In Support of Tom Oord and Academic Freedom

informal_colorThe Philosophy Department at Tyndale University College wants to officially lend its voice in support of Northwest Nazarene University professor, Dr. Tom Oord, who was recently informed that he was being laid-off. This is truly shocking given that he is not only a tenured faculty member at NNU, but he’s also widely respected by his students and has made significant contributions to the academic community.

A fuller account of what has happened at NNU can be found on the Support NNU website; here we want to simply present our reasons for feeling compelled to speak out in support of Dr. Oord. The reason given for this layoff was declining enrollment (Fact Sheet, no. 2), but given that the 2013-2014 academic year was described as their “best financial year ever” (Fact Sheet, no. 11) and within the previous 18 months “other attempts have been made to discipline or terminate Dr. Oord’s service to NNU” (Fact Sheet, no. 6), it seems unlikely the stated reason was the actual one.

Instead, it seems far more likely that the decision to layoff Dr. Oord stems from the discomfort some have with his belief in evolution. This connection has been made by the Idaho Press-Tribune, Insider Higher Ed, the Daily Beast, and even Christianity Today. What this boils down to, then, is an attack on the very thing that tenure is supposed to protect: academic freedom.

Although we have our doubts about evolution,1 we do affirm the principle of academic freedom and denounce NNU’s infringement upon it.

Any university that does not fully embrace academic freedom, even if the views in question are unpopular, has effectively given up on one of the central aims of the university. Academic freedom is vital to any university because it allows faculty the ability to pursue truth without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, in this case, that is exactly what Dr. Oord appears to have received.

We encourage you to show your support for Dr. Oord by emailing Dennis Venema (Dennis.Venema@twu.ca) and requesting that your name be added to the petition he has started, or by joining the Support Tom Oord & NNU Facebook group.

Dr. Richard B. Davis, Professor of Philosophy
Dr. W. Paul Franks, Associate Professor of Philosophy

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  1. See, for example, Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford, 2012).
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3 comments on “In Support of Tom Oord and Academic Freedom

  1. Sounds similar to the Bruce Waltke/RTS thing from a few years back, and even Peter Enns /WTS from the same time: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2010/april/ot-scholar-bruce-waltke-resigns-following-evolution.html

    What are the boundaries of academic freedom? If a faculty member can no longer stand behind an institution’s statement of faith or confession, what then? How “free” is the principle of academic freedom? At what point does an “unpopular” view become unacceptable? More strictly confessional schools (RTS, WTS, possibly NNU?) will have narrower boundary markers than an intentionally big tent institution like Tyndale.

  2. We send a hearty thank you from NNU for your very kind support. We are so grateful for brothers and sisters like you through this time.

    I might also mention that an endowed scholarship is being set up in Tom Oord’s name. The link is here http://bit.ly/Oord-Scholarship .

    Thanks again, friends, for standing with us.

  3. Thank you for this show of support to my friend, colleague (in the broader academy), and fellow ordained Nazarene elder, Tom Oord.

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