Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Junior, is in hot water after several exposes charging him with nurturing a culture of fear and self-dealing at the evangelical school. But the charges against him were mainly made by anonymous sources. This week on The Roys Report, a former dean at Liberty University who’s never before spoken to the press will join me to discuss the allegations. And he’ll be going on the record, as opposed to remaining anonymous. What’s true and what’s not? I really hope you can join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!
JULIE ROYS: Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University is in hot water, following a series of reports alleging self-dealing, mocking students and staff, and nurturing a culture of fear. But are these reports true? Welcome to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And if you follow the news, you’ve likely heard a lot about Jerry Falwell and Liberty University lately. Last week, Reuters publishes several emails by Falwell where he speaks disparagingly about those at the college. In one, he calls a student “retarded.” And in another, he calls his police chief a “half-wit.” But earlier last week, Politico published an article with much more serious charges. It alleged that Falwell used Liberty to make deals and loans to enrich his family and friends. For example, Falwell reportedly hired his son, Trey Falwell to manage a shopping center that the school owns. And Liberty loaned a construction company, owned by Falwell’s good friend Robert Moon, a quarter of a million dollars to start his company. Then, according to Politico, Liberty awarded Moon’s company more than 130 million dollars in contracts. Of course, if Liberty were a private business, owned by Falwell, that would be his prerogative. But Liberty is a non-profit university, funded in part by donations. And using a non-profit for personal enrichment is strictly prohibited by the law. The Politico article also alleged that administrators and faculty at Liberty are terrified of speaking out against Falwell. One current high-level employee reportedly called it a dictatorship. Another employee reportedly said “Everybody is scared for their life. Everybody walks around in fear.” But a major problem with the Politico article is that it relied heavily on anonymous sources. The author, Brandon Ambrosino, said he talked to more than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials, and close associates of Falwell, yet none went on the record, supposedly because they were all too afraid. Yet that’s a huge problem in an age where there’ve been major scandals involving media outlets inventing stories and sources. That’s not okay. But today, on this program, I have a former Dean at Liberty, who’s going to speak on the record publicly for the very first time. And I should clarify, this former Dean has never before spoken to the press about this issue. So he’s not one of the anonymous sources in the Politico article. His name is Mark Tinsley. He’s currently a pastor at Amelon United Methodist Church in Madison Heights, Virginia. But from 2012 until 2017, he worked at Liberty University—first as a department chair, then as an Associate Dean and finally as the Dean of the College of General Studies. So, Mark, welcome! It’s a pleasure to have you join me.
MARK TINSLEY: Good to be here, Julie. Thank you for having me.
JULIE ROYS: Absolutely. And also joining me today is another former Liberty employee who actually has spoken on the record to the press. His name is Brian Melton. And he is quoted at length in a Washington Post story that published in July called “Inside Liberty University’s Culture of Fear.” Brian taught at Liberty for 15 years as an Associate Professor of History. He also served for a time as the Chair of the Curriculum Committee and Moderator of the Faculty Senate. He resigned in 2018 and now is a senior lecturer at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. Brian thank you so much for joining us all the way from Poland! Appreciate it.
BRIAN MELTON: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.
JULIE ROYS: Well, I should also mention that I reached out to Scott Lamb. He’s the Vice President of University Communications at Liberty. We spoke on Friday. And I invited him or President Falwell to join us today. Scott asked me to text him back at his cell phone and I did that. But he did not respond to that. So I’m assuming that Liberty does not want to be part of this but we did invite them. And in fairness, I always do that. I always reach out to anybody who’s part of the discussion to see if they want to join us, especially when it’s of this kind of nature. However, Jerry Falwell has responded to the reports, by saying in some other reports to the press, that he’s a target of an illegal smear campaign. Falwell says that some of the emails that were leaked to the press in the Politico article were technically University property. And he says he’s called the FBI to investigate. He also says he’s going to sue anybody who did that in civil court. He also says this is a part of an attempted coup against him. And these charges aren’t true. It’s just the smear campaign and then attempted coup. So Brian and Mark, I should just ask you. Did you leak any emails to the press? Are you part of any of that?
BRIAN MELTON : No, I myself I …absolutely not.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So you’re not a part of that.
MARK TINSLEY: Yeah and Mark, I’m not either, so.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. But they may have an uphill battle. According to the AP article, they quoted a cyber-crime expert, Nick Ackerman, who said Falwell’s assertion of a criminal conspiracy—he called it totally insane. He said that ex-board members and employees can share emails with reporters as long as they have authorized access to them and didn’t hack into someone else’s account. So, we are not going to talk about, I don’t think, any of the self-dealing because as I talked to you, Brian and Mark, before this show, you said that’s not something that you had knowledge of. And what I want to talk about is what you have firsthand information of. What were you an eyewitness to? Because what I want to do is get to the truth. And are some of these allegations in these articles, can you corroborate them? And it seems like that self-dealing isn’t one. And as far as knowing Falwell personally, Brian have you ever met Jerry Falwell, Jr. personally?
BRIAN MELTON: No, not really. As we discussed before the show, my closest encounter with Jerry Falwell, Jr. is actually one day after a doctor’s appointment ran over late. That was rushing into a building to try to get to my class. And he saw me coming and thought I was a student who was running late. And he asked me if I wanted an excuse to get into class. And I told him, as I rushed past, that no I’m the professor. And he got a kick out of that. And I made it to class only a few minutes late. But no, I have no personal knowledge of Jerry Falwell. And I have nothing to add to that and I have added nothing to that.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, probably not the way you want to meet the President of your University if you’re a professor. But (laughter) it is what happened. And Mark, what about you? You were a Dean at the University. Did you have any contact with Jerry Falwell, Jr.?
MARK TINSLEY: No, the only contact ever I had with him was at a gathering at the football stadium, several years back, and I passed by him. I may have shaken his hand. I can’t remember. But that is the only contact, only time I’ve ever been in the same room.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah and Liberty is a massive school. How many students there?
MARK TINSLEY: It’s over a hundred thousand right now, combining online and residential students. Gets them around 12,000 residential students right now.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah—very, very large school. But as we talked a little bit—how involved—we were talking about this Mark. How involved is Jerry Falwell, Jr., as a president, in the running of the school from your perspective as a Dean?
MARK TINSLEY: Well, I think I can speak from the perspective of the academic side of the University. And I would honestly say, and this is an objective statement, in my experience and I think in the experience of most of the folks in the department where I worked, he was really a non-presence. He rarely attended faculty meeting, faculty get-togethers. We didn’t see him around the offices, places of work. He didn’t walk the campus. His dad had a great reputation of walking the campus, Jerry Falwell, Sr. And going by the departments and talking to people. I remember one occasion when Jerry Falwell, Sr. came by the seminary when I was working there. And he talked to us about what held the seminary was the rudder of the University. And it was really an inspiring thing to have the President of the University to say those things to you. But we never say Jerry Falwell, Jr. in that way. And yeah, he was just a non-presence on campus. We didn’t see him on a day-to-day basis at all.
JULIE ROYS: So, what we’re going to be talking about today then, isn’t something where you’ve had first-hand experience with Falwell, but more about how the school operates and its particularly this culture of fear at the school. And we only have about a minute or so before we have to go to break. But let me throw that to you, Brian. You’ve talked a little bit about tenure or there not being tenure. And how the school kind of uses that with professors. Can you, briefly, just kind of get us started on that?
BRIAN MELTON: Yes. Very much in nutshell. Liberty has always operated on one-year contracts. The original idea behind that was so that they could stop left-ward drift. So that was the problem in places like Harvard and Princeton had had. That once tenured professors had gotten in, you couldn’t get them out. And then they would take the University farther and farther away from its Christian roots. But starting about 2007 and really hitting the fan about 2014, 2015, after Jerry, Jr. became slowly in control of the University. You did, it really became a method of control. Everyone was reminded, very, very often, that you’re on a one-year contract that just does not have to be renewed. And that if you, not in so many words, but if you step out of line, if you do something that makes someone unhappy with you then you’re– that’s going to be it.
JULIE ROYS: That’s it. (Laughter). I get it. Okay, again that is Brian Melton, a former Associate Professor of History at Liberty University. Also, Mark Tinsley, a former Dean at Liberty joining me today. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. We will be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Well, are the reports about Jerry Falwell and Liberty University true? Or are they simply a result of an attempted coup and an illegal smear campaign? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is a former Dean and former Associate Professor at Liberty. And I’m asking them about numerous reports that have been published about Liberty and Falwell. These reports have accused Liberty President, Jerry Falwell, Jr., of berating employees and students and of cultivating a culture of fear and self-dealing at the school. But the most explosive expose which was published last week in Politico relied heavily on anonymous sources. So today what I’ve done is I’ve two sources who are willing to go on the record with their first-hand experiences. By the way, you can join the conversation about this show online by going to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Or you can reach us on Twitter by using our handle @ReachJulieRoys.
Well joining me today is Mark Tinsley, a former Dean of the College of General Studies at Liberty University. And Brian Melton a former Associate Professor of History and also part of the Faculty Senate. So, gentlemen, before the break, Brian, you were explaining about how there’s no tenure at Liberty. Instead, every year, it’s a one-year contract. And you’re saying that this was used by the administration to get control over the professors. And frequently, you’re told get in line or else you’re going to lose your contract. What’s the impact that has on the faculty when you have a system like that?
BRIAN MELTON: Well, I think probably one of the best ways to sum it up is something that Jerry, Jr. himself said. I think it was in The New York Times, when he said the big victory was “taming” the faculty. Which, of course, using an analogy comparing the faculty to animals that are beasts of burden. And that really does have that kind of chilling effects on peoples’ ability to speak out. Especially given the fact that for conservatives, in general, and conservative Christians in particular in academics, jobs are very hard to come by. And so, if you lose a job at a place like Liberty, then there’s a very strong probability that you will not be able to find one that either for years or again. So, the idea of losing that one ability to feed your family, it’s a very serious threat. And it’s something that the administration definitely used to keep the faculty in line.
JULIE ROYS: Well, and when you’re saying that though, when you’re saying keep them in line. There’s probably a lot of sympathy with people listening to keeping faculty in line who are drifting left on doctrinal issues, for example. I think some, a lot of us are frustrated when we see that at colleges that that’s allowed to happen and continues to happen. But is that really the kind of thing that it was, I mean, what was stepping out of line at Liberty?
BRIAN MELTON: Yeah, that was certainly the way it began. It was not what it became. Stepping out of line was complaining about academic quality in the classes, asking too many questions of a particular administrative set of goals or program or plan. It can also be grading too harshly. If you didn’t have a certain success rate even if the students were not performing to the level that you would expect of a college level course. Then, you could lose your position or, at least, lose your load over that. There were absolutely no guarantees.
JULIE ROYS: So, let’s talk about turnover now and kind of the culture among the administrators. Mark, you told me about something that I haven’t really seen reported on and that is a huge shake up in the Provost Office around, what was it, 2016, 2017? So tell me about that?
MARK TINSLEY: Yes. So in around November of 2016, things were truckin’ along at the University in the College of General Studies like they had always been. And business as usual. And suddenly, I was the Associate Dean of the College (inaudible) at the time. I reported to the Dean of The College of General Studies, at that time, Emily Heady, who also served as a Vice-Provost in the Provost’s office. So, she had dual hats. And I remember the day. It was November the 15th, 2016. I’d been having correspondence that morning with Emily about matters in CGS. The mood had been light. We in our emails, we had a few jokes here and there in the emails. And when I emailed her at 11:30 am that morning after several email already that day. I got a reply back that said something to the effect of I’m not at the University right now. If you have any questions, contact the Provost, Dr. Ron Hawkins. I thought that was interesting. So, we went on and I called and talked to Dr. Hawkins. Got a lot of non-answers. One thing led to another and by December the 9th I got an email from Emily Heady saying I no long work at the University. Very much a stressful time for all of us. I sought answers from the Provost also saying and got none. The answers were it’s something we can’t talk about. You don’t need to know. Continue to lead the College of General Studies, we’ll get back to you. That kind of thing. So, one thing led to another there. It really caused a stir within the College and within the entire University because Emily was such a beloved person. A beloved administrator. All expected her to become the next Provost when Dr. Hawkins retired. It was assumed later that year or maybe in the next year or two. But things really started to snowball at that point. We started to get word that my, the other Associate Dean in the Department with me, that he was going to get sacked by the Provost Office. Presumably for being too close to Dr. Heady. I warned him of that and he went on and resigned. I went on soon thereafter and resigned myself. Not wanting to be associated with these types of underhanded tactics. I knew Emily Heady very well. I knew her character. I knew the person that she is today still. Certainly was at the time. So, in the matter . . .
JULIE ROYS: So, did you talk with her? Did you talk? I’m guessing you talked to her.
MARK TINSLEY: Oh yes.
JULIE ROYS: I don’t know how much you’re at liberty to share but I mean, what was your sense?
MARK TINSLEY: Well, she wasn’t at liberty to say a whole lot because she was under, they had somehow forced her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. So, we talked about, you know, her future and a lot of those things. But the sense that you get in any of these conversations, and talking to someone, they don’t have to say, you know the person well enough to know their character. And I knew that she had not done anything underhanded or deceitful and she made the statement to that, you know, that everything was she didn’t do anything wrong, you know. And so, I knew that things were fine with her and her character and all of the. The month that followed that, the resignation that, her being, well, she resigned. I mean she resigned under a non-disclosure. And then the other Associate Dean resigned. I resigned. And then in the months that followed, at least four other faculty members and staffers resigned as well. And so in a matter of six to eight months, ten months or so, you had about 7 to 8 faculty members and some staffers that, because of matters of integrity and not wanting to work in an environment and culture of fear any longer, decided to walk away and move on to other things.
JULIE ROYS: So, you really felt in a real culture of fear intimidation. This isn’t something where Politico is just making it up. You’re saying, yeah, it was real.
MARK TINSLEY: Oh absolutely. It was absolutely real. People regularly talked about the fear that they had in formal and informal ways. I mean, as Associate Dean, and Dean, I had people come by my office at times, and talk about their fears, especially when contract time was coming around. Talking about fears of non-renewal and those type of things. We were always having to address those kinds of issues with the faculty.
JULIE ROYS: And so, you had to be loyal. Was this a culture where loyalty is the top, loyalty to Jerry Falwell, Jr., is the top goal, or the top value? Or what is driving it?
MARK TINSLEY: I don’t know that any of us felt it was absolute loyalty to Jerry Falwell, Jr.. But we did feel that it was absolute loyalty to the institution. You didn’t feel at liberty to, as Brian said earlier, to make any statements adversely towards the university or the curriculum or any of the executive offices. Or anyone. I mean it had to be – I always called it an environment of hyper-loyalty. It was loyalty without question. It was blind loyalty really. It’s what folks felt was expected of them. And it seemed to be expected because when anyone stepped out of line and made any kind of critical comment, they were let go.
JULIE ROYS: Well, that’s Mark Tinsley, a former Dean at Liberty University. Also joining me today, Brian Melton, a former Associate Professor of History and Moderator of the Faculty Senate at Liberty. I’m Julie Roys and you’re listening to The Roys Report. And when we come back, we’re going to talk about a situation where Mark was pressured by the Administration to do something that he didn’t want to do. We’ll be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Is Jerry Falwell Jr. the target of an attempted coup and an illegal smear campaign? Or, are the accusations against his administration true? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re discussing a very hot topic in the news right now. As you’ve likely heard, there were 2 explosive reports published last week. An article by Reuters included emails from Falwell in which he called a Liberty University student “retarded” and an employee a “half-wit.” But, the more serious allegations were reported by Politico. That article included multiple examples and documentation of alleged self-dealing at Liberty. For example, the article mentioned that Falwell hired his son, Trey Falwell, to manage a shopping center owned by the school. And Liberty loaned a construction company owned by Falwell’s good friend Robert Moon, a quarter of a million dollars to start the company. Then, according to Politico, Liberty awarded Moon’s company more than 130 million dollars in contracts. Again, Liberty is a non-profit university, so using the university for any personal enrichment is prohibited by law. But Politico, that article, also included numerous anonymous sources claiming that Falwell nurtured a culture of fear at the school. The article says people were too scared of Falwell to go on the record. But it claimed that the sources that were cited in there were current and former high-ranking employees of Liberty University and associates of Falwell’s. In response, Falwell has claimed that he’s the target of an attempted coup and a smear campaign at the school. And he’s announced his intentions to sue those who have spoken out against him or leaked these emails. So, are the allegations against Jerry Falwell Jr. true or simply this result of a smear campaign. Well joining me today are two former employees with first-hand knowledge of this situation at Liberty. And unlike the politico sources, they’re not appearing on my program anonymously. Their names are Mark Tinsley, a former dean of the college of general studies at Liberty University. And Brian Melton, a former associate professor history and chairman of the faculty senate at Liberty. Mark resigned from Liberty in 2017 and Brian resigned last year. And by the way, if you’re just joining us and missed the first part of the show, the entire audio will be posted soon after this broadcast to my website JulieRoys.com. I also want to mention that I did invite Jerry Falwell or another representative from Liberty to appear on this show, but they didn’t respond to my invitation. So, gentlemen, let me just ask you this because, okay, Brian, you’re in Poland now, so, I’m guessing you’re feeling you’re outside of the reach of Jerry Falwell Jr., but Mark, you’re right there in Virginia. And I know in this Politico article, it was saying people are afraid, not just those who are employees of the college, but just living in the town because of the power and the reach of the Falwell family. Do you feel afraid.
MARK TINSLEY: No, I don’t feel afraid. And that’s not a cavalier attitude at all. You know, I think Brian would feel the same way. We just see a lot of our friends and former colleagues that are undergoing a lot of stress right now. They’re in a place that many of them don’t want to be. They’re being oppressed right now. They live in fear. And I think for me, I’ll speak for myself, I’m just tired of people taking courageous stands, in one sense, but not putting their names to it in another. My mom and dad raised me to, if you’re going to say something about somebody, have, you know, put your name to it. Now I’m not criticizing the people that went anonymous. I know they’re reasons than that. But for me, it’s an obligation. I have some things that might be inspiring to our faculty that would see and hear me and Brian and would say, “You know, there’s a voice out there. There’s someone who does care and someone who will put their name to this.” And then secondly, you know, I preached on Isaiah 41:10 just this past Sunday. And it says, “Do not be afraid. For I am with you. Do not be afraid. For I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will, I have called you with My victorious right hand.” And if I truly believe that passage of scripture, then I should stand up and not be fearful.
JULIE ROYS: Amen. And there’s a freedom, isn’t there, when you speak out? And you take the consequences, whatever they are. And you just move on with life. But there’s a freedom to speak your mind and to say what you feel and what you believe. Brian, let me throw this to you real quick. I know I said before the break that we’re going to talk a little bit about a course that was dropped and there was kind of this pressure around that. And I want to talk to Mark about that. But first, you had mentioned, just real briefly that there was something said, what was it, at faculty orientation every year?
BRIAN MELTON: Oh yes, I think one of the best examples of sort of how this culture was passed along and emphasized in such a way almost involving the sort of typical Christianese where I’m encouraging you but I’m kind of threatening you. There was this announcement they always used to give where they ended everything by saying, “Now we just want you to know, and this is not a threat, we’re not threatening you, but there are hundreds of people lined up for your job. And even though we get resume’s all the time, we’re very happy to say that we don’t want you, we’ve got the people we want. Now this is not a threat.” And of course, you look at that, and every faculty member that I knew looked at that and they’re like, “No, that is a threat.” Nobody in their right mind would not take that as a threat. And, in fact, it was a very special kind of threat. It insulted your intelligence as much as it threatened you. And I joke sometimes that I wonder why they hired me to teach college history if they thought I was so stupid that I would fall for that. And surely you want someone smarter than that. It was a good example of ways they found to remind you of how temporary you were. And how even though, like Mark said, they expected so much loyalty from you, once you got beyon the dean level, there was none toward you.
JULIE ROYS: Well let me ask you Mark, this situation that happened, we probably won’t have time to tell that much in this segment, but we’ll get to it in the next segment too. But what happened? Somewhere there was a course that was a favorite of yours and one that seemed to do very well, but the school wanted to get rid of.
MARK TINSLEY: It was an introductory level freshman seminar type course. But it taught andragogy-adult learning. And we had run this course for a couple of years and gotten some wonderful data on it. And students who took it had better retention. And the university students who took it score better in their subsequent classes at the university. I mean, all of the data was showing, “Hey, you want your student to take this course.” However, some folks on the other side of the college—in enrollment management on the business side of the college—didn’t like the course because it was another course students had to take. It was another required course. So, for a long time the course had stated that if a student came in with 60 credit hours—half their degree done—they didn’t have to take this course. So that was a bit of a win for the business side of the university because some students didn’t have to take it. However, the university wanted us to drop that down to 45 credits.
JULIE ROYS: And yet, this was communicated to you in a meeting with one of the administrators, correct?
MARK TINSLEY: Well, it had been communicated in several meetings. It had been a thing that had been discussed for a while.
JULIE ROYS: Well hold that thought. We’re going to need to go to break. When we come back from break, we’ll continue this whole store about this course. And it’ll give just sort of an insight. I think it’s an interesting window into how things operate there at Liberty. And I know this is a school both for you Brian and for you Mark that you still love. That you still want to see thrive. And I know that’s part of why you’re speaking out. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. Joining me today Mark Tinsley, a former dean at Liberty University and Brian Melton, a former associate professor of history. We will be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Are the allegations against Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell, Jr. true? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys and today I’m exploring the recent allegations against Falwell that were published in both Politico and Reuters last week. These accused Falwell of mocking employees and students, using the College to enrich his family and friends, and nurturing a culture of fear. And by the way, if you’re just joining the program and want to listen to the entire broadcast, or if you just want to share it with friends, the entire audio will be available shortly after this broadcast at JulieRoys.com and then you click on the podcast tab. Again, joining me today are two men with first-hand knowledge of the culture at Liberty. Until 2017, Mark Tinsley worked at Liberty as the Dean of the College of General Studies. And until 2018, Brian Melton worked as an Associate Professor at Liberty and the Chairman of the Faculty Senate. So Mark, we talked just briefly about what was happening about this one course, where the administration wanted you to get rid of this course. You didn’t want to get rid of it. Tell me how this showdown came to blows.
MARK TINSLEY: Well, it wasn’t that they wanted to get rid of it but they wanted to reduce the credit hour requirement for it. So, originally it was 60 hours. If you came with 60 hours of credit as a transfer student, you didn’t have to take this freshman seminar course that had been shown, again, to have a positive impact on student success. They wanted us to drop that down to 45 credit hours so that even fewer students would have to take it. We didn’t agree with that because the course was showing so much success. And so, in order for that to happen, the College of General Studies had to vote, in its general studies committee, for that change to occur in a process called—the FIO process “For Informational Only” Process. And it’s kind of a weird title but we had to vote then. Well, we went into the meeting to vote, and I’ve got, this is how the culture of fear works, Julie, is that we took minutes, like you do in meetings, but we also took alternate minutes. And I’m going to read from the alternate minutes from you that are unofficial. But these are the ones that we took to say what really happened in that meeting. The first vote that occurred got one yes vote, one no vote, in a group of about 10-12 persons. All the others abstained. Then one of the faculty members said, “Well, is this going to, if we vote no to this change is this going to hurt Mark and our other Associate Dean, or the Associate Dean and is it going to put them at risk?” Another faculty member stood up and said, “It absolutely will.” He said, “I don’t agree with this change but I’m going to vote yes for it to protect our leaders. Because if we do not protect them, who knows who we’re going to get. Who’s going to replace them? Who’s going to come down here to lead us?” So, we voted again and it passed that time and so we sent it on and, of course, the change was made. But you know, it was just amazing. I mean, I stood there in awe as the moderator of this group, because I had told them from the beginning, you guys vote your conscience. Don’t vote, vote your conscience. And their conscience was—abstained, one voted yes, one voted no. When we went back and voted what we knew they wanted, then the vote came out the right way. And the thing is, I failed to mention this, is prior to this meeting, I had a visit from one of the Vice-Provosts, in my office, where he sat down, closed door, just him, me. And he said, “We need this to pass. This will pass.” And he sent me an email prior to that, Julie, that didn’t say in those words but you could read between the lines in the email. And see he said, “We need this to be done in 21 days or less.” You know, read between those lines and, you know, get this done. So, and that was how, they advised this change without consultation of the General Studies. This came in an email. They had re-written the FIO.
JULIE ROYS: So, they’re really, they’re not asking for a vote. They’re telling you to vote, right?
MARK TINSLEY: They’re telling you what to do. Yeah and so, that was unfortunate.
JULIE ROYS: Tell me, too, about the, you said in the vice, in the Provost’s Office, we’ve talked about a shakeup. Then you had this situation happen but then there were a bunch of other Provosts that came through in a very rapid-fire manner, wasn’t there? I mean, there was like, what did you say, no less than 5 turnovers in the Provost’s Office within . . . ?
MARK TINSLEY: No less than 5 changes, in, since mid-2017. And the changes are still occurring. I mean, recently the current Provost, there was recently a second Provost added, another Co-Provost situation. Where they now have a Provost and Chief Academic Officer for the residential side and an online Provost. So, that office is continually in flux, it seems.
JULIE ROYS: I mean are you telling me that there’s so much turnover this is such a crisis at this point? That, I mean, is this sustainable? At the same time the school is doing well. I mean, enrollment is extremely healthy. I talked to parents. I talked to some faculty. And, I mean, beautiful faculty. The students, from what I hear, there was a protest on Friday. Instead of it being contrarian, like the two sides apparently starting talking to each other and debating it politely. And I mean these are beautiful people at this school but what you’re describing—that kind of turnover. That’s hard to sustain a school.
MARK TINSLEY: It is and it makes for a lot of chaos and uncertainty. And all that of that uncertainty and chaos adds to the culture of fear. Yeah, so it’s a very volatile situation.
JULIE ROYS: Do you think it will last? I mean, or do you think there needs to be a change in the administration? Or, if there’s not, and when I say administration, I mean everybody seems to be pointing the finger at the top, at the President.
MARK TINSLEY: Right. Well, I think something has to change. You can’t sustain this kind of turnover indefinitely. This won’t and it’s going to start to hurt their accreditation. You can’t have this kind of turnover consistently and the accreditors not see that and ask questions.
JULIE ROYS: Well and the self-dealing allegations, I mean, that’s very serious. And I know accreditors look at that sort of stuff, too. So, and that, I would say, the Politico article had so much documentation. That was probably the strongest part, I thought of the entire article. The anonymous sources, not so much. The documentation for the self-dealing and that’s a very serious charge. That was much stronger. Both of you gentlemen have told me about something that exists, Mark, you have a name for it, you call it like “the underground”. Tell me a little bit about this because this is really stunning to me about this whole underground and how it operates.
MARK TINSLEY: Well, the name “the underground” comes from a former, a friend of mine, who’s a former employee as well. I’ll give him credit. I won’t name him but it’s an unofficial network of current and former faculty and employees, of the university, that are constantly talking. The interesting thing about this is, I don’t know how big this network is but it’s got to reach back into the top executive levels. Because I told you before the show, Julie, that every prediction that I have heard through this underground network has come true. Every one of them. We knew about Provosts that were being moved and going to be sacked. We even knew about one of the Provosts who went to another school. We heard that he was going to be fired from that school, before he was fired, before it came out in the news. All of the things that we’ve heard through this network have come true, 100%. And so, it’s got to reach back to the highest levels.
JULIE ROYS: So, yeah, this shows that the discontent, you’re saying, is rife. Not just among the faculty which, Brian you spoke to. Not just among, you know, the deans, kind of the level of the administration you were at. But to have that level of knowledge of what’s going on, we’re talking pretty high up at the school, there seems to be people who are speaking.
MARK TINSLEY: I would think. And, you know, I only know about 8 people in this unofficial underground network, but each of my 8 contacts probably has 8 or 10 contacts and each of those has 8 or 10 contacts. I can imagine that this network is huge.
JULIE ROYS: But you don’t know everybody that’s in it. Brian, you’re in this network?
BRIAN MELTON: I assume so. I also heard the news about the Provost getting sacked from the other school before it actually happened. And, personally, I think that a lot of it has to do with someone, one of the anonymous sources in the Politico article said that this isn’t a Christian thing. This is a right or wrong thing. And frankly, I think, I have to strongly disagree with that and say that I think it is a Christian thing. And I think that a lot of the very strong Christians, who are at the university, are seeing these things and deploring them. And feeling that even if they can just do nothing, other than pass information to someone else, or give them some encouragement, that it’s something that’s very much worthwhile.
JULIE ROYS: Gentlemen, we have just enough time, I think, to touch on one other thing that you talked to me about. And it was these courses that were called, what were they called, “S” courses? Is that right?
MARK TINSLEY: Oh, you’re talking about completion rate.
JULIE ROYS: Completion rates, yeah, okay. So tell me about these completion rates, Brian or Mark, maybe you’re the best one to speak to that.
MARK TINSLEY: Well, completion rates are how many students complete a course by passing. The difference between pass rate and completion rate but essentially the completion rate is students who get a “C”, I think it was, or higher. It was either a “C” or higher or a “D” or higher in a course. They were considered to have completed the course successfully.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, but there was a lot of pressure at the school.
MARK TINSLEY: A lot of pressure to keep that rate at 80%. You know, they wanted 80% in all courses, 80% in all courses for completion rate. And the story, I shared with you was that I went to the Provost’s Office one day to make my report of our completion rates and I was all excited because our General Studies Math was at a completion rate of 70%. Well, at the time, the national average for completion of freshman level, General Studies Math was 50, I think 55% or somewhere in that range. So we were 15, at least 15 points above that. I was so excited. I go in there and report this and I’m immediately shot down and told, well that’s too low. I said, “Well, that this was 15 points higher than the national average.” And the response I got was, we need it at 80%.
JULIE ROYS: So are you saying there’s pressure then to pass students who shouldn’t be passing?
MARK TINSLEY: There’s pressure to get those rates up and how that’s translated by the individual Deans, departments, and professors, you know, that’s it’s going to be different for each one. But you can only assume that some people are going, to save their jobs, as Brian was saying earlier, they look at these completion rates not just per course but per professor or at least they did when we were there. And there’s pressure to have your numbers, so, higher than 80%.
JULIE ROYS: Okay let me throw that to Brian because we just have a little bit of time. Can you corroborate that, did you feel that too?
BRIAN MELTON: Oh, absolutely and I can say on the online side I saw that. Got that feeling talking to other professors. Because in the online side, it’s as simple as we’re just not going to give you another course. We don’t even have to not renew your contract; you’re just not going to get another course in the future. We’ll give it to someone who will have a higher completion rate. That makes them want to grade much more easily. And then also for the course creators. Because the people who create the courses, if your course fails too many students, then you don’t have a high enough completion rate, you may lose your job as an SME. And so there’s constant pressure there to lower the standards on the courses and make the assignments easier.
JULIE ROYS: Really briefly because we just have about a minute. What’s your hope for Liberty, Brian?
BRIAN MELTON: My hope for Liberty? Well, I truly hope that Liberty realizes its original mission and rights itself. At this point I’m kind of afraid it’s going off the rails. Harvard and Princeton went off the rails to the left. Liberty doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. I would really like it to get back to Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s B.H.A.G., as he called it—a Big Hairy Audacious Goal of being that true Christian University where you study the Biblical worldview from the ground up and everyone takes it seriously.
JULIE ROYS: Well, Brian, thank you so much, and I hate to cut you off but we are running out of time. But it’s always sad when we talk about corruption or about Christian behavior that seems un-Christian. And a lot of people say, well why are we doing that? I mean there’s so much bad PR in the secular press why would we do that on Christian radio? Well, I’ll tell you why we need to talk about it. For one, judgment should start with the house of God. But secondly, Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them.” Of all people, Christians should be the most committed to cleaning up their own house. So, I hope you’ve been challenged by today’s program. If you’d like to read the article cited today, I put an article on my website at JULIE ROYS, Roys spelled R-O-Y-S dot com. It has links to that and again at Julie Roys.com you can get audio of this program. Again, thanks to my guests Mark Tinsley, Brian Melton. I hope you have a great weekend and God Bless.