During his three years as president of Regent University, Carlos Campo never walked away from controversy. He spoke out frequently about immigration reform, the lack of civil dialogue between Christians and the LGBT community, and his passion for "color-blind" higher education.
In his first interview since suddenly leaving Pat Robertson's school—its second president to depart mere weeks into the school year—Campo spoke this week with Tim Morgan, senior editor for global journalism. (CT also offers an extensive profile of Campo's rise from valet parker to university president and Latino evangelical leader within 10 years.)
Nobody seemed to see your resignation coming. It was a thunderclap for lots of folks. Did you see it coming?
I did see it coming. But when it occurred, it did come as a surprise. Regent has been an institution with a pretty volatile past in some ways. You know, folks come and go rather rapidly. And there were five previous presidents other than Dr. Robertson to me, and many of them left rather suddenly. So I knew it was likely to happen with me.
But it's not so unusual at a founder-led institution for there to be rapid change like this. And I think that's to be anticipated. I think people that know Regent well, if you were to go on campus and talk to folks, they would say they were not so surprised.
People are searching for clues. They are saying, "It was the 'Mission Congo' film." Or your advocacy for immigration reform. Can you shed any light on that?
Both university and myself have agreed to be pretty quiet. I did state that it was not the result of some sort of moral or fiscal crisis. When we talked about the timing of my leaving, we knew that—because we wouldn't be saying much—that this sort of speculation would occur. But it wasn't that.
Frankly, it wasn't 'Mission Congo.' When I came to Regent, there were folks who said, "If you align yourself with such a lightning rod, it will be academic suicide for you." But when I came, I didn't come for Pat Robertson. At Regent, I saw academics who were really committed to their discipline. I saw a trans-denominational and diverse campus. I fell in love with the students. Above all else, it was the student body that really attracted me to the campus.
Pat and I talked about my immigration stance early on. I could not have been as outspoken as I was if it were not for Dr. Robertson's support of that stance. Now I can't say that all of Regent's constituents felt the same way about that. And as much as I tried to downplay that, it did become one of those important issues. But it really did not play a role in all of this.
It's clear that Dr. Robertson wanted to take a more assertive administrative role. [And] I think most people see that that's clearly what's occurred. Dr. Robertson is a visionary. And there would be times when he would be not that involved, and then there would be times he would be very involved. And that, again, to me is pretty appropriate and typical of founder-led institutions. I understood going in that Dr. Robertson would be as involved as he wanted to be, and, frankly, it's his place.
When you think about the time and money and effort that has been put into Regent University by Pat Robertson, there's no denying it. It's extraordinary. And it's his right at some level to assert whatever appropriate role he feels is right to administrate his university.