Candidate for Mars Hill president faces opposition
April 29 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge and Steve DeVane , BR Staff

Candidate for Mars Hill president faces opposition | Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Candidate for Mars Hill president faces opposition

By Tony W. Cartledge and Steve DeVane BR Staff

Faculty, students and some alumni at Mars Hill College have expressed strong opposition to a prime candidate for school president.

Rick Brewer, vice president for planning and student affairs at Charleston Southern University (CSU) was brought to the campus April 22-23 for meetings with faculty, staff and students.

Brewer referred questions to Fred Pittillo, chairman of the Mars Hill trustees. Pittillo had earlier declined to comment on specifics of the search.

The meetings on campus, by several accounts, did not go well for Brewer.

Afterward, the faculty voted 72 to 0, with two abstentions, in favor of a resolution opposing his candidacy, according to faculty chair George Peery. "We believe Dr. Brewer is not a good fit for the position of president of Mars Hill College, and we recommend the search committee not proceed with his candidacy," the statement said.

The faculty requested the opportunity to interview other qualified candidates and said the current administration is operating effectively, so there is no need to rush.

The Student Government Association (SGA) also convened after Brewer met with students. After concerns were expressed, SGA president Chris Alley asked if the student senators would like to take an informal vote on whether they would like to have Brewer as president. Students expressed opposition to Brewer by a ratio of about ten to one, according to Derek Hodges, editor of The Hilltop, the campus newspaper.

Campus administrators and other staff members did not take a vote after their meeting with Brewer, but seemed to be more equally divided in their opinions, according to several accounts.

A group of 25 retired faculty and staff, college alumni and friends also met with Brewer and endorsed a statement that concludes, "We are strongly disappointed in the candidate and unanimously feel that he is not the best person for the position!" The statement cites Brewer's limited educational or leadership experience beyond Charleston Southern, and adds "We question whether a person whose training and experience have been almost totally associated with an institution as deeply conservative as CSU could provide strong leadership at an institution with a history of freedom and openness such as Mars Hill."

While he was at Mars Hill, several students asked Brewer about concerns that Charleston Southern appears to be more conservative than Mars Hill, according to The Hilltop. Brewer said he knows some people may be concerned that he'll try to make Mars Hill like CSU.

"I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't want to do that, because they're just simply two different types of schools," he said. "Both schools have pluses. Both are pluses. Both work."

Brewer said he would spend the first few years of his presidency learning about Mars Hill.

When asked if he would support a woman pastor, Brewer said that was a local church issue. When asked if he would support a woman as campus minister, Brewer said he would if she was the best candidate for the position.

Mars Hill fired Paula Clayton Dempsey as campus minister last year in what school officials said was a budget-cutting move. The school is currently interviewing candidates for campus chaplain, a similar position.

Brewer also told students that he would not ask faculty members to sign a faith statement unless directed to do so by the board. Mars Hill trustees decided in January that faculty and staff will not have to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message or any other such statement.

"I would not be in favor of signing some statement," Brewer said. "... That sounds creedalistic, and Baptists have historically not been creedal people."

In an interview with The Hilltop, Brewer described himself as a "centrist."

George Peery, faculty chair and member of the search committee, said the agreed-upon process had been violated.

Before any candidate was named, he said, the committee agreed on a process that ensured an opportunity for feedback. "The search committee agreed that it would meet following campus visits to receive feedback from the various constituencies on campus when Brewer came on campus. We stipulated that before the nomination would go before the executive committee, that we would meet and then send the nomination on to the executive committee. The search committee has not as of this morning (April 28) been called back into session."

That is significant, because an "informal meeting" of the trustees' executive committee had been called for 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 1. The executive committee has a regular meeting scheduled for May 8, and the full trustee board is scheduled to meet May 9.

Trustee Henry Crouch said he had been contacted and told that other trustees were invited to come and observe the meeting May 1, which was to be held at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.

"It is peculiar that they are meeting, and that they are meeting at Fruitland," Peery said. "Do they fear coming on campus? ... Do they find this place inhospitable? It leads people to suspect strange things are going on."

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4/29/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge and Steve DeVane , BR Staff | with 0 comments
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