Calling Out “Pop-CRT” on Campus

Grove City College & Christian Higher Education

Is Critical Race Theory (CRT) asserting itself at Grove City College (GCC)? That is what an ad hoc special committee, appointed on February 16, 2022, by the board of trustees, was trying to find out.

GCC is a conservative Christian liberal arts college located in Grove City, Pennsylvania. It has 150 years of history and, like Hillsdale College, does not take any money from the federal government.

November 10, 2021: GCC Parents, Alumni, and Students Raise Concerns

However, on November 10, 2021, some concerned parents, alumni, and students submitted a petition to Dr. Paul McNulty, GCC’s president. They alleged:

From what we’ve observed, a destructive and profoundly unbiblical worldview seems to be asserting itself at GCC, threatening the academic and spiritual foundations that make the school distinctly Christian.

They cited two chapel presentations as examples.

Last school year, GCC hosted a chapel presentation by Jemar Tisby — an outspoken apologist for CRT. If that wasn’t troubling enough, this year GCC chaplain Dr. Donald Opitz used a TED talk by Bryan Stevenson — a CRT defender and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative — to teach on the biblical concept of “mercy.”

They also raised concerns with a presentation at a resident assistant (RA) training in which a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity (Diversity Council) spoke about inner racism, white privilege, and white guilt. His wife, a Caucasian, admitted to being a racist and encouraged the audience to admit it. On a different occasion, the same council member also told a class of students that being a non-CRT white person automatically makes you a racist.

A parent reported that an Education Studies class, EDUC 290—Cultural Diversity and Advocacy, uses Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, as the text.

Another parent reported that the Diversity Council is pushing CRT through several on campus focus groups (book clubs) structured to discuss race and white privilege. The first assignment was Reading While Black, a book the parent said promotes CRT wholesale.

November 18, 2021: GCC President Paul McNulty Responds

President McNulty responded to the petition on November 18. He denied all the allegations and asserted that their concern that “a destructive and profoundly unbiblical worldview seems to be asserting itself at GCC” is unwarranted.

He further implied that the petition is based on “misimpressions, partial reports, hearsay, rumors, and other unreliable information.”

While addressing some specifics of the petition, he asserted that CRT has never been promoted in the chapel. Furthermore, he didn’t find that the council member mentioned in the petition has done anything misaligned with GCC’s “vision, mission, and values.”

He also defended the Diversity Council by asserting that “every reference to the Council acting in some manner, such as organizing book clubs, is misinformed.”

However, he did not bother to address the petitioners’ concern about the books used for EDUC 290. He just gave a general statement and promised that “The academic leadership will address issues in this regard appropriately, collaboratively, and on a case-by-case basis.”

December 6, 2021: Petitioners Reiterate Concerns

The petitioners were outraged. In their response to Dr. McNulty on December 6, 2021, they pointed out:

Dr. McNulty likens our petition to a social media post driven by hearsay and rumor. This characterization is deeply troubling to us and, quite frankly, astonishing.

They provided further specifics of the examples they raised in the petition. Particularly, the four books used in EDUC 290:

  • Between the World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
  • Rediscipling the White Church, David W. Swanson

The petitioners claim that:

To be clear, none of these books are academic in tenor (unlike, e.g., the works of Richard Delgado or Derrick Bell). Instead, these are books are written [sic] at a popular level to inspire action. Furthermore, the complete absence of any dissenting viewpoint amongst the required texts speaks loudly as well.

They presented an image of a poster that promotes this course as one “to teach students to ‘consider how to become actively anti-racist.’” The petitioners have reasons to believe that “the summative output of the EDUC 290 class is to create activists, not to expose students to critical, intellectual engagement with CRT from a biblical worldview.”

February 7, 2022: GCC Faculty Weigh In

On February 7, 2022, some full-time faculty members sent an anonymous open letter to the board. They raised their concerns that the administration was at fault.

We have seen how president McNulty has publicly rebuked parents for raising concerns about the education of their sons and daughters. We have also heard him negatively characterize these parents behind closed doors in faculty meetings. These actions are unbecoming of a Christian college president, and they demonstrate an entrenched, combative posture. In the context of this behavior and the campus atmosphere it has created, we believe that revealing our identity could result in reprisals from senior administration, perhaps even non-renewal of our annual faculty contracts.

They pointed out that EDUC 290 was approved by the Department Chair, Dean, and Provost.

First taught in Spring 2021, EDUC 290 was advertised with posters featuring activist imagery associated with Black Lives Matter (BLM), an organization with Marxist roots. The course’s four required books all promoted CRT and included highly contested works by Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. While requiring students to read such works is not in itself concerning, a story in the February 19, 2021, issue of the Grove City Collegian made clear that the purpose of the course was not critical engagement of ideas but political indoctrination.

They provided more background information about the chapel presentations.

In Fall 2020, a two-week program offered by the Office of Campus Ministries and the Office of Multicultural Education and Initiatives presented an exclusively progressive perspective on race in America. Left-wing figures, such as Bryan Stevenson (free movie screening) and Jemar Tisby (chapel talk, book distribution, and book signing), were promoted by the program. In addition, GCC administrators and staff advocated for ideas central to CRT, such as systemic racism and white privilege, during presentations in Harbison Chapel.

… Students were told that to exercise authentic Christian faith and truly love their neighbor, they had to confess their complicity in an unjust social order and actively join a resistance movement… Although many friends of the College could have been invited to address the issue of race from a conservative perspective, such as Walter Williams, Ken Blackwell, or Ben Carson,not a single individual sharing the College’s longstanding intellectual commitments was included in this program.

Regarding President McNulty and his team, they continued:

President McNulty’s approach to the issue of race has alienated the core constituency of GCC in two ways. First, he has encouraged programming that runs contrary to the historic mission and identity of the College. In the wake of a BLM petition drafted in Summer 2020 by a small group of disgruntled Grove City College alumni who no longer share the values of the institution, President McNulty chose not to re-emphasize the College’s historic conservative identity but instead established the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity.…

Second, the institutional reaction by President McNulty and his administration team has fostered further alienation. His initial written response to the petition took a defensive tone, accused parents of handling the matter inappropriately, and denied clearly established facts. Shortly after the parents responded with additional, substantive documentation of the problems, the College’s Vice President for Student Recruitment gave a contradictory public interview in which he claimed that the foundations of the College were not threatened, yet also admitted that the parents had raised a number of valid concerns.

They also brought up the issue of the removal of the word “conservative” from the College’s vision statement, and the removal of the phrase “promotion of the Christian worldview” from its mission statement.

February 16 - April 13, 2022: Special Committee Finds “Pop-CRT”

On February 16, 2022, GCC’s board of trustees appointed the ad hoc special committee to review allegations of mission-drift. They presented their report on April 13, 2022, after interviewing some administrators, faculty members, and employees.

The report made it clear that “CRT is incompatible with GCC’s vision, mission and values,” and addressed the allegations and concerns in six categories:

(1) EDUC 290—Cultural Diversity and Advocacy; (2) Resident Assistant Training and Oversight; (3) the Advisory Council on Diversity (“Advisory Council”); (4) the Office of Multicultural Education and Initiatives (“OMEI”); (5) certain chapel programs; and (6) the 2021 revision to the College’s vision statement.

The committee found that “the 2021 design and content of EDUC 290 was ideologically one-sided and effectively promoted pop-CRT.”

It also confirms that allegations in the other five categories are true. They recommended remedial actions to ensure closer alignment with the College’s vision, mission, and values.

Yet, the committee did not find any fault with Dr. McNulty and his team. Instead,

Under President McNulty’s faithful, steady, and tireless leadership, the state of the College is in many ways healthier than ever. His tenure as president has been a source of joy for each of us.

The committee made the conclusion:

To the petitioners and outside observers who may have wondered if Grove City College is going “woke,” the answer is emphatically no.

While confirming petitioners’ concerns are valid, it failed to hold anyone accountable.

GCC is a human institution. We have identified instances where the College’s vision, mission, and values were not well-represented. Even Homer nods. This is but more evidence that the Fall confuses man’s best efforts and impedes human flourishing.

Mission Creep Concerns Continue

The petitioners felt that they were fully vindicated by the report. But they have a different conclusion (see here):

The report confirms that CRT was indeed present in chapels, classrooms, resident hall training, and official student life activities. There is now no doubt about it; CRT has unfortunately gained a foothold at a college that rightly prides itself on its commitment to truth, its Christian worldview, and its conservative values.

But they are not confident that the administration will fix the root course of their concerns.

… the board has done its job conducting an investigation and submitting a report. Key players within the College administration need to do theirs by implementing the necessary changes. But will they? Herein lies our most vexing concern. The very people tasked with fixing the CRT problem are the ones who created it in the first place. Without key personnel changes, we are skeptical that the Board’s corrective actions will be translated into reality on campus. As the old saying goes, “personnel is policy.” After all, certain faculty members, deans and assistant deans, and other influential officials (including President McNulty) intentionally promoted harmful doctrines that do not align with the College’s historic identity or tried to cover up this problem. How can we trust them to carry out the needed reforms?

They presented a case for their lack of confidence:

Then, on April 19, the night before the Board released its report, College Democrats hosted an LGBTQ event on campus that the administration sanctioned. Unsurprisingly, the group’s faculty advisor is Warren Throckmorton, whose views have long diverged from the College’s mission and values. At this event, presenters circulated flyers calling on people to “always ask and never assume what pronouns someone uses” and to “wear your allyship with pride.” This event could not have happened on campus had not the Office of Student Life—in the middle of a Board investigation—approved the room reservation and the event flyers. In what possible world does this officially sponsored “ally” event align with GCC’s historic identity and religious values? And what will the administration do to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen?

They made it clear:

 Selecting someone who contributed so materially to the College’s recent straying calls into question whether President McNulty truly sees CRT for the threat that it is, whether he can recognize who allowed this problem to germinate and fester on campus, and thus, whether he can take the steps necessary to bring the College back on course so that parents and alumni can once again have confidence in it.

Will GCC recover from the infection of CRT and get back on course? Let us watch. This is not just about a college. What happened in GCC is the tip of an iceberg. How many Christian colleges are infiltrated and controlled by this new variant of Marxism? Parents, alumni, faculty, students, and all Christians committed to biblical truth must be ever watchful to help expressly Christian institutions remain faithful to their stated mission.

grew up during China's Cultural Revolution and immigrated to the US in 1995. He became a high school math teacher after having worked as an engineer for 20 years. Disillusioned with the current schooling model, he became an independent math teacher/tutor in 2018. He writes mainly on education and culture.

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