A rare moment in Texas history was marked by a line drawn in the sand.
We Texans proudly point to the Alamo in San Antonio, where Col William B. Travis drew the line, and brave, out-numbered comrades rallied behind him.
Now, 164 years later – in the same city – members of the Board of Trustees of Trinity University have the opportunity to draw yet another line to uphold the university’s heritage and Christian principles.
The board will consider a petition requesting that the words “our Lord” be omitted from Trinity diplomas. Members will have numbers on their side, since only 185 students and faculty members have signed the petition. This figure represents slightly more than 5 percent of students and faculty at Trinity, which was founded by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1869…
The teapot tempest started a few weeks ago when Sidra Qureshi, president of a student organization called “The Diversity Connection” proposed striking the two words from diplomas. She trotted out a well-worn diversity argument. “By having the phrase ‘In the Year of our Lord,’ it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ,” Qureshi said.
The petition has been endorsed both by the Association of Student Representatives and the Committee for Commencement and Convocation.
To his credit, Dr. Dennis Ahlburg, in the presidency since January and yet to be inaugurated, has expressed support for the current wording that has been acceptable to generations of students…
Conventional wisdom suggests that the Board will respect Dr. Ahlburg’s position and the wishes of a strong majority of alumni. Hundreds of emails and phone calls suggest that most respondents feel that the current wording recognizes Trinity’s Christian heritage.
If the board should acquiesce, such a decision would move to the top of the list where “the tail wags the dog.” Detractors would be well-advised to “study up” on institutional heritage before enrolling or signing employment contracts.
At the risk of cutting too quickly to the chase, I recall the response of the late Dallas County Judge Lew Sterrett when he learned that some prisoners were critical of jail conditions. Sterrett fired back, suggesting that persons who don’t like the Dallas County Jail should commit their crimes in some other county…
The university has borne the brunt of hurtful negative press in this ordeal. I join legions of other Christians in believing that the board of trustees will handle this matter with courage and dispatch. If the petition is considered early in the meeting, surely this body can get to the remaining agenda items in record time.
Institutions such as Trinity depend greatly on endowment gifts, and TU is generously endowed. It is a given that much – if not most – of its billion-dollar endowment has been provided by donors predisposed to supporting Christian higher education.
Now described as an “independent, private institution,” Trinity’s relationship with the Presbyterian Church changed in 1969. Since that time, it has maintained a “covenant relationship” with the church. Any action short of dismissing the petition would be tantamount to ignoring its sacred covenant…
The Internet is awash in commentary about the bubbling brouhaha. It is highly critical of the petition.
It would be well if persons championing this cause would consider numerous institutional efforts to insure diversity and tolerance. In the past decade, minority enrollment has grown from 1 percent to 9 percent.
A history lesson might also be helpful. Our U.S. Constitution, for example, guarantees freedoms that allow for dissent.
Upon perusing this document recently, jumping out at me were these words concerning the date of its adoption: IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, 1787…
Trinity University is far stronger than its adversaries. Like the old cowboy, it has endured “far worse burrs than these under its saddle blanket.”
A prediction is that it will emerge stronger, its “covenant relationship” with Presbyterians undamaged and strengthened.
During a 40-year career in higher education, I’ve dealt with a few “sticky wickets” as a trustee, university president and as institutional liaison with media. It was helpful to remember former presidential press secretary Bill Moyers’ credo: “When at all possible, tell the truth… but never lie.” A goal was to keep my school “in the news and off the front page.” I wish Trinity University well…
Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org His Web site is www.