Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Wheaton Is the Counterculture"

Kent Gramm is a popular English professor at Wheaton College; he has taught there for two decades, and been married to his wife for three decades. Now he and his wife are getting divorced. Wheaton allows divorced faculty members to retain employment “when there is reasonable evidence that the circumstances that led to the final dissolution of the marriage related to desertion or adultery on the part of the other partner." Dr. Gramm, however is retiring; as he told the Chicago Sun-Times last week: "I think it's wrong to have to accuse your spouse and to discuss with your employer your personal life and marital situation."

Obviously the policy has caused some to scoff at Wheaton's values; so it was refreshing this morning to see an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, admiring the fact that Wheaton has convictions and is willing to enforce them:
Being different is nothing new for Wheaton. The most famous building on campus was once a way station on the Underground Railroad. That was a time when abolitionist evangelicals were out of touch with the reality of slavery in a nation whose claim to liberty rested on God-given truths about human dignity. Today Wheaton advances a proposition that may be equally radical, at least in the groves of modern academe: That character is as important as chemistry – and that teachers have some obligations as role models for their students.

. . . [Wheaton] proposes that people who freely join a community that is honest and upfront about its beliefs can reasonably be asked to abide by them. Wheaton's ways are not my ways. Yet there is something refreshing about an institution willing to stand up for its convictions rather than trim its sails to the prevailing winds.

I wish Mr. Gramm and his wife only the best, and hope that they find good jobs and can get on with their lives. But I also find myself wondering how much richer our nation's university life would be with a few more Wheatons willing to be out of touch for the sake of their deepest beliefs.