My testimony was the only document I prepared that was read, delivered, and tested in the March 2013 interview process for teaching as an adjunct professor in Mass Communication at North Greenville University. While my more Presbyterian covenantal vocabulary was met with skepticism, my Baptist-ese was proven sufficient for the 6-hours a semester. “Well, you go to a good church, I guess,” was the final conclusion.
The New York Times article published on February 12th, 2014 and I interviewed with the American Prospect on Tuesday, February 25th. Sometime between those two dates, however, the phone lines were hot between 29614 and 29688.
On February 27, I was scheduled for a 1:30 meeting with my North Greenville University supervisor, Linwood Hagin, to discuss my student evaluations from the previous semester. My scores were very high overall, with a few critiques about my unfamiliarity with campus procedures (such is the life of a new adjunct) and one correct but irrelevant observation that I lean left politically. I had written out my assessment of those observations and gave the usual kinds of proposals to improve. Linwood and I discussed those things as any first-semester adjunct and supervisor would. We talked primarily about Blackboard, an educational software package that I had yet to integrate into my curriculum.
And then the discussion turned. It was a feeling I knew quite well. I knew it so well that I had to stifle a giggle. Maybe Bob Jones University did teach me a thing or two about how to live.
“Now I have to bring up something unfortunate.” Linwood previewed.
I smiled broadly, feeling confident within a sense of doom. It was a good feeling, to be honest.
“Someone from another university in town called the NGU administration and said that you had been making comments about that university, and the NGU administration would like for you to not speak about the controversy.”
Now, I knew what that meant, but I was mystified by the ambiguity. Why equivocate? Why play games with phrases such as “another university in town.” If you don’t want me to do something, you need to tell me explicitly what it is you don’t want me to do. I was familiar with this code, so calling from my muscle memory, I carried on.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Stay out of the controversy.”
I knew that I had to focus on specifics, again a familiar feeling. I even remembered the script from before. “Yes, I understand. But I need to know the boundaries here. What does that mean?”
“. . . . Stay out of the controversy,” he repeated
Specifics were clearly not forthcoming.
“Now, I know I was in the New York Times . . . .”
Flustered, Linwood reacted with “What? I didn’t know that. No, no, no. The New York Times? What?”
I continued, “I know I was in the New York Times, but I’ve been exceptionally careful not to ever mention NGU in my interviews with the media.”
“Okay, okay. . . . It was Bob Jones University,” he finally admitted.
“Right. I’m not surprised that they would do this. They’ve attacked me at my church, they’ve targeted my kids at school, so of course they would come here. In fact, I was going to come to you last semester about their public accusations that I was guilty of federal crimes . . . .”
“What? No. No, no. No.”
“Right. It was completely false. But this is how they work.”
“Well, NGU is a private institution and so we have no promise of . . . .” he trailed off.
I didn’t need to hear more. “I will talk to Dr. Pannell.”
“Well, apparently, you’ve made some statements in social media.” he peered over his nonexistent glasses at me.
“I know quite well what I’ve said on social media. Like I’ve said, I’m not surprised they would try this tactic. This is what they do. I’ll talk to Dr. Pannell.”
I thanked him and brought the focus back to the earlier conclusion of the meeting: Blackboard. “And I’ll look into Blackboard . . . .”
“Yeah, that’d be good . . . . IF you’re working here next year.”
Well. There you have it.