Resignation Of An Idaho University President Was About Longtime Tensions With Faculty

May 15, 2015

This week's resignation of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) President David Alexander has largely been blamed on backlash for firing a particular professor. When tenured theology professor Thomas Oord was fired, administrators said it was part of a budgetary shift at the private, religious university in Nampa. Another faculty member and four staff members were also laid off.

Students and faculty rallied to Oord’s defense, faculty issued a vote of no confidence in Alexander who eventually said he’d step down later this month. Kelcie Moseley, who covers higher education for the Idaho Press-Tribune newspaper in Nampa, says Oord was very popular with students.

“He’s one of those people who just really connects well with students,” Moseley says. “His message is often about love. That’s one of the things that students kept repeating to me is that he’s a professor who often talks about love and Jesus Christ.”

But Oord also talked and wrote about evolution. Oord believes that evolutionary theory can fit with teachings about creation, but others within the Church of the Nazarene disagree. Moseley says Oord and Alexander had sparred over the issue in the past.

She says it’s widely believed on campus that when Oord lost his job, it was in retaliation for these controversial views. But she says the professor's firing was not the cause of the faculty's problems with the university president.

“What I’ve heard from some of the people that joined the Facebook group that ended up being a center point for this whole controversy, is that they joined less out of love for Thomas Oord, and more of a cultural problem with faculty and staff versus the administration.”

Moseley says faculty dissatisfaction had been building for a long time and Oord’s firing was just the catalyst.

“They felt like they were not being listened to on a number of issues, and when it came down to this big budgetary issue that was involving layoffs, they were not consulted, they were not told,” Moseley says. “And a lot of people felt that that was disrespectful.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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