A former professor who served 10 years on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said Sept. 26 he believes faculty have borne the brunt of the problems that plagued Adam Greenway’s three-and-a half-year tenure as president there.
“I hope and I pray that faculty are treated well in this transition. The very worst thing that could happen, in my opinion, is to clean house again the way Greenway’s administration did when he came in as president,” said Travis Dickinson, who currently serves as professor of philosophy and chair of the Philosophy Department at Dallas Baptist University.
Dickinson issued a string of tweets three days after the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary confirmed that Greenway had resigned as president in a late-night meeting with trustees Thursday, Sept. 22.
Dickinson was hired by the previous president, Paige Patterson, who was fired by trustees in 2018. He worked with Greenway for two and a half years before moving one county away to DBU.
The transition from Patterson to Greenway was tumultuous for many reasons, but one of those, according to Dickinson, was the rapid house-cleaning Greenway did among faculty: “By my count, within the first year of Greenway’s presidency, 40 faculty members were cut in two rounds less than a year a part. His administration was still cutting as of this summer, bringing the count up to 46.
“We sat with families who wept as they wondered how they would navigate suddenly being unemployed a couple of months before the new academic year.”
“Many of these cuts made little sense and were devastating to these families and completely demoralizing to the rest of the faculty. We sat with families who wept as they wondered how they would navigate suddenly being unemployed a couple of months before the new academic year.
“I and many others experienced the constant anxiety of wondering if we would be next.”
Under Greenway’s leadership, faculty felt powerless, Dickinson said. “What most people don’t realize is that the faculty at SWBTS have virtually no say in the decisions of the institution. That’s unfortunate and, in my view, institutionally unhealthy, but it is the reality and it means that the responsibility of the current situation does not rest at the feet of the faculty. However, it’s faculty who find themselves suddenly unemployed when they had virtually nothing to do with how the seminary is run.”
Faculty engagement is a key criteria looked at by accrediting agencies when reviewing a school’s performance. By common accrediting standards, faculty should be engaged in committees and teams that collaborate with administration.
In his tweets, Dickinson pointed a finger especially at seminary trustees: “The ones who are responsible are the administration and the trustees. With all due respect, I believe the SWBTS trustees should take a very hard look at themselves and ask why this has been allowed to happen … again.”
That was a reference to Greenway being the fourth Southwestern president in the past 28 years to be fired or pressured to leave by trustees.
Dickinson also tapped into a common theme of some SBC pastors and leaders who believe the entire trustee system within the SBC is broken because trustees are not properly selected, properly trained or properly held accountable.
“For two presidents now, the spending and the hiring/firing has seemingly happened with little oversight.”
“It seems to me that the trustees’ primary role as the trustee board is to hold the president and the admin accountable. However, for two presidents now, the spending and the hiring/firing has seemingly happened with little oversight,” the former seminary professor said. “And if they did oversee these things, then they bear the responsibility of the current problems along with Greenway and his administration.
“Greenway should have never been allowed to fire 46 professors (and 100s of staff positions) in just 3.5 years. Honestly, where were the trustees in this?! This is bad for business, and the way many of them were treated was simply unchristian. It is not a surprise that enrollment is down when students leave due to their favorite professor being unjustly cut and tell their friends not to go to SWBTS … 46 times over.”
Dickinson further alleges that Greenway offered six-figure salaries to new faculty he brought in, vastly overpaying them — sometimes double — compared to the salaries of existing faculty. all while the institution is facing financial difficulties. They also are said to have spent exorbitantly on renovations projects (including the president and provost’s home), two expensive rebranding projects for the college, among a number of other things.”
Seminary compensation data is not made public, so BNG could not verify Dickson’s assertion.
In this unexpected interim, Dickinson spoke a word of support for his former colleagues, saying he hopes Interim President O.S. Hawkins “comes in pastorally and works to heal that community. … I hope he remembers that most of the faculty have nothing to do with the situation in which they find themselves. Most of them have tried to keep their heads down, raise no suspicion about disloyalty (or even perceived disloyalty) to the administration, and work faithfully as unto the Lord. I hope he has lots of conversations and dialogue and affirms their good and faithful work.”
Dickinson’s thread was shared widely on Twitter, showing up amid others speculating about who the next president might be, what qualities are needed and some even promoting their own favored candidates before a search committee is formed.
Neither Greenway nor the seminary have made any new public statements since last Friday’s news release.
What happened at Southwestern and why does it matter? | Analysis by Mark Wingfield
Why O.S. Hawkins is right for the job | Opinion by Maina Mwaura