Cedarville's Tenure Tremor
This story has been updated to reflect the board of trustees' decision Friday.
Cedarville University has become entangled in a dispute over theology and academic freedom after it terminated two tenured professors in July 2007. Cedarville's board of trustees upheld Bible professor David Hoffeditz's termination Friday, despite a report from a faculty grievance panel of five professors that determined that the college had made "administrative missteps" in the termination process. In classrooms, the professors openly challenged other faculty members whom they felt encouraged postmodern or Emergent theology.
"[The board] examined all of the evidence and the testimonies and so on and were convinced without a shadow of a doubt that he had violated his contract. It was not over doctrinal, theological issues at all," President William Brown told Christianity Today. Brown declined to discuss the details why Hoffeditz was terminated but said that they have to deal with the university's standards. "[Standards] involved how you treat each other, how you talk about each other, what's acceptable, and what's not. [Those standards] among others were violated."
The vote was unanimous. "Imagine trying to get 30 Baptists to agree on something that is just really phenomenal," Brown said, and laughed. "We couldn't agree on lunch today, actually."
Hoffeditz is a Cedarville alumnus and taught at the university for about seven years. His wife is currently a counselor at the university.
"It's not what we had hoped for, nor do I believe it was the correct decision," said Mark Miller, Hoffeditz's lawyer. "[Litigation] has not been taken off the table. That's not what we're looking for; we're looking for a resolution."
The theological aspects of the dispute center on the degree of certainty Christians can have regarding their beliefs about God and other central doctrinal matters. A Cedarville Q&A webpage dedicated to the controversy indicates that some among the university community are concerned that the institution may be moving in a "postmodern" or "Emergent" direction.
All faculty are required to sign the "Truth and Certainty" statement, a document created in 2006 that states that objective truth exists, that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant, and that Christians can be assured of their salvation.
The American Association of University Professors has launched an investigation since the two professors' termination. Cedarville was criticized openly in a January letter written by past and current professors and circulated to the school's professors, administrators, and trustees.
Although the professors are still listed on its website, Cedarville notified tenured Bible professors Hoffeditz and David Mappes in July that their contracts were being terminated. The notification came just four months after the officials had issued them contracts for the 20072008 year.
Students have also been caught up in the dispute. Senior Josh Storts secretly taped and distributed a two-hour-long discussion with Robert Milliman, Cedarville's academic vice president. In the recording, the administrator told Storts that the university chose the timing of the professors' termination so it wouldn't interfere with the accreditation process last year.
Another student, Kevin Smith, transferred out of Cedarville because he could not afford the college costs when his job as a residence-hall assistant was taken away. Smith said the position was revoked because he had sent a letter to the Board of Trustees about the professors' termination and publicly discussed the issue.