Statement by R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Northland matter
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary voted unanimously on April 21 to revoke its prior acceptance and decline the gift of the Northland International University campus in Dunbar, Wisconsin, as well as to decline to establish an extension campus of Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school. The following statement by President R. Albert Mohler Jr., issued on April 24, explains the action of the Board of Trustees.
The announcement that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Board of Trustees had voted to terminate plans to establish a Boyce College campus in Wisconsin came only after every reasonable effort had been made to find a way forward. Both Northland International University and Southern Seminary entered this process with great hope and good faith.
When the plan was first announced, we all thought that there was a realistic hope of achieving a business plan that would work and an academic plan that would serve students in that region with great faithfulness. We worked with great energy to that end, with leaders investing unprecedented time and hope toward the development of that plan. In more recent weeks, the challenges grew greater. Nevertheless, we redoubled efforts to achieve a workable plan. In more recent days, we realized that we were unable to achieve a plan that we felt had a reasonable expectation of success.
Several factors played a role in this realization. First, it became apparent that no financial model we could establish for a Northland campus of Boyce College could sustain the academic program we had hoped to offer there. Second, in conversation with accrediting agencies and in accordance with our own commitments to academic strength and quality, we came to the conclusion that we could not accept students into a program of studies that we did not believe had an adequate chance of thriving and continuing over the course of their studies.
Third, we faced the moral reality that, once we knew these facts to be the case, we had to act. It would not have been right to delay action once we faced these facts. Making this decision at a later time would not have served the interests of students or anyone else with a stake in this hope. Once the decision was made, we were able to put together a plan that will allow current Northland International University undergraduate students who had applied to the Boyce College program at Northland to transfer to Boyce College’s main campus in Louisville or to take courses online with very generous financial provisions for tuition. We have also made generous provision for new applicants for admission to Boyce College in Northland. We were able to offer this assistance to students now, precisely because we acted as soon as we knew the decision to terminate the plan had to be made.
In the final analysis, we came to the firm conclusion that, given the facts as we faced them on April 21, 2015, it would be wrong to accept the gift of the campus of Northland International University and to move forward with a plan to open a Boyce College campus there. We had entered into that plan with eagerness and the hope that a plan could be achieved. Only in the last phase of this process did facts emerge that prevented us moving forward.
Several factors played a part as facts came together in recent days. One key fact is that Northland International University had participated in federal student aid programs, whereas Southern Seminary and Boyce College do not, by conviction and policy. As we learned, this made any transition much more difficult than we had expected
Southern Seminary operated out of the motivation to try to make this plan work. There was no other reason for us to invest so much hope and energy. I am proud of the fact that NIU will be able to graduate students in May, a fact that is largely due to direct involvement and support of Southern Seminary in recent months.
We had great hopes for a Boyce College campus at Northland, and we invested great energy into that hope. We share the disappointment that comes when those hopes could not be translated into a sustainable plan. I am glad we tried. The hopes were genuine and generous. We remain committed to do all we can to strengthen gospel work and Baptist witness in the upper Midwest.
We also honor the vision and tradition of Northland International University and the Patz family. We had great and sincere hopes of helping to perpetuate that vision on the Northland campus. In the end, the challenges that have faced Northland International University in recent years turned out to be impossible to overcome with a sustainable plan for a Boyce College campus at that location.
We remain glad that we tried. It was the right thing to do. The decision made by our Board of Trustees this week was also the right thing to do, and it came on my recommendation. I am confident that this decision is right and necessary. I am also confident that this was the right time to make this decision.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President