• Krista Bontrager

Insider Reveals How DEI Practices are Shaping Christian Higher Ed

One of the most common questions we are getting while on the road is: Is "woke" ideology coming into Christian colleges? This a widespread issue that few are talking about. We will talk with someone who has watched DEI get deeply embedded into Christian academia.


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Segment 1: Interview with special guest, "Joy"

When we are out on the road speaking, the most common question we get asked is: What in the world is going on at Christian colleges? Are they being penetrated by Critical Race Theory?


Our special guest, "Joy", gave us some inside information on what she has seen in Christian higher education. Joy has been involved in Christian higher education for the last 20 years at 3 different Christian institutions. She currently serves as an Associate Dean at a major Christian university.


First of all, why do parents send their children to Christian universities?

Parents are looking for a safe space to transition their child from their parental protective care to a place where they can interact with other strong Christians...taking that God-directed responsibility and handing it off at that moment to people they believe are safe and will mentor them into the next phase of life.


What do I look for in a Christian college? How do we detect what is happening behind the scenes?

Programs/resources won't be labeled as CRT...in Christian higher education, it has been positioned as "student development", "intercultural programming", "community support", and "campus unity efforts."


How did we arrive here?

Joy describes shifts that have taken place over the last 10 years or so...shifts from seeking to diversify student/staff populations, to now a shift into programs of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).


There has been a systematization of resources in a formalized database. For example, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), which is a collaboration of Evangelical Christian Colleges around the nation. The resource database developed at CCCU, includes data from 47 institutions.


When we think about DEI, do you see any connection to Critical Theory or Critical Race Theory?

Certainly CRT is one social science framework built out of Marxist thinking...Joys says she sees institutions downplaying it...it's just one social science framework and one way of looking at the world.


DEI is the overarching terminology of trying to address the community needs and issues that exist...this is the big push and the thing everyone is talking about, but it can't be the goal on its own. DEI has come from a place of self-examination and institutional examination...yes, we need to do some things to support a sense of belonging, but instead we've brought in a Trojan Horse.


How does DEI affect hiring practices and candidate screening?

There is a goal/priority for diverse populations to be represented (minorities, women) in both applications and interviews.


Questions likely asked to applicants: Personal faith testimony, signing statement of faith, possibly church attendance. Little is asked about integrative questions. For example, during your dissertation, what is an area in your academic discipline that you found in contradiction to your Christian worldview? Or how does your Christian faith inform your discipline?


Regarding executive level hiring, the President and Provost positions are often a reflection of the board.


How do parents vet a Christian college??

At a minimum:

  • Go on the school's website and read the Statement of Faith

For a deeper dive:

  • Application forms are usually available online (HR, Jobs section);

  • Publicly viewable faculty handbooks

  • Faculty hiring done by Provost (aka Vice President of Academic Affairs)

  • Dissertation of PhD candidates (may be hard to find)

  • Look up Faculty Pages for the majors of interest (Curriculum Vitae/resume). For looking up a candidate's or faculty's academic papers/articles:

  • Academia.edu

  • Research Gate

  • LinkedIn (for trainings attended/"badges" earned and affiliations)

  • Use Google (don't rely solely on the school website's search engine); type in the school name and then keywords such as office of diversity, intercultural engagement, reconciliation, cultural competency

  • Look on the school's library website for newsletters, website highlights, new books and resources, monthly recommended books, recommended research guides, faculty "bookshelves"/perspectives on what they're reading

  • Look for news releases, guest speakers, trainings/programs/events being highlighted on social media/news, chapel services

  • Look at the school's official social media accounts to see what they're promoting

Ask to speak with the person who oversees the Diversity Plan/Programs at the school. Questions to ask:

  • What diversity training does Student Development or Spiritual Life offer?

  • What curriculum is used for diversity training?

  • What books do you recommend to students to learn about engaging with others?

  • What events are being held on campus to celebrate community and members of the community?

  • What guest speakers have been brought to chapel recently who have addressed cultural issues?

  • What are the ways they help students engage in difficult cultural issues or in difficult conversations (i.e. Resident Assistants (RA) trainings)?

Conclusions:

Don't give up on Christian Higher Education!


Thank you, Joy, for being in the fight! And thank you to those who work in Christian Higher Education and who are Biblically faithful! Please continue to speak out and let's keep this important conversation going!


For parents: We can't just hand over our children and entrust them to the institution. We must continue to walk along with our student when they are encountering these things at the Christian college. They will need our support and guidance more than students have in the past.


Resources

Recent articles Krista mentioned: "Woke Theory at Evangelical Colleges" in First Things; "Cornerstone University votes no-confidence in president the day before inauguration"

Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU): According to their website, the CCCU is a higher education association of more than 185 Christian institutions around the world...The CCCU’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.


The CCCU launched the Diversity Resources site in February 2021, featuring a database of racial and ethnic diversity resources for the Christian higher education community and other interested readers.


When considering options for your teenager or young adult, Impact 360 has a variety of phenomenal programs that will ground young people in their Christian faith and apologetics. Check out the video to learn more and visit their website to sign up!


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