Christian University Leaders Meet to Discuss Increasing Diversity on Campuses

CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra, from left, moderates a panel includine Robin Baker, president of George Fox University; David Hoag, president of Warner University; Andrea Cook, president of Warner Pacific University; David Wright, president of Indiana Wesleyan University; and Ron Matthews, president of Eastern University during the CCCU Diversity Conference on Oct. 5, 2019, at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

The images of marchers with tiki torches chanting “You will not replace us!” at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, are still vivid in Brenda Salter McNeil’s mind.

They looked just “like any other student,” Salter McNeil said.

She wondered if any of them could have been Christian students.

“There’s a majority of students on Christian colleges and university campuses who think racial reconciliation and diversity are some sort of a radical, liberal, politically motivated social agenda,” she said. “They don’t believe this has anything to do with their faith.

“It raises the question of what type of disciples we’re forming, and what kingdom we’re educating them to be obedient to.”

Salter McNeil, an associate professor at Seattle Pacific University, took the stage Saturday (Oct. 5) at George Fox University in Newberg to talk about what she called “diversity as discipleship” at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Diversity Conference.

About 300 people attended the conference Oct. 4-5. It was a consortium of Christian university presidents, human resources professionals, faculty and administrators seeking ways to diversify their campuses. This was the third such gathering for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), an evangelical association of more than 180 schools.

In this space, people examined anti-racism advocacy and cultural responsibility through biblical theology. Many said they sought inclusivity in their Christ-centered institutions in order to “look more like the kingdom of God” and to be a place that is “reflective of the kingdom of heaven.”

The conference addressed providing outreach to undocumented students, offering support for first-generation students, and hiring more faculty of color.

Keith Newman, president of Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma, said just waiting “for someone to see something on a website” is not going to help hire more diverse staff. Newman and Lena Crouso, vice president of Intercultural Learning at Southern Nazarene University, took questions during a workshop that touched on hiring strategies.

Newman said inviting people to apply for open positions has made a difference. To Newman, seeing results means “making sure we have gone everywhere and anywhere and recruited.” This process may take longer, but it will be worth it, he said.

“We live in this culture where convenience has become a big thing,” Newman said.

Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, moderated a panel of presidents of five Christian colleges to talk about fostering racial and ethnic diversity on their respective campuses.

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Source: Religion News Service