A Message from Herman J. Smith Jr.

Chair, Gordon Board of Trustees

Yesterday, April 28, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts issued a press release saying it is suing Gordon on behalf of one of our faculty, Associate Professor Lauren Barthold. This lawsuit is related to disciplinary action that was taken following public statements she made in 2014 that were considered to be detrimental to the College and not appropriate in her role as a faculty member.

The College administration and Faculty Senate have been addressing this matter for over a year, and we are truly saddened and disappointed by the ACLU’s decision to take legal action against the College, filing a legal complaint and then going to the media with a news release that is replete with blatantly misleading statements and omissions about both the issue at hand and about Gordon in general.

I want you to know we will continue to seek to resolve this matter with integrity. Gordon remains an institution committed to faithful and thoughtful inquiry, as a place that can model grace and truth in our interactions with each other. As chair of Gordon’s Board of Trustees, I want to provide more context than might appear in the media stories you will see.

The ACLU became involved in this matter a few months ago, and we were hopeful of resolving this in a constructive manner. Our hope and prayer remains that we can reach a resolution in a way that reflects our values as a Christian institution. That said, there were some gross misrepresentations in the ACLU news release that we feel are important to clarify for you—especially since those assertions will likely be repeated on social media and potentially in other news media stories.

First, it was Dr. Barthold’s peers on the Faculty Senate who recommended to discipline her, and they followed past precedent in taking this course of action.

Second, the Faculty Senate’s action had nothing to do with her disagreement with the college on any policies. Dr. Barthold was disciplined because she publicly called for a boycott of the school and severing of ties—actions which would harm Gordon students and potentially affect faculty and staff at Gordon.

At no time has any action been taken by the College to suppress open dialogue or punish the expression of differences within our community. We are proud of the way our community has grappled with divisive issues that confront our society on several levels. A core belief at Gordon as a Christian liberal arts institution is that the truth will stand up to scrutiny, and that we can engage on different points of view with grace and truth. Far from seeking to suppress such disagreement and discussion, Gordon has continued to foster dialogue.

Obviously we are deeply disappointed that a member of our community would seek to resolve internal differences in the public courts, and I know this renewed media attention may be discomfiting for all of us who care about Gordon and its distinctly Christian learning environment. But we are confident that a final outcome will be reached appropriately, and we hope this will create an opportunity for our community—students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents—to demonstrate what a loving Christian response to passionate disagreement looks like.

Herman J. Smith Jr. '70