Board retreat addresses hot button issues

Every four years, the Board of Trustees extends the biannual meeting to a four-day retreat in Branson, Mo., to make time for in-depth discussions on important issues facing John Brown University. The board focused its attention on two topics affecting both the University and the nation: human sexuality and financial sustainability.

Thursday morning the conversation centered on human sexuality and University policy. The student handbook states the current policy as follows: “While society continues to debate the definition of sex, John Brown University seeks to foster an environment of sexual purity based upon a biblical standard which allows sex only within a marriage relationship.”

Steve Beers, vice president of student development, reiterated that sexual intimacy is reserved between a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage.

“Anything outside of that, whether it is heterosexual sexual intimacy or homosexual sexual intimacy, any of those things are outside the bounds,” Beers said.

Robbie Castleman, associate professor of biblical studies; Rod Reed, University chaplain; Carey Lampton, associate professor of counselor education; Chip Pollard, president; and Beers all made presentations on various aspects of the topic.

Castleman, who authored a white paper on the issue titled “By Design: The Divine Image & Human Sexuality,” presented the issue through a theological lens.

In the white paper she writes, “The Christian community of John Brown University reaffirms without reservation or hint of compromise our recognition of God’s wisdom and benevolent design for human sexuality as exclusive fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman and the safekeeping of chastity in singleness.”

Beers said there was not an official vote, but an informal confirmation of where the institution currently stands.

“It was just a healthy time of good conversations about how the world is changing and that we’re committed to who we’ve been in the past, but it’s complicated, so we were unpacking all of that,” he said.

Beers went on to say that the board serves a population of students who are asking good questions.

“We don’t ever want to be an unsafe place for people to ask tough questions,” he said. “That’s why you’re here. But we are also going to be a place that still holds people accountable for behavior we believe Scripture prohibits, no matter what that behavior is.”

The second topic up for discussion involved the financial sustainability of colleges across the nation. The board examined the challenges and opportunities institutions around the country were facing and what it means for the University.

Ed Ericson, vice president of academic affairs, said one of the primary duties of the board is to assess the financial health of the University, so it is not surprising that is an emphasis during the retreat.

“The changes that might give this topic particular relevance at this point in time could be the ongoing economic difficulties at the national level as well as the accelerating pace of change in higher education as a whole, particularly in the realm of online learning,” Ericson said. “The board wanted to have extended time to better understand and grapple with some of these issues.”

The board and representatives from the administration, faculty and alumni broke up into groups to brainstorm ways the University could cut costs, engage in new initiatives and pursue quality.

Kelsey Daugherty, a student representative as well as SGA president, said she was grateful for the board’s concern for students.

“Every board meeting I’ve gone to—and this is my fourth—I’m always impressed with how much the board really cares for the student body,” Daugherty said. “Every decision, every thought of these meetings is, ‘How is it going to affect students? Is it going to keep students safe? Is it going to make students happy?’… just how much they want campus to thrive for us.”