The Many Sins of New St. Andrews College
Nick Gier printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 18, 2008 at 01:32:56 AM EST
This is the fourth column in my series on Wilson's religious empire.  The first was "The Seeds are Sown for Moscow's Culture War"; the second was "No Burning at the Stake in Moscow's Friendship Square"; and the third was "Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates."  A full inventory of Wilson's empire is found in the first column.

In 1994 Douglas Wilson founded New St. Andrews College (NSA) with a handful of students in a Moscow, Idaho residence. NSA had several locations before it found its current home on Second and Main.  

In each of its sites NSA was in violation of city zoning laws, and it was then mistakenly allowed to remodel a GTE building because an ordinance prohibited educational institutions downtown.  After a long battle, NSA eventually received a conditional use permit, but even today it charges its critics with religious persecution even though the point was always obeying the law.

In April 2000, I gave a talk on Confucian virtue ethics to NSA students and faculty. At that time I congratulated Wilson on the success of both NSA and his K-12 Logos School.  I also announced that I was prepared to help NSA students with their senior theses.  In the previous year I had spent about 60 hours helping a bright NSA student with a thesis on Buddhism.

In December 2002, I invited NSA faculty and students to the regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature.  It was held in Moscow in May 2003, and 40 percent of the papers were presented by faculty from conservative Christian colleges.  

Typically, for this conference there is a large turn out of students and faculty from schools in the vicinity of the sponsoring institution. NSA president Roy Atwood defended NSA's absence by saying that they "had better things to do."  Each year I have invited them the conference, and they have yet to submit papers or send faculty or students.

In a letter to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on May 23, 2003, Atwood implied that his college was an accredited institution. At a legal hearing before the Latah County Commissioners in April 2003, the NSA attorney also testified that NSA was indeed accredited. The problem, however, is that NSA did not receive its accreditation until November 29, 2005.

The accrediting agency is the Transnational Association of Christian Schools and Colleges (TRACS), which accredits 41 bible colleges.  TRACS was founded by the notorious creationist Henry Morris, who once declared that "it is better to believe in the revealed Word of God than any science or philosophy devised by man."  Significantly, while TRACS is recognized in Idaho, it is not approved by higher education authorities in Texas, and probably many other states.

The NSA faculty celebrated April Fools of 1999 by stealing letterhead from the University of Idaho (UI) provost's office to distribute an announcement of visiting feminist scholars who would give their presentations topless. There is nothing wrong with a good joke, but one usually tries to avoid criminal activity in pulling stunts such as this.  

Shamelessly, Wilson defended this action in his blog: "By the time you receive this, our local police will probably have forgotten all about it, so a little bragging is now safe. [My son-in-law], encouraged by some winks and nudges from me, made up a flyer which announced a topless and proud lecture series by topless feminist scholars."

An important academic virtue is collegiality, which consists of respect for, and cooperation with, all members of the academic community.  I believe that we can conclude from NSA's actions that it has not been a very good academic citizen. The supreme irony is that 9 of the 15 NSA faculty have, or are expecting, 13 UI degrees.

Regrettably, the debate over Wilson's slavery booklet Southern Slavery As It Was may have led to vandalism against NSA property. Despite the fact that the culprits were not identified, NSA president Atwood has continued to blame UI administrators, faculty, and students for these unfortunate acts.  Wilson also wrote to Idaho's governor requesting that two UI professors, who wrote a critical assessment of his slavery booklet, be disciplined.

Wilson wrote an article "Why Evangelical Colleges Are Not" in Chronicles (September, 1998), the journal of the far right Rockford Institute. The hostility displayed against reputable evangelical colleges in this article not only shows blatant disrespect for these fine schools, but it manifests shameful disregard for the entire academic enterprise.

NSA was recently listed among the top 50 conservative Christian schools by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. This institute is supported by the conservative National Review and the Heritage Foundation, and its evaluation of schools relies on faculty and student self reports.

NSA President Atwood now ranks NSA with three colleges on this list: Hope College, Calvin College, and Aquinas College.  In contrast to NSA, these colleges are accredited by the 1,303-member North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which requires that all permanent faculty have PhDs.

I have met faculty from Hope, Calvin, and Aquinas at scholarly conferences and I have heard their excellent professional papers.  Calvin College boasts that it is the first evangelical school to have an Asian Studies program.  Hope College has three professors who specialize in Asian philosophy and religion.  Don't hold your breath for news that NSA will offer any courses on non-Christian thought. Aquinas College even has a feminist philosopher on its faculty, but Wilson believes that only propertied males should have the vote.

NSA's true peers are not Hope, Calvin, and Aquinas; rather, they are Word of Life Bible Institute, Shasta Bible Institute, the infamous Institute for Creation Research, Messenger College, and Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.

Here are some items where Hope, Calvin, and Aquinas Colleges fortunately do not compare:

  • Only 27 percent of NSA's faculty have PhDs. TRACS requires that only one third of the faculty have the doctorate.

  • Two of the college's senior fellows, presumably equivalent to full professors, do not have PhDs.

  • Although full resumes are not available on NSA's website, it appears that a majority of the faculty's published books are from Canon Press, Wilson's own creation. Canon Press also published the slavery booklet, which was discussed in Part III, and which described the Antebellum South as the most harmonious multiracial society in human history.

  • Of special concern is the fact that Wilson's brother, his son, and his son-in-law are on the college's faculty.

The co-author of the slavery booklet was Steven Wilkins, a founding director of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that encourages 15 states to secede from the union and establish Calvinist theocracies.  

The Neo-Confederates make much of their belief that Southern culture is ethnically Celtic and that Civil War was a war between Calvinist Caledonians and Unitarian Englishmen.  They also identify with contemporary Scottish nationalists who wish to leave the United Kingdom.

Films such Braveheart and Rob Roy are neo-Confederate favorites, but historian Ed Sebesta has shown that the Highlander Rob Roy is more like the Appalachians who fought against the Confederates in the Civil War.  Sebesta reports that many scholars find the idea of a Celtic South "nonsense," "sensationalist," "unfounded," and dependent on "flawed researched methods," "questionable reasoning," and unreliable sources. See Sebesta's "The Confederate Memorial Tartan" in Scottish Affairs 31 (Spring, 2000).

By naming his college "New St. Andrews," Wilson has a vision that Moscow, Idaho will become an American St. Andrews with a downtown university as well as a cathedral.  Indeed, a $900,000 lot at the entrance to Moscow has been bought for just that purpose.  

I'm certain that the people in the Scotland's St. Andrews would get a chuckle out these fraudulent Presbyterians--Wilson's theology has been rejected by every conservative Presbyterian denomination--attempting to resurrect a Calvinist utopia in the wheat fields of Northern Idaho.

even if their Reformed Theology is more conservative than TULIP, you can't be a Presbyterian institution if no one is willing to be connectional with you.

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