroughly articulated multiple examples of ways the college is not upholding its published statements, namely the Statement of Faith and the Student Life and Conduct Statement. During ‘Explore Gordon’ events that many of the parents attended, representatives of the college asserted that Gordon was a thoroughly Christian institution, committed to a biblical worldview, yet they have allowed on-campus performances–open to the public–that directly contradict their published statements.”
Other parents also believed the Tartan misconstrued their position. Manny Silva, another member of the group, stated that his “most immediate concern at the moment is the safety and security of the students at Gordon College–and primarily conservative students.” While the letter was “not to downplay any concerns about racism against people of color and their safety,” he expressed deep concern about “a great deal of harassment and intimidation aimed at students (even of color) who disagree with the BLM/social justice agenda on campus.”
Parent Michael Mammana expressed his agreement with the letter stemmed from “how we [Christians] see racism.” In a statement sent to the Gordon Review, Mammana stated that:
“The difference between a secular and Christian university on these issues comes down to how we see racism–and how it is a sin issue. Yes, it is a cultural issue, but we as Christians need to show unity in loving our neighbor and respecting one another based on a Biblical worldview–Jesus’ teaching. Jesus does not look at us or define us by race. The world wants to define us by social class and racial groups. It has divided our nation.”
Parents also revealed concerns over the political climate on campus. Many reached out to the Gordon Review on the condition of anonymity over fear of retribution for their student. One expressed “that it says something about where we are that my wife and I feel that I have to remain anonymous in this interview to protect my child from harassment at a Christian liberal arts college in New England.”
Another parent stated that “this was not what [her son] signed up for, Biblically speaking, with people hating and tearing down other human beings–including Christians who are strong believers.” Similar to other parents, it was “the one sidedness of their [Gordon’s] stance” that she brought her concerns to the Gordon College administration.
One mother who anonymously spoke to the Review expressed the same concerns: “We already live in a world where no one says ‘no’ and no longer do we explain ourselves from a Biblical reasoning. Yet here we have a Christian college in New England who is struggling with faithlessness.” In her words, the Tartan article took “a group of parents and students and demonized them (or tried to). ‘Concerned’ is just that.”
Silva confirmed this sentiment, mentioning that some on campus “are intolerant of those who disagree, and they are harassing and intimidating others.” A “real problem” he stated.
Similar to many of the others, Connie D’Souza was concerned that “we have all lost our focus and have assumed that our war is with one another for the sake of our particular brand of justice.” In response to the Tartan’s mention of her comment on the “spiritual warfare” at Gordon (which was not found within the letter, but on the Facebook page), D’Souza elaborated:
“We have shifted in our thinking from proclaiming that our hope for justice and shalom can come through our ‘war of words’ and the destruction of the other side, whoever that other side might be, and have forgotten that Jesus has taken on our cause and defeated the Enemy.”
Parents were also majorly concerned whether Gordon could be an environment conducive to graduating “men and women of intellectual maturity.” As stated by one, who spoke on the condition of anonymity:
“Academically, these movements are seriously limiting debate. An ever-increasing range of opinions, even questions, are not tolerated. People espousing forbidden views are shamed and harassed. The strategy is clear. Shut down all dissent from the preferred narrative. How can faculty and students pursue truth in this atmosphere?”
Issue was also taken with how the Tartan reported on the parents’ letter reference to artistic performances. Siegler clarified that:
“The Tartan’s retelling of this point in the letter is misleading. The parent’s letter said “plays,” plural, which referred to both As I Am and the Fall Shorts. Our letter does not say that there was profuse profanity, lesbian kissing, or petting in the As I Am play. In fact, the names of the plays were not even mentioned in the letter. To add clarification, the “confusing messages about human sexuality” referred to As I Am and the “profuse profanity,” “lesbian kissing,” and “petting,” referenced content in the Fall Shorts. Both As I Am and the Fall Shorts were performed on campus in the fall of 2019.”
The Tartan article also stated that: “As of Sunday, Feb 7, the Facebook group appears to have been taken down.” In speaking with the Gordon Review, Silva noted that the author “probably could not find it anymore in a search.” As he further elaborated, “we have simply made it unable to be found in searches, mainly because of the person or persons who have entered our group under false pretenses.”
In their article, the Tartan revealed that “a member of the group provided The Tartan with access” to the private Facebook group. Several parents expressed concern with the Tartan’s methodology of obtaining the information that was intended to be a private communication to the Board of Trustees.
An anonymous Gordon alum and Facebook page member said:
“We were appalled that the Tartan editor chose to unethically publish a private letter to the Board of Trustees, and secretly infiltrate the group to quote parents who have made comments on various posts on the private page.”
Another anonymous parent stated:
“As far as them infiltrating the parent group, yes, I think that was unethical. But if you believe you are fighting evil, you can rationalize almost any ethical lapse.”
“I think the biggest problem with it is how very selective the quotations were. It painted a picture of the group skewed enough to be dishonest without actually telling falsehoods.”
Due to the sensitive nature of certain information, The Gordon Review allowed anonymity to protect the identities of Gordon students.
Categories: Student Life