Concluding: Open letter to DBU

The open letter I recently wrote to Dallas Baptist University evoked the entire spectrum of responses.

I was glad that it resonated with some; I was saddened that, for some others, apparently some of my words got in the way of the message I wanted to convey. I began to sense that the letter might have outlived its helpfulness, so I have taken it down.

Allow me to simply reiterate that the letter was addressed to Dr. Cook, Vice President Blackburn, et al., which I meant to include the entirety of those who might be able to contribute positively to DBU’s future. In other words, this was a letter for us all, not just for a couple of people at the top. And while decisions about policy and whatnot tend to come from the top down, I think meaningful change can often come from the bottom up.

It’s hard to offer criticism in the right spirit and with the right language. I know my attempts have been feeble at best, and I can only hope that as we all pursue Christlikeness, we’ll be honest about where we find ourselves and where we know Christ wants to take us.

Thanks for the continued conversation…

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13 Responses to Concluding: Open letter to DBU

  1. Elizabeth Singleton says:

    First off, just because DBU is run by believers, doesn’t mean that it isn’t broken in some areas. I think that’s a given that you are still working with a group of people at various stages of brokenness. You will find even “Christians” who are greedy, lazy, judgmental, self-seeking, etc. sure, and typically I would be quick to name a few…

    However, DBU has so greatly blessed and shaped my life, that I can’t help but feel a sting of offense. They cannot hand out a free pass to every student that walks onto campus. How would they keep the lights on or pay salaries? Besides, you see a surface level. You don’t see the day to day behind the scenes workings that take place. The prayer over the students, the worry many faculty and staff carry, the personal attention taken by many. DBU, in a large part, played a huge role in my life. As a student struggling between a full class load and 3 part time jobs, an executive at DBU saw a need in my life and an opportunity to invest in me.

    I had to really work for it, but because of the Lord’s provision, and the help of those at DBU, I was able to graduate with both my undergraduate degree and masters free of debt. Not only that, but because of me serving as a full time staff member, my husband was able to finish his under graduate work, cum laude (shout out Bo), free of debt. As a former staff member, I can testify personally that I’ve worked with some people who may not care as much. BUT, I’ve shared time with some outstanding individuals who would fight with their mightiest to ensure that a student was given every opportunity possible to receive their education with as much assistance and as little debt. Looking back, I can reminder teary conversations that ended with prayer. I remember an executive reaching into his own wallet to hand me $100 bill to help me pay for a passport so I could attend a DBU sponsored mission trip. A time when the former director of financial aid took cash from his own pocket to provide a struggling student with some needed personal supplies. Believe me, you can burn out quickly and your heart can become so collapsed in a palace filled with “Christians” …but there are gems there working for the Lord and keeping His kingdom in mind.

    Without a doubt in my mind, President Gary Cook loves the Lord, desires to serve His people, and cares for the student’s at DBU. He cares beyond their studies, and prays for their hearts (and his own) daily.

    • Liz,
      I completely agree. I know that so many faculty and staff—and I have no reason to believe Dr. Cook doesn’t—pray over the students, love the students, and love the school.
      I think ill intent is always possible; I also think good intentions can still be behind mistaken actions, and it was my goal to try to point out those mistaken actions.
      Perhaps I didn’t spend enough time praising the school, its faculty, and its staff in my letter. Because I have abundant praise for them. And that is the reason I felt so passionately about what I wrote.
      I agree that “free passes” are probably not financially feasible. But, while I don’t understand all the logistics, I know that the second college I mentioned in my letter (College of the Ozarks) uses a variety of means to make school nearly free for most/all of their students. And that’s something worth looking into, I think.
      Thanks for your testimony, it’s certainly a good complement to my comments.
      Keep farming! 🙂

      • I think that’s amazing that you found people at DBU who invested in your life in such a way. I, too, worked three jobs and went to school full time – but instead of such care and attention, I spent most my time there feeling as though I was drowning. Years later, I’m still desperately trying to pay off the mountain of debt I have after being repeatedly talked out of transferring by counselors who advised me that I’d be doing God and myself a disservice by leaving the school. In hindsight I should have trusted my gut. I agree that you can have an awesome experience at DBU, but as I said before, people should investigate every avenue, pray hard, put less trust in the humans running the place and more in their personal prayer life, and above all don’t take out student loans – only attend a school you can afford in cash.

  2. Kaitlyn says:

    Your letter was beautifully written and one that I hope resonates on campus and up through the leadership ladder. I applaud you for making your words public and known to our community. You are not alone in your views and beliefs towards the subject matter you presented in that letter. If at all possible, I was hoping to share this a fellow DBU graduate who hadn’t had the chance to read your words, may I have a copy? Also, it may not be my place but as a fellow DBU graduate and a lover of my experiences at DBU I would like to encourage you to send the letter to DBU; they taught us how to be servant leaders and how to stand by our beliefs and stand up to those who wish to knock them down. There is a cloak of darkness that has been steadily creeping over our light on the hill and it needs to be called out. Again, Nathan, thank you for sharing your words and bringing light to these subjects for so many. My best to Kate and the family!


  3. Lucas says:

    Hello friend,
    I would like to read the letter, but i was not able to access the link.

  4. anonymous says:

    How does the President of a Christian school justify an annual salary of over $800,000 per year?

  5. Jeremy says:

    I am a student as well and really would appreciate a link to this letter. I don’t know for sure how something that is attempting to be Truth could outlive it’s usefulness. I would be very interested to see it as well, again, it would be much appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Per several requests, I’ve put the letter back up on the blog.
      You’ll notice the array of comments below it, and while I’m no stranger to the impassioned nature of Internet comment boards, I was admittedly a bit flustered by some of the responses I received.
      I felt like it wasn’t being useful because I felt like it wasn’t being understood.
      However, I stand by what I wrote (after having made a couple edits for clarification’s sake), and I hope readers can acknowledge there’s a way to love a school and criticize some of its actions from that foundation of love.
      Here’s the link:

  6. Concerned Staffer says:

    I will simply input what I know from my time here as both a student and a staff member.
    Many on here have echoed my own thoughts and feelings. One of the reasons I accepted a position here was that it would allow my four children to attend for free. Now that I have been “behind the scenes”, I would never want any of my children to attend DBU. The administration is above reproach, yet label themselves as servant leaders, but in fact they rule with iron fists. I truly believe that their hearts and intentions are in the right place, but their decisions are absolute law, and you should never dare question them or point out inadequacies or shortcomings.
    I made the mistake of pointing something out one day, and I was practically dared to say something to the President or the EVP. I would love to share the circumstances of that event, as it would shed some light on why there are, at times, reason to question the integrity of leadership. Unfortunately, as that is a first-hand experience, and I am still under the employ of DBU, I shall refrain. Should I no longer work here in the future, I can share more for clarification purposes only.

    I can speak to the validity of the costs on campus. Buildings do not get built without the funds being there completely through donations. Tuition does not fund the new construction or renovation of existing facilities. But I too take issue with the amount of money being spent on landscaping, aesthetics, etc., when there are other glaring concerns on campus.

    But most importantly, I take issue with the concept of servant leadership, considering that it is more of a benevolent dictatorship. As I previously mentioned, what comes down from the President’s and EVP’s office is law and it is not open for debate or discussion.

    • Concerned Staffer says:

      Ooops…I missed a thought I wanted to share previously.

      We are constantly reminded that we live under the blanket of grace and mercy that the Lord provides. He does not discriminate, but freely and willingly provides it to those who trust in Him.
      The same cannot be said at DBU. Grace and mercy are not freely given. It is doled out discriminately, while judgment and apathy are in constant supply. Again, I wish I could provide examples to illustrate my point of view, but I will refrain from doing so.

      • Thanks for the thoughts.
        As time separates me from this letter, I’ve softened slightly in my position—in that I’m willing to acknowledge that no organization is perfect, because no person is (yet!) perfect. I’m appreciative when others show grace to me in my mistakes.
        I continue to hope and pray that the Lord will prune and refine all of us, that we may bear more abundant fruit for the kingdom. May we all be humble enough to admit when we’ve been wrong, and change our ways for the sake of truth and the Gospel.
        I appreciate your thoughts very much, as they acknowledge that there are still many issues that need tending. I hope that, in whatever sphere you find yourself, you’re able to be the love, grace, and peace of Christ.

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