Biola University is one of those rare schools in the nation that has managed to balance faith and reason in a healthy way. As many Christian liberal arts universities have shifted away from the plum lines of their faith, Biola has a reputation among many churches and educators as having kept its vision and mission in the roots of its faith and the Bible.
But apparently that stance has exceptions for spreading the pro-life message if doing so is too graphic.
Jill Stanek reports on nursing student Diana Jimenez, who says:
I was pro-life but had no idea what an abortion looked like. Then I actually saw a video of an abortion, and my heart broke in pieces.
Jimenez used her grief to fight for life, launched a pro-life group, and, when only four students showed up for the first meeting, instead of being discouraged, decided to expand her reach.
Diana received permission to host a table with resources about abortion. On May 8 she, with a few representatives from CBR and two fellow students, set up her table after chapel let out, also displaying graphic signs of abortion.
In all, 1,500 students – some hostile – saw the signs before school administrators shut the group down.
“The campus safety officer’s biggest argument was, ‘You didn’t ask for permission,’” said Diana, who didn’t know she needed additional approval to show the signs. “They had a huge concern to not upset students, but it seemed no one gave a rip about the babies who are dying in the millions.”
Here’s where things got ugly. According to the Biola University Chimes, Matthew Hooper, associate dean of students, said that he rejected Jimenez’s request to show pictures of abortion, reasoning:
In the past we’ve had groups wanting to display those images. We’ve asked them not to do that in open public places. We would agree to them displaying them in areas that are more enclosed where students can choose to see them.
Ultimately, the battle over a few images that showed the truth of abortion’s horror turned into a personal tragedy. After being threatened with arrest by the campus security chief for showing one picture, Jimenez’s troubles continued. Stanek reports:
Associate Dean Hooper followed up Diana’s second infraction with a letter threatening that if showed her signs a third time the consequences for “rebelling against authority” would be she couldn’t participate in commencement and would be banned from campus.
Meanwhile, Nurse Ratcheds exist in more than movies. Diana’s dean of nursing decided to take matters into her own hands and mete her own consequence. On May 22, Dr. Susan Elliott wrote a letter to all nursing faculty barring them from writing a letter of employment reference for Diana.
There are so many astounding facts in this situation. What is striking is how some secular universities would be more accepting of this situation than the proclaimed Christian Biola University has been. Certainly some secular schools have been known to ban pro-life clubs or images, but many more allow both pro-life and pro-choice clubs. Showing images at a club table is commonplace; in fact, it seems more unreasonable that any club table would not have some sort of image. Clearly, Jimenez attempted to follow proper channels and was denied at every turn.
Further, the dean of nursing’s letter to all nursing faculty is unconscionable. Faculty should be granted freedom and autonomy of decisions related to their personal choices to recommend their own students. The idea that a Christian faculty member could not write a letter of reference for a nursing student holding a pro-life stance is a violation of that faculty member’s own freedom of choice, both personal and academic. A move like this might open Biola up to faculty reporting this strong-arming to the American Association for University Professors, who doesn’t take kindly to faculty not being allowed their own thought in a professional role.
And according to Biola’s own website, the faculty are Christians. On the university’s home page, it says:
For over 100 years, Biola — a community where all faculty, staff and students are professing Christians — has been committed to biblically centered education, intentional spiritual development and vocational preparation.
A peek at Biola’s Mission, Vision and Values page reveals what seems to be a fully Christ-centered, intellectually engaged community of thinkers who see the Bible as a source of authority. Included in those statements are the following vision and mission, respectively:
Biola University’s vision is to be an exemplary Christian university characterized as a community of grace that promotes and inspires personal life transformation in Christ which illuminates the world with His light and truth. Further, as a global center for Christian thought and an influential evangelical voice that addresses crucial cultural issues, Biola University aspires to lead, with confidence and compassion, an intellectual and spiritual renewal that advances the purpose of Christ.
The mission of Biola University is biblically centered education, scholarship and service—equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.
When a school that claims a Christ-centered, well, everything uses bullying tactics and strong-arm techniques, even telling faculty how to exercise their own rights in academic matters, then it’s time for Biola to look in the mirror and ask where that Christian vision actually is, for it was Jesus Himself to said “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).
Most people on this campus would say they’re pro-life, but they don’t have a strong enough conviction to do anything about it. You can say you’re a Christian all day long, but where’s the evidence? We are challenged at Biola to say what we believe and what are we going to do about it.
Indeed, if being pro-life means more than just words, then Biola needs to take the plank out of its own eye. The real problem isn’t with Jimenez and her fight for these victims. It’s with Christians who have become blind to truth, embracing a culture that is contrary to it.
Stanek’s link includes contact information for the university for those who wish to share their thoughts on this situation.
UPDATE from Biola: Biola University Response to Recent YouTube Video of Student Demonstration