Committee on Faculty Appointments: A Report Approved by Action of the College Board of Trustees (May 1993)
The Committee on Faculty Appointments (CFA) was appointed by the President of Calvin College, A.J. Diekema, and the President of the Calvin College Board of Trustees, J. De Korne. The appointment of the committee by the two presidents represented two initiatives for the establishing of the committee. One initiative came from the academic deans and the Provost, who recognized the difficulties for departments, faculty candidates, and the BOT created by the long appointment process. They also observed the lack of clearly stated purposes for each step in the appointment process. The other initiative came from the Board of Trustees (BOT). As the BOT was restructuring itself, some members of the board recognized the potential for losing the institution's confessional integrity in the process of change; so they proposed that a plan for maintaining confessional orthodoxy be developed. Since maintaining institutional confessional orthodoxy is largely dependent on the qualifications and commitments of the faculty, these two initiatives were combined in the formation of one committee--the Committee on Faculty Appointments.
The members of the committee are the following: trustees P. Nederveld and J. Witvliet; faculty members E. Ericson, W. Joosse, and J. Primus; and administrators R. Griffioen, F. Roberts, and G. Van Harn (chair).
The mandate of the committee was spelled out in detail as follows:
- to review the mechanism by which Calvin College maintains the confessional integrity of its teaching and scholarship; to evaluate the effectiveness of the current system given the changing character of the institution; to explore other possible structures, policies and procedures for accomplishing this goal; and
- to propose an appropriate model to the Board at its February 1992 meeting.
(Board of Trustee Minutes, February 11, 1991, page 9)
In order to fulfill its mandate, the committee reviewed formative institutional documents: the college constitution, Handbook for Teaching Faculty, Servant Partnerships, a draft of the Expanded Mission Statement, and the recent five-year plan. The committee assessed faculty attitudes and ideas by reviewing the May 1991 Sociology 320 survey done by four students under the direction of Professor William Smit and soliciting advice from faculty and BOT members regarding the appointment process and current requirements for appointment with tenure. The committee also compared the policies and practices of some other Reformed Christian colleges with those of Calvin College.
Various members of the committee submitted position papers on the requirements of Christian school attendance, the signing of the form of subscription, Christian Reformed Church membership, and also on the appointment procedure. Committee discussion of these papers focused on establishing policies and procedures that could result in revision of "Appointment Procedure" (Handbook for Teaching Faculty, Appendix D) and "Tenure at Calvin College" (Handbook for Teaching Faculty, Appendix A). This report presents the recommended changes in policy and procedure as amended and approved by BOT action, that will be incorporated in revisions of these documents.
The reason to appoint a committee to review the appointment procedure and the means for maintaining confessional orthodoxy is the perception that Calvin College, as well as the church and higher education, has been changing. These changes signal the need to re-examine traditional beliefs and practices, and to consider the need to reaffirm them and to adapt them to the times. The challenge is to strike the right balance between continuity and change.
Some of the major changes at Calvin College can be specified: different religious and educational backgrounds of students and faculty members, an effort to engage new partners in the mission of the college, increased academic quality of the faculty, the establishment of separate college and seminary boards, revised criteria for BOT membership, ongoing efforts to promote ethnic diversity through implementation of the "Comprehensive Plan," and challenging financial conditions. These changes suggest that we are starting a new chapter in the history of Calvin College.
The supervising church, the CRC, is also changing. Mission efforts and strategies of the church have expanded, worship patterns have diversified, ethnic and religious backgrounds of its members have become more diverse, there has been movement toward ordination of women and recognition of their gifts in the church, and quota support for the college and other denominational agencies has declined. Associated with these changes are more congregationalism and less commitment to and identification with the denomination and the Reformed tradition. The influence of American evangelicalism is affecting the CRC in its worship, outreach, theology, engagement with social issues, governance, and view of learning and higher education. All of these factors place a strain upon the relationship between Calvin College and the CRC.
At the same time, there is a call within the CRC for a renewal of traditional strengths of the church, many of which involve the college. The church has a tradition of doing serious theological study, giving testimony to Jesus Christ in culture, fostering a public faith, and supporting ministry in word and deed. The CRC, too, seeks the right balance between continuity and change.
Meanwhile, higher education has also been experiencing major changes. Some of these have had a substantial impact on Calvin College. For instance, new definitions of institutional excellence are arising. These definitions inescapably affect the criteria for achieving excellence at Calvin College. There are new expectations regarding diversity of cultures, gender, and ideas. There is also a renewed emphasis on an old view that respectable education is not possible where affirmation of religious faith exists. Such attitudes are promoted by accrediting agencies, academic guilds, and secular graduate schools--a primary source of faculty. In short, the dominant academic culture places a college such as Calvin in an apologetic position as it strives to maintain its identity and mission.
This situation has given rise to a new discussion of the secularization of church-related colleges. The historical studies indicate that secularization is furthered by such factors as church disenchantment with its college, college disappointment with its church, striving for a good reputation and excellence, broadening of control and constituencies, pressure for alternative revenue sources, privatization of religion, and a focus on serving the public rather than the church. This list, while not exhaustive, is uncomfortably similar to the list of changes occurring in the college and church at the present time. The conclusion of most of these studies is that there is "no return" even if such a return is desired.
The CFA has sought policies and procedures that reflect our current need for both continuity and change. The history of church-related higher education causes some to fear and resist all change, but that stance is neither tenable nor desirable. Some change is necessary and beneficial. What history clearly does teach is that changes must be made knowledgeably and carefully.
In doing its work, the CFA always kept in mind the goals of the college and the qualities it desires in its faculty. As a college that affirms the historic Reformed confessions, Calvin College pursues learning that furthers creation and culture, speaks to society's ills, and proclaims the healing that God offers in Jesus Christ. Calvin College strives to provide an education that is dynamic, disciplined, and shaped by the Word of God.
To achieve these goals, faculty are expected to manifest a mature personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to adhere to the Word of God as interpreted in the Reformed confessions, to be committed to the mission of Calvin College, to demonstrate ability to bring Reformed Christian beliefs to bear on teaching and scholarship, and to practice behavior which promotes student development and Christian community.
The following recommendations, as amended and approved by BOT action, relate to the appointment procedures and the requirements for tenure. Some reaffirm existing policy and practice; others propose revision. The appropriate faculty documents on policy and procedure will be amended and submitted to the faculty for adoption.
Revising the faculty documents is not the most important goal of this committee. Throughout its deliberations, the committee recognized that maintaining confessional orthodoxy goes beyond policy and procedures; it can only be achieved through the resolve, the cooperation, and the ongoing work of all members of this community. It is not a responsibility solely of the BOT or of the administration or of the faculty. We have focused on the faculty, of course, because that was the nature of our mandate. But the faculty are not the only "keepers" of institutional identity and integrity, and we think a proper procedure for the faculty can be a model for the BOT and staff as well.
I. Procedure for Appointment
For the purposes of this study, the appointment procedure was defined broadly to encompass the processes from the time of determination of departmental faculty needs to the time of the first reappointment--a period which exceeds the actual hiring process. It includes determination of department needs, definition of the position, recruitment of candidates, consideration of applications, recommendations for appointment, appointment, and orientation, (the period from arrival on campus to the first reappointment). This broad definition recognizes that the first months and years of appointment are important to the development by new faculty of an understanding of and commitment to the purposes of the college.
Also, the CFA judged that, as there is an important and appropriate involvement of the department in the appointment of new faculty, so there is also an equally important and appropriate all-college responsibility. It was the consensus in the committee that the current procedures rely too heavily on the departments to represent the all-college interests.
A. Role of the academic deans
The Committee on Faculty Appointments recommends that the leadership responsibility of the academic deans in ensuring that all-college interests are considered in the appointment of faculty be made explicit in the appointment procedure documents.
The general all-college interests referred to in this recommendation are effective teaching, appropriate scholarship, academic advising, and the Reformed and liberal arts character of the college. They also include special interests that are or may become part of the goals of the college: e.g., ethnic minority goals, gender balance, and interdisciplinary studies. While all these are college interests, departments often need guidance in incorporating them into departmental goals.
A review of the appointment procedure indicated to the CFA that responsibility for all-college interests was assumed to belong to everyone, yet was not clearly assigned to anyone. The proposal, while not reducing the responsibility of all members of the faculty for these goals, does specifically charge the academic deans with this obligation. The deans have contact with departments from the time of determination of staff needs all the way to the reappointment process and, hence, are best positioned to represent the all-college interests. In addition to knowing department plans, they are very aware of institutional priorities.
B. Communication with candidates
The CFA recommends that, in communication with candidates for faculty positions, the chairperson be responsible for clearly and systematically presenting to applicants the character of the college and requirements for faculty membership and tenure.
Materials presented to applicants will, of course, vary with each stage of application. For example, candidates should be informed that the letter of application should include a statement of religious commitment, while those candidates selected for an on-campus visit should receive information about the mission of the college, facts about the faculty and students, a college catalog, a statement on requirements for faculty membership, and materials about the department.
In reviewing the procedure for appointment, the committee learned that the introduction of the college to candidates is not carried on consistently from one department to another. While some candidates are informed about the character of the college and the requirements for tenure, others do not learn these until they join the faculty. A standard procedure with approved documents will bring consistency to the presentations and increase assurance that candidates are fully informed before they decide on an appointment offer.
C. The role of the BOT in the appointment procedure
The CFA recommends that the initial BOT interview of a faculty member occur at the time of the first reappointment. The BOT will appoint two trustees to serve as enfranchised members of the Professional Status Committee during interviews for initial faculty appointments.
The current practice
is to have all appointees to tenure-track positions interviewed by the
full BOT and all term appointees interviewed by the Executive Committee
of the BOT. Under the proposed policy, candidates for regular appointment
would not be interviewed by the BOT at the initial appointment, but would
be interviewed during the process for the first reappointment. Candidates
for term appointments would not be interviewed by the BOT for their first
appointment to the faculty. However, if they are recommended for a second
term appointment, they would be interviewed by either the Executive Committee
or the full BOT.
The requirement of a BOT interview at the time of the initial appointment has created problems for the nominee, the department, the administration, and the BOT. Since, in the current process, the BOT interview often does not take place until May, the process is prolonged and the nominee is forced to make decisions regarding other employment or offers before the appointment to Calvin College is official. For departments, the official appointment comes long after alternative candidates have accepted other offers, so that it is too late to begin the process again. In order to make an appointment offer to the nominee, the Provost must send a legally binding letter of appointment before the official appointment by the BOT. The process thus preempts the free action of the BOT because of the board's knowledge that an appointment letter has already been presented to the nominee.
In addition, candidates are usually least prepared for the BOT interview at the time of the initial appointment. Some are still minimally familiar with the mission and culture of Calvin College. At the time of the first reappointment, the faculty member should be better able to speak to the issues of interest to the BOT.
The proposed schedule still provides the BOT opportunity to become acquainted with the faculty and to be involved in the important reappointment process, and affords representation of the Board in the initial hiring decision, while avoiding the logistical problems that have been associated with interviews by the full BOT at the time of initial appointment.
D. Orientation of new faculty.
The CFA recommends that a formal process of orientation be required of all new appointees on regular appointment.
The process of orientation would run from the starting date of appointment to the time of the first reappointment. It would feature a substantial seminar (throughout the year, in the interim, or immediately following commencement) during the first year. The seminar would focus on the religious tradition and philosophy of education of Calvin College. The seminar participants would be new appointees plus a three-member orientation committee of tenured faculty members. The committee would have the responsibility for arranging and conducting the seminar. At the end of the seminar, the new appointees would prepare a paper which explores a Reformed worldview topic or does theological reflection on an issue appropriate to his or her teaching. In the subsequent fall semester, the seminar participants would discuss these papers.
At their discretion, the academic deans could invite selected term appointees to participate in the seminar. For example, on some occasions a term appointment is made to someone to whom the college expects to offer a regular appointment when a tenure-track position becomes available. While it might be good for all new appointees to participate, this program would presumably require resources beyond those now available for faculty orientation. Therefore, the CFA is not recommending an orientation seminar for all term appointees.
A fundamental goal of the college is to have all faculty understand and embrace its educational philosophy and Reformed worldview. We cannot assume that all new faculty members come to us adequately equipped with these acquirements.
The goal of the orientation process is to bring new faculty into the intellectual life, culture, history, and purpose of Calvin College. The intent is that the mission of the college and the faith upon which it is based be such a vital part of this community that each member is supported and encouraged in that faith and adopts the mission as his or her own.
Currently, such commitment develops informally through discussions with colleagues, reading of college documents, and personal study. The proposed orientation process would make formal for all regular faculty members what now occurs informally for some, albeit usually over a longer period of time. An early and formal study of Calvin's educational philosophy and Reformed worldviews will assist new faculty in embracing the mission of the college. The orientation process should bring coherence and integrity to the work and life of each faculty member as well as to this academic community. It is also hoped that such discussion with new members will encourage active discussion of faith and learning among all faculty at Calvin College.
E. Length of initial appointment
The CFA recommends that the length of the first appointment to a regular position be three years.
The change in the length of the first appointment entails a change in the appointment schedule leading to tenure. Faculty on regular appointment would be considered for appointment with tenure in the seventh year of appointment after two reappointments for two years apiece. Thus, the normal pattern for tenure-track appointments would be as follows: three years, two years, two years, tenure. Currently, tenure normally comes in the eighth year after four appointments of two years apiece.
The three-year initial appointment would be for faculty on regular appointment. Term appointments for one or two years would continue to be options. The change in length of initial appointment should not be used as an argument to justify term appointments; the rationale for a term appointment should be independent of the length of initial regular appointments.
The three-year term suggests a change in the schedule of trustee visits to classes. Whereas the visits now occur in the year of reappointment, under the proposed revision the trustees should visit classes in the year before reappointment.
Currently, the process for reappointment begins in the fall semester of the second year. This schedule allows only one year for a new faculty member to receive evaluations and respond to them. Even in cases where the evaluations indicate weak performance, departments may well conclude that the probation period has been too short to allow the new colleague to demonstrate improvement. The initial three-year term would allow more time for evaluation of and development by new faculty members.
With the additional time, departments should be more ready to make a negative decision on reappointment when the new colleague does not demonstrate substantial evidence of potential for teaching and scholarship or of embracing the college mission. As always, continuing appointment during the first three years does depend upon satisfactory performance each year, as determined by one's department and chairperson.
II. Requirements for Appointment
The requirements for appointment to the faculty of Calvin College are stated in "Tenure at Calvin College" (Handbook for Teaching Faculty, Appendix A.) These include subscription "to the forms of unity of the Reformed Churches," membership in the Christian Reformed Church, and prof Christian education on all its levels, including sending one's children to a Christian school. While adherence to these requirements is formally requested at the time of consideration for tenure, the understanding is that all faculty will work toward meeting these requirements as soon as possible after joining the faculty. There have been some exceptions, but they are relatively few.
The following recommendations constitute the normal requirements for appointment. Therefore, they do not include references to exceptions. To draw up guidelines governing exceptions would be to remove them from the realm of the exceptional. The CFA recognizes that there may be exceptions, however, and supports continuing the practice of making exceptions when that is prudent. The authority to grant exceptions resides with the Board of Trustees. The committee advises that exceptions be considered only upon special request and that the President take action on the requests upon the recommendation of the academic dean and Provost, who will normally seek the advice of the Professional Status Committee. Procedures for granting exceptions should be established and placed in the Handbook for Teaching Faculty.
Since these are the formally stated requirements and it is assumed that the major purpose of the requirements is to maintain the confessional integrity of the college, the committee reviewed each of them and presents the following recommendations.
A. Form of Subscription
The CFA recommends retention of the requirement that all new faculty members sign a synodically approved Form of Subscription.
Signing of the Form of Subscription means affirming the three forms of unity: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordtrecht. The requirement for affirming the doctrinal positions of the church has not come in for much criticism. While questions about the relevance for college teachers of the signing of the Form of Subscription were expressed as early as the 1950s, there is little disagreement that there should be some means to protect and maintain the Reformed theology which undergirds the college. Most of the questions about signing the Form of Subscription relate to the meaning of such signing.
The Reformed churches are what church historians call "confessional churches." These churches, while affirming the final authority of the Scriptures for faith and life, also recognize the need to structure the doctrines contained in Scripture in a way that assures true adherence to the Reformed expression of Christianity. Since the time of the Reformation, the Reformed churches have shared with the broader Church, including Roman Catholics, the Apostles' Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Nicene Creed. All of these creeds were written and approved by the Church in response to heresies. They became yardsticks by which to measure the correctness of the theologians and pastors of the Church for centuries thereafter. When one signs the Form of Subscription today, one affirms, in addition to other affirmations, agreement with these so-called "Ecumenical Creeds."
During the Protestant Reformation the "heresy" was Roman Catholicism, and two of the Reformed creeds, The Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, were written in reaction and response to this Church as alternative statements of the doctrines of Scripture. There were, in addition, some other lesser "heresies" which also had to be addressed: certain views of the Anabaptists, which were addressed in the Belgic Confession, and certain views of the Lutherans, which were addressed in the Heidelberg Catechism. The third Reformed creed, the Canons of Dordrecht, comes significantly later, in the post-Reformation period. It is essentially an interpretation of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Before the Synod of Dordrecht, ministers and professors had been asked to sign their names to the catechism and confession. With the emergence of Arminianism, the Reformed churches implemented the Form of Subscription which required affirmation of all the doctrines contained in the creeds of the Reformed churches because "they do fully agree with the Word of God."
The Reformed identity of the college is best expressed in these three forms of unity. These forms provide a basis for a temporal and spatial unity, i.e., with the historic Reformed churches and those throughout the world. Although to some extent the creeds show the temporal conditions under which they were written, they have also withstood many tests through the centuries. The use of this form identifies Calvin College with the Christian faith as expressed in the Reformed tradition.
In addition to affirming the central teachings of the Scriptures, the Form of Subscription prescribes a means of determining whether a faculty member's teaching is faithful to the creeds. The process of determining faithfulness to the creeds is as important as the teachings themselves. In using the Form, the college has decided in favor of relying upon a historic document rather than substituting for it both a statement of faith and a means for testing adherence to it that is specific to this institution in the twentieth century.
The meaning of the signing of the Form of Subscription has been a recurring question. Both the Synod of the CRC and the BOT have addressed this issue, and both state what it does and does not mean.
1. In regard to doctrinal teachings, the signing means
The person . . . subscribes without reservation to all the doctrines contained in the standards of the church, as being doctrines which are taught in the Word of God. . . . A sincere acceptance, without reservation, of the doctrines articulated in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. (BOT Minutes, Article 54, February 1991)
The subscriber does not by his subscription declare that these doctrines are all stated in the best possible manner, or that the standards of our church cover all that the Scriptures teach on the matters confessed. Nor does he declare that every teaching of the Scriptures is set forth in our confessions, or that every heresy is rejected and refuted by them.
A subscriber is only bound by his subscription to those doctrines which are confessed, and is not bound to the references, allusions, and remarks that are incidental to the formulation of these doctrines set forth in the confessions. (Acts of Synod 1976, pp. 68-70)
2. In regard to one's work as a faculty member, the signing means
A sincere pledge to teach, speak, and write in harmony with these confessions and doctrines.
A sincere effort not to knowingly contradict these confessions and doctrines, even privately or indirectly, but certainly not publicly or directly in teaching, speaking, or writing.
. . . our personal profession and our professional work are to be conducted in a way wholly consistent with and informed by these confessions and doctrines.
. . . signing the Form of Subscription does not prevent a person from continuing study, further research, or personal reflection on the Scriptures, the Creation, and/or the Confessions together with the doctrines addressed in them." (BOT Minutes, Article 54, February 1991)
3. In regard to disagreement with the confessions, signing the Form of Subscription means
. . . no one is free to decide for himself or the church what is and what is not a doctrine confessed in the standards. In the event that such a question should arise, the decision of the assemblies of the church shall be sought and acquiesced in." (Acts of Synod 1976, pp. 68-70)
. . . no individual
is free to decide for himself or for the Church what is not a doctrine
confessed in the standards. That decision rests with the assemblies of
the Church." (BOT Minutes, Article 54, February 1991)
The value of requiring
signing the Form of Subscription is that it gives expression to our personal
profession for our life and work and places us within the broader Reformed
tradition. Use of the same form as that used by the CRC also helps the
college keep faith with the church with which we are most closely related.
It also affirms the oneness of faith and commitment with the Church, Christian
Reformed as well as Reformed in the more general sense. Furthermore, use
of the Form acknowledges that the doctrines are of the church, rather
than of an individual person or institution, and assures an orderly way
of bringing about change and settling disagreements regarding the teachings.
So signing the Form of Subscription helps to protect the Reformed character
of the college by a common affirmation and ensures that adherence to this
affirmation is done communally.
Maintaining the confessional orthodoxy of the college and establishing its identity as a confessional college start with the affirmation of the doctrines of the church. The doctrines of the church as formulated in an ecclesiastical community place the college in a tradition that has persisted and in a community that is larger than the college itself. This subscription also provides the support and procedures of the church for maintaining confessional orthodoxy.
The CFA also suggests the following for implementation of the recommendation:
- That the Form be rewritten in modern language in a way that retains the intent of the original. The current version of the Form for the college and seminary was adopted in 1951. Any process of revision should seek support from the CRC, and the final version would need approval by the BOT.
- That the college introduce a procedure for signing the Form that honors the communal character of the act and the institution.
- That the above explanation of the purpose and meaning of this affirmation be given to faculty candidates, along with a copy of The Contemporary Testimony.
B. Christian Reformed Church Membership
The CFA recommends modification of the current church membership requirement as follows: a faculty member shall be a professing member in good standing and an active participant in the life, worship, and activities of a Christian Reformed Church or of any church which is a member of a denomination in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC as defined by the Synod.
Though the CRC has established ecclesiastical fellowship with twenty-two denominations world-wide, the North American churches are the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church of America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Korean American Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.
One of the requirements for tenured faculty at Calvin College is currently stated as follows: "A teacher shall be a member of the Christian Reformed Church" (Handbook for Teaching Faculty, Appendix A). It is a requirement with a long history at Calvin, initially adopted because the college was founded by the Christian Reformed Church. For well over a century, while most other denominational colleges in our country have gradually loosened or altogether severed their denominational ties, an extraordinarily close relationship between our college and its founding church has endured. To this day, Calvin College is not simply "church related"; it is actually maintained and governed by the Christian Reformed Church through its Synod and the Board of Trustees.
The CFA believes that Calvin College is what it is today largely because of its relationship to the Christian Reformed Church. It is from that church that the college has received the Reformed legacy, which functions not merely as a sentimental tradition but as the continuing basis for the educational philosophy driving this college and providing its very reason for being. The theological tradition of the Christian Reformed Church has not only shaped the college's history; it continues to define the college's mission. The church also provides for the college a larger supportive community of faith, which embraces the college with love, concern, and prayer, and from which the college derives the majority of its students. The close relationship of church and college has been the primary source of the college's identity--the moral, spiritual, confessional, cultural, educational, theological, historical identity which is indispensable for institutional cohesiveness and for that unity of purpose and mission without which an organization cannot survive and flourish. One of the most important and effective means of maintaining that close relationship between church and college has been the tenure requirement of CRC membership.
While we acknowledge the significant role the CRC has in our identity and mission, we recognize also that the college is a part of a broader Reformed confessional tradition. We seek partners with people and institutions in this broader community, for they enrich this college, help clarify our identity, and join us in the mission of higher education. The expanded statement of mission encourages "the development of greater dialogue and cooperation with individuals and institutions of various Christian institutions." President Diekema's plan for Servant Partnerships also seeks engagement of a constituency that goes beyond the CRC for doing the work of the college and achieving its goals.
The dual goals of maintaining the college's identity with the Christian Reformed Church and giving expression to our place in a broader confessional community may seem to some contradictory. However, they need not be in opposition, for the CRC itself has established its place in the broader community through voluntary associations and cooperative efforts. The CFA acknowledges that policies and procedures which follow from these two goals will differ according to the particular area of the college to which they are applied. For example, a visiting lecturer policy will implement this duality differently than will a policy on selecting a president and administrative team. Similarly, student and faculty recruitment policies will differ because of the differing responsibilities that the two groups have within the college. There will also be differences in policies regarding cooperative educational programs and Board of Trustees membership. However, each policy and procedure will give its proper expression to these two goals.
Since the nature of the faculty is the most critical factor in shaping the character of the college, we must attend carefully to the qualifications of the faculty and the requirements for membership on it. In forming a faculty, we seek to maintain the institutional identity with the CRC; to nurture a deep and abiding commitment of religious faith, a faith summed up in these words: "adherence to the Word of God as interpreted by the Reformed confessions", and "obedient service to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom"; to provide an education which engages other religious traditions and promotes dialogue and discussion; and to serve the CRC in its relationship with churches with which it has ecclesiastical fellowship.
Achieving these goals seems best served by a church membership requirement that goes somewhat beyond the CRC. But how far? The CFA recommends that the church membership requirement extend to all denominations in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC. The CRC identity is maintained by the church's role in defining that community. So, too, is the goal of maintaining a faculty with a deep and abiding Christian faith, since the CRC's voluntary associations are with denominations which, among other things, seek such spirituality in their members. This recommendation does not address directly the educational task of dialogue with other, more diverse traditions. That is a task to be achieved not by having those diverse views embodied within the faculty but by having Reformed faculty members who understand and present alternative perspectives with fair-mindedness and integrity. Finally, faculty members whose church membership is with a denomination in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC will be an important connection for both denominations in their mutual understanding and cooperation.
The CFA realizes that this proposed change in the church membership requirement does not go far enough to satisfy some members of this community. We are well aware of the common objections to the church membership requirement, e.g., that it unduly restricts the recruitment of faculty members. Such concerns were weighed against the important goal of assuring our Reformed Christian character. Other goals must be seen within the context of this character of the college.
Others within this community will object to the change because they see CRC membership as the primary basis for maintaining the identity and Reformed character of the college. In addition, they are reminded of such studies of the decline and fall of the Christian college as James Burtchaell's, in which he concludes that the dissolution of the church-college relationship has typically come about through an incremental series of seemingly innocent, reasonable, innocuous decisions that have in reality led to the secularization of many institutions of higher learning in our land. We think that this proposal honors our relationship to the CRC, since it is the CRC that has defined the confessional community of which the faculty will be a part. This change does allow for expression of Christian liberty within the church community of which this college is a part. Furthermore, this change, which is a loosening of a requirement, is coupled with other procedures which make the connection with the Reformed tradition and theology stronger.
C. Christian School Requirement
The CFA recommends retention of a requirement that Calvin College faculty members normally provide their children with Christian schooling.
At the moment, the single statement governing the Christian-schooling requirement--unelaborated and undefended, and specified only in a dependent clause, at that--appears in the tenure document under the heading of "Conditions of Appointment to Tenured Status and Failure to Achieve Tenure Status," specifically under the sub-heading "Rules Which Apply to Consideration for Tenured Status":
That, as an endorsement of the Christian philosophy which forms the basis of education at Calvin College, a teacher shall promote Christian education on all its levels. This means, among other things, that he or she will be concerned with the issues and problems confronting Christian education, will be willing to provide leadership where his or her special competence warrants, and, if he or she has children, will normally send them to the Christian schools. ("Tenure at Calvin College," Appendix A of Faculty Handbook).
Indeed, as regards requirement and rationale, greater syntactical weight is given to the rationale ("That, as an endorsement of the Christian philosophy which forms the basis of education at Calvin College, a teacher shall promote Christian education on all its levels") than to the requirement ("if he or she has children, will normally send them to the Christian schools").
This rhetorical arrangement bespeaks a time in the college's history when persons invited to join the faculty were drawn from among those who were already committed to Christian schooling, usually through personal experience of it, and thus had little need for a rationale for the college's requirement. That is to say, they were drawn from those precincts within the broader spectrum of adherents to the Reformed tradition which historically had established and supported Christian schools.
This situation no longer pertains. Today the college intentionally casts its net wider in the recruitment of faculty. It continues to seek persons committed to the Reformed tradition, but it does not limit its search to faculty candidates who have had prior experience with or commitment to Christian schooling for children. Therefore, if the college is to retain this requirement, it has a moral obligation to explain the grounds for it. Faculty candidates will then have a vital piece of information to help them understand the nature of this college community and to determine whether it is one in which they can thrive and flourish. In short, this is one aspect of the full disclosure of its character which the college should eagerly convey to all of its faculty candidates.
The data from the Sociology 320 survey of the faculty indicate that this requirement is more problematic than other institutional requirements for faculty membership. This requirement more than others impinges on the freedom and responsibility of parents. For faculty members with school-age children it involves a commitment of the spouse as well as the faculty member and entails a substantial financial obligation. The arguments against the requirement from principle focus on the primary role and responsibility of the parents in determining the education of their children--an issue of sphere sovereignty.
Since the College seeks to offer a certain type of education, it has an institutional responsibility to ensure that teachers support this task. It looks to various factors to assess the integrity of the faculty members in embracing this educational philosophy. Sending children to the Christian school is one component of the measure of that commitment. Herein lies the difficulty. The institution in faithful exercise of its responsibility has requirements which constrain the faculty member and spouse from autonomously exercising their parental responsibility.
Not only are there more objections to this requirement than any other, but the force of those who object seems greater than it is to the other requirements. However, there is also much support for this requirement, and among these supporters it appears that this requirement is considered the most important one for maintaining the educational mission and integrity of the college.
The CFA recognizes the dilemma raised by this requirement. In the attempts to maintain institutional integrity, this requirement may impinge on parental autonomy. While that happens to some degree in most communities, the committee members recognize that meeting this particular requirement involves a major commitment. Fortunately, the vast majority of faculty readily and eagerly fulfill this requirement.
The requirement is applicable to grades K through 12. Christian schools that are members of Christian Schools International are expected to be the primary schools of choice for faculty since they are based on an educational philosophy similar to that of Calvin College. However, home schooling and sending children to other schools that base their education on the Christian faith could also fulfill the requirement.
The heart of the rationale for the requirement of Christian schooling of children of faculty members lies in precisely the item touched upon, albeit briefly, in the current statement: that it is "an endorsement of the Christian philosophy which forms the basis of education at Calvin College." Without its philosophy of education, the college loses its raison d'etre as a distinctive institution of higher learning. This philosophy is an application to the sphere of education of central principles of Reformed theology.
The Reformed tradition of Christian theology rests its weight most heavily on the teaching of the sovereignty of God. Under God's heaven the creation order gives us human beings the mandate to rule responsibly as stewards over all of nature and of human cultural productions, both tangible and intangible. In obedience to God, we are charged with developing, to the fullest extent that our common fallen condition allows, all aspects of our created condition of humanness, that is, of our being image-bearers of God himself. Reformed teaching brooks no division of human thoughts and deeds into separable realms of the sacred and the secular. Rather, it declares that all of human life is inherently and inescapably religious.
Thus, in terms of education, Reformed teaching denies ultimacy to the notions of neutrality and objectivity, or of value-free scholarship and teaching, which have gained widespread credence in our modern secular culture. Instead, it focuses its attention upon worldviews, to the point of insisting that all educational enterprises are grounded in them, wittingly or unwittingly. Even a public school functions on the basis of a worldview. This point is often implicitly acknowledged in a school's (or school district's) statement of purpose, which usually features preparing persons for citizenship in a democracy. However such a worldview of a public school is to be defined, it cannot seriously be defined as Christian, to say nothing of Reformed. Calvin College openly and unapologetically embraces a Reformed Christian worldview and seeks to carry on all of its activities in a way that honors and adheres to that worldview. The college freely and enthusiastically takes as its central task the effort to integrate faith and learning, allowing no disjunction between the life of the spirit and the life of the mind. Accepting the teaching of common grace, it takes into its purview all achievements of human works and words, whether issuing from regenerate or unregenerate hearts. Accepting the teaching of the antithesis, it acknowledges that there are competing, unacceptable worldviews.
These understandings of Reformed educational philosophy newcomers to the Calvin faculty generally accept, if occasionally somewhat inchoately at first and with growing appreciation as time passes. Indeed, in fairness to all involved, the college should scrupulously refrain from hiring any person for whom these fundamental understandings are foreign or uncongenial. It should be, and normally is, the case that the distinctive educational philosophy of the college is precisely what attracts newcomers to its faculty. In varying degrees they arrive already having caught the vision of integrating faith and learning, and they see the pertinence of it to their lives as Christian academics in the Reformed tradition.
In terms of the Christian-school requirement, what the college asks of its faculty members is that they accept that these basic Reformed understandings have a cogency not limited to grades 13-16 of a person's educational experience but apply throughout. Indeed, it is easy to make the principal case that, the lower the grade and therefore the more fundamental the shaping of a worldview, the more strongly these understandings apply. Candidates for appointment, reappointment, and tenure write statements of educational philosophy which regularly accord with the Reformed understandings sketched above. What the college asks of its faculty members is that they provide schooling for their children, whether in Christian day schools or at home, which accords with their own statements of educational philosophy.
The above statement stands on its own as the governing rationale for the Christian-school requirement. There are other matters which may be called contributing rationales. By themselves they would not suffice as a rationale. However, taken along with the above statement, they lend additional weight in defense of the requirement. These contributing rationales are based on covenant theology and participation in the broader Christian-school community.
Reformed theology is sometimes alternately called covenant theology, and the concept of the covenant is an inextricable part of the whole. The baptism of infants is the chief ecclesiastical rite signaling this concept. In that rite the members of the church pledge to aid and to support the parents in rearing the child in the Christian faith. For their part, the parents are acknowledging that they stand in need of the aid and support of the Christian community in rearing their child. In terms that describe our Christian presence in secular North American culture, these parents are eschewing the rampant autonomy of individualism and are committing themselves and their child to the communitarian vision inherent in the concept of the covenant. In the light of the pledges of parents and congregants at the service of baptism, it is a most natural and fitting extension of the communitarian vision for these adults to band together to provide parent-run Christian schools for their covenant children.
It is to be freely conceded that, as regards education, this arrangement is not the only way for parents and congregants to be faithful to the baptismal vows. That this is so can be seen by the fact that not all Reformed ecclesiastical communities have developed Christian day schools. Nevertheless, the particular Reformed ecclesiastical community which gave birth to Calvin College chose long ago to develop Christian schools as a major means of fulfilling its covenantal obligations. It remains a viable means, and the more so in a thoroughly secularized culture.
A second contributing rationale is that Calvin College is part of a Christian- school community of elementary and secondary schools in the Reformed Christian tradition. The teachers, students, parents, administrators, and boards make up that community. Calvin College has a long history of leadership of those schools through preparation and development of teachers and curriculum materials. Christian schools, in turn, provide a large percentage of the Calvin College students, and that school community supports the college with prayers and finances.
This history of mutual support indicates a significant measure of trust among the members of these individual schools. The Christian-school requirement is an important symbol of that trust as well as a commitment to a particular kind of education. Given the interdependence of this community and the growing support for alternative school systems, it does not seem prudent to change evidence of that trust and jeopardize our leadership position within the broader Christian-school community.
A private college has the right and the authority, within the limits of the law of the land, to define itself as it sees fit. The very philosophy of education which is the central defining characteristic of Calvin College, is the engine which drives its Christian-school requirement. This requirement also comports well with covenant theology and is an important symbol of mutual trust within the Christian-school community. The college seeks to attract faculty members who will find a happy home in this particular Christian community.
The CFA recommends that the college seek ways to ease the financial burden incurred by the Christian school requirement.
Easing the financial burden could be accomplished in more than one way. Obviously, a direct contribution by the college is one such way. Others include working with the IRS to gain a ruling that Christian school tuition is a legitimate deduction for those people for whom sending children to the Christian schools is a job requirement. Another is to provide prudent support to campaigns for equity in the funding of private and public education. While the CFA does not prescribe one way for achieving this assistance, it does recommend that the college present a more detached set of recommendations for providing some financial relief for faculty parents of school-age children who attend Christian day schools.
The financial burden for Christian-school tuition is substantial. This has long been recognized in the structure of the salary schedule for the faculty, but faculty salaries are not of sufficient amount to eliminate the challenge of Christian-school tuition. Furthermore, since this requirement is considered important to the character and integrity of the educational program, the college should assist in meeting this requirement.
In conclusion, the Committee recognizes that the college confronts a critical moment in its development. On the one hand, there is a great need for our Christian voice in the academy. On the other hand, there are changes in the college, church, and society which could divert us from our central mission. In our concern for retaining our confessional identity, affirming the Kuyperian neo-Calvinism that shapes our educational philosophy, and expressing our institutional mission faithfully, we offer these recommendations to the college faculty and Board of Trustees.
The CFA recommends that, in communication with candidates for faculty positions, the chairperson be responsible for clearly and systematically presenting to applicants the character of the college and requirements for faculty membership and tenure.