Louisiana College trustees re-affirm textbook policy


NEVILLE, La. (ABP) -- Trustees of a Louisiana Baptist school re-affirmed a controversial textbook policy April 19 and named one of their own as an interim president.

In a special called meeting, Louisiana College trustees passed a resolution that they said specifies and affirms a textbook-screening policy they first instituted last December. The policy has caused an uproar among faculty, students and alumni of the Pineville, La., school.

The policy requires all professors to receive approval from their department chairs and the school's vice-president for academic affairs for all textbooks and classroom materials. The college is affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which has come under fundamentalist control in recent years.

According to the daily Town Talk newspaper in nearby Alexandria, the trustees were divided on the vote on the resolution affirming the policy. A college spokesperson would not release the vote tally to ABP.

The resolution adopted April 19 stipulates that faculty must make curriculum choices in harmony with the college's identity and mission statement as well as the school's faith statement and the pronouncements of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Critics of the policy have said it will lead to censorship and endanger the school's accreditation, but school officials have said it is simply a way to keep the school in harmony with its own mission statements, which stipulate it is a Christian institution.

In March, college president Rory Lee and academic vice-president Ben Hawkins both announced their resignations. However, both said their decisions were not a result of the textbook policy.

The policy was precipitated by a September incident, in which Lee removed two books from the campus bookstore after a student complained they were inappropriate. Both books -- Scott Peck's "A Road Less Traveled" and Ernest Gaines' "A Lesson Before Dying" -- had been used as texts in a class on values. The student complained about curse words in the Peck book and a sex scene portrayed in the Gaines book.

The trustees also elected retired pastor John Traylor as the school's interim president. Traylor, 76, was the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Monroe, La., and is a former Louisiana Baptist Convention president. His daughter, Katherine Traylor Johnson, is a Louisiana College graduate.

Traylor will assume presidential duties upon Lee's May 17 departure and serve until the board names a permanent replacement.