My Name is Elrod Too

Mark Elrod is currently a professor of political science at Harding University. Mark, one of the more popular teachers on campus, has recently decided to make his blog private. Though he was not asked to do this by the school, most people around the state of Arkansas have concluded that there was probably some pressure placed on him due to his politics and support for Obama. I heard of the great Mark Elrod when I arrived on Harding’s campus as an undergraduate in the early ’90s. My experiences in his classes were always positive, as he challenged students to think in an intelligent way. Bad students or apathetic students could not stand Elrod. They often cited terms such as arrogance or cocky; I never saw that. I recall thinking how lucky Harding was to have him and that he seemed too enlightened for the narrow conservative views of the school. Although it will not happen, I hope the school’s president comes across this blog piece. I have decided to completely distance myself from Harding and any other school that violates my academic standards. I do not give a lot of money to the school, but what I do give is no longer going to Harding.

In part, I feel that Harding and many other religious affiliate schools are anti-intellectual in that they do not value free thought. Moreover, a school that only hires those of its own religious faith should question its mission to the greater academic community. This is true of secondary independent schools too; I can think of a few church of Christ private schools that only hire members who are church of Christ. In doing so, they usually do not conduct national searches for candidates. They visit the same old church of Christ schools for faculty members. In essence they commit the same crime Harding has been committing for ages: they practice academic incest thus permit inbreeding to take place (see below). On a sad note, you find few to no minority instructors on such campuses. I will admit that I am to a point in my profession that it would be a step down to work at a school that teaches and embraces one perspective.

Furthermore, Harding does not have a tenure system. I suspect faculty members are not permitted to have a faculty senate either. Without this voice or the support of the American Association of University Professors that protects intellectual freedom and assures academic standards, schools such as Harding can preach the idea and concept of the liberal arts, but profess conformity. The greatest benefit of having tenure is that it protects one’s political and intellectual freedom. The process is designed to encourage teachers to challenge students’ intellectual prowess via tough issues and questions without fear of being terminated. This model is very different from that of most jobs. But, with that in mind, jobs outside of academic circles are designed to generate profits; and, although schools are designed to encourage discourse, they too can be motivated by economic factors. It is not unusual for lesser-established private schools to be driven by economic forces. For example, it is more important to put bodies in empty chairs than it is to promote discourse of intellectual matters that might not meet the approval of a few of the school’s clientele. At this point, an institution must have confidence in itself as an academic center.

I can no longer support Harding; I can no longer encourage students to attend a school that operates by a code that goes against my beliefs. Although I once taught at a church of Christ private school, I can say that I no longer support such schools, their beliefs, or values. As for the title of this post, Jeff Baker, a Harding graduate and Vanderbilt Law graduate who now teaches at Jones School of Law, sent a number of us history/poli sci majors a facebook asking that we post our status as “______’s name is Elrod too. I like the show of support for Mark Elrod. But, I believe this matter is far bigger than Mark. This is about academics having the right to support their ideological beliefs and political candidates.

Blogs and other outlets addressing this matter:

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11 thoughts on “My Name is Elrod Too

  1. Well said, EC. It is a shame because Harding could be a powerful force for positive change in the fellowship and for aligning serious faith with serious academic practice. It is also a shame that so many alumni feel alienated by the school.

    The only thing that will change Harding is the same thing that will change the c of C at large: a couple of generations need to die off. It’s just not 1958 anymore.

  2. I am trying to wind down my posts on this subject. Getting sorta tired of it..but I was push on! When I was at Harding in the late 80’s/early 90’s, Elrod was outspoken. He stuck out. He was not shy about where he stood. That is why I don’t believe HU put any pressure on him at all. Edward, were you there in 1992 when Burkes publicly condemned the attitude of many students towards Clinton in Chapel? He came down hard and said people need to show respect to him as well as to those who have a different political persuasion.

    My feeling is that HU put no pressure on him but Elrod wanted to make people think they did.

    Anyway, all that aside, I love Harding. Think it is a great school and just hate seeing it ripped apart so much from everyone who only heard one side or only are acting on rumors.

  3. odgie – thanks bro.

    Roland –My deal again is much bigger than the ME thing. Plus, he defended Burks.

    Last summer I finally got around to reading John Williams’ Making History: Ray Muncy In His Time. In the book John discussed the schools truggles with some of the issues I mentioned above and how it was impacting the school. I laughed only to think that such issues still exist. I do feel that it is part of my job as an academic alum to address what needs to happen. True, doing so on a blog is not going to change much, that I will admit.

    It is no secret that the diversity issue has bothered me since I was on campus. If religion is impacting the school and its hisring of faculty, well it should re-think its role. I would love to see Harding break from traditionalalism and be more like Pepperdine. But in the end, unless you got a ($) deal that is too good, one could go to another school.

  4. What a great show of support. I fear that we are entering a period in which there is more criticism on free thought than ever before. I am happy being tenured. I do not fear the loss of my job. I do fear being asked to change my views. But, as you know Carson, as a lesbian, my campus respects who I am and value my beliefs.

  5. Ah…Dr. Muncy. I learned SO much from him. “Historians reflect the tenor of their times.” to name one that I still retain.

    I agree that HU does need to get with the program at times. Their annual Bible lectureships are horrible. They still go with these old school preachers so much so that my friend who is a preacher never goes. He always tells me he would love to go as he went to Harding but never sees anything good. That being said, money does play a role there and I think we would be fools to think otherwise. Harding, no matter if we like it or not, is a business. If they changed quickly and drasticly, it would put them out of business just as other colleges would run out of funds if they didn’t do certain things.

    We may not like certain things, but when they are facts of life, they are facts of life.

  6. Pingback: The sordid, seemingly unending Mark Elrod affair « Lookin’ Fer Learnin’

  7. Hey Eddie- It’s been a long time since our days as undergrads at Harding. I’m sorry to read how down you are about Harding and schools that hire members of the church of Christ. I’ve been teaching there for the past 10+ years, and I hope you’ll come by and visit next time you’re in Searcy. I’d love to have the chance to change your mind about Harding. (Yeah- it’s no where near perfect, and it will never be as long as it is ran by humans. 😉

  8. Frank,

    I will look you up; I will be in Searcy with Phillip Young and a number of other guys August 22 -24. I am not down, but when I was there and set on a few small student committe to address various matters I and others felt were important academically, it seems that denominational reliion and tradition halts that progress. I have just move in a very different direction academically.

    I do love Harding and think it is a great place; it would be a very bad fit for me. Plus, I like beer and wine too much.

    It is great hearing from you. I have been by your blog before.

  9. Pingback: Freshman Year « The Proletarian

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