Davidson president compares trustees’ vote to admitting African Americans, women
By John H. Adams, The Layman Online, February 18, 2005
The president of Davidson College near Charlotte, N.C., has compared the decision by the school’s trustees to open the board’s membership to non-Christians to admitting the first African American and women in the 1960s and 1970s, according to today’s Charlotte Observer.
The Observer published today its only account of the trustees’ Feb. 4 vote to allow up to 20 percent of their board members to be non-Christians.
Besides quoting Davidson President Bobby Vagt, the Observer story said Jon Fuller, a senior fellow at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and a former faculty member at Davidson, offered another rationale for ending the college’s historic policy of requiring its trustees to be members of Christian chuches.
“For a college that’s in the U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 list, it was unusual for Davidson to have that requirement,” Fuller told the Observer. “If you’re a national institution, trying to play on a national scale, you don’t want to have anything on your books that would signal to anyone that they’re a second-class citizen.”
The Observer also quoted some naysayers, including Dr. William Wood, senior minister at the 2,000-member First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.
Davidson College is a highly regarded academic institution that was founded in 1837 by Presbyterians and still has formal ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA). But Woods said he believes there has been “a gradual secularization” of the school “and I have to ask: Has it gone so far that the school no longer has any meaningful relationship to the Presbyterian Church? I think we’ve reached that watershed.”
A former Davidson College trustee, Wood told the Observer that the trustees’ appeals to the Presbyterian tradition as a rationale for the change were a “smokescreen” for what was really a political decision. He said he supports promoting a diversity of ideas at the school, but still believes Davidson needs to be governed from a Christian point of view.
“He worries that if non-Christians join the board, trustees will no longer feel comfortable opening meetings with prayers that invoke Jesus Christ, or that crosses and religious holidays might one day be removed from the school,” the Observer said.
Before the Observer published its after-the-decision story about the changes, The Layman Online had published a number of accounts, including:
Davidson College has gone far on road to secularization, Feb. 9
Davidson College board votes to have non-Christian trustees, Feb. 8
Davidson College trustees to consider opening board to non-Christian members, Dec. 17
Covenant Network plans conference at Davidson College, Dec. 17