By Eric Andrews & Chrysa Keenon | Echo
UPDATED 12:48 p.m.
On Feb. 21, a single-sheet publication titled Excalibur was printed and distributed around campus. The authors behind the newsletter are unknown.
"We are Taylor University faculty, staff and students who heartily affirm the historic orthodox theological doctrines, as expressed in the Apostles creed and other classic ecumenical Christian creeds," the sheet printed on glossy magazine stock stated. ". . . Our current cultural climate makes so much of personality that withholding our identities will help to keep the focus on the issues rather than who we are."
The newsletter was distributed on dorm floors, tables at the Hodson Dining Commons and LaRita Boren Campus Center and in Euler Science Complex. There are two articles within the newsletter written by pseudonyms Legbiter and Durendal, both names of swords.
According to Director of Media Relations Jim Garringer, an investigation was conducted by university administration, and a response from President P. Lowell Haines will be released today.
Since its release, there have been positive and negative reactions toward the publication on campus.
"One of the reasons I like (Excalibur is) that I think it can provide that kind of counter to certain prevailing views," said Jim Spiegel, professor of philosophy and religion. "Even if the more liberal or leftist orientation on some of these issues is not officially endorsed around campus, it seems like that is the perspective that gets most often - by far - represented. So (Excalibur) can provide a nice counterpoint."
Spiegel noted this is not the first time an underground publication has been proposed on campus. According to Spiegel, in the '90s, a student brought up the idea and inquired if Spiegel would contribute a piece. Intrigued by the idea of creating dialogue on campus, Spiegel prepared a piece to be published, but the piece never went to print.
Associate Professor of Communication Donna Downs recalls an underground publication coming to campus in the mid-1990s. She said the publication lasted only a few issues before going out of print.
"The Excalibur offered its rationale for its underground, anonymous approach to sharing its views," said Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism and faculty adviser of The Echo. "However, I think when writers of any stripe in an academic setting desire to communicate in a serious way about serious issues, they have nothing to lose by identifying themselves, be they students, staff or faculty. . . . One advantage of signing one's commentary is that it allows for a civil but vigorous debate of a given issue in an arena where everyone's identity is known."
The lack of named ownership has sparked response across campus from students and faculty. Social media has taken a key role in sparking discussion about the topic.
Jeff Aupperle, director of the Calling and Career Office, summarized one stance on campus in his tweet:
"Anonymous commentary can create chaos in a community without assuming any of its risk. The real value of dialogue is the opportunity to seek to understand one another and to avoid reducing one another to an incomplex label. Human complexity requires more of us...so does love."
A blog post titled "Put the Sword Back into the Stone" by senior Roscoe Rea argued the views presented in Excalibur were unsupported by scripture.
An article written by Peter Heck and published in "The Resurgent" was supportive of the message in Excalibur. "The Resurgent" is an online publication by TheMaven Network and has not written about Taylor before. Heck is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University.
"In other words, Excalibur seems dedicated to voicing precisely what Taylor University and every other university bearing the name of Christ should be teaching, affirming, and reinforcing in every classroom, every discussion, every chapel, and through every speaker," Heck's article reads.
A spoof underground newsletter, entitled Lightsabur, was distributed around campus Friday morning. Lightsabur did not include any content specifically responding to Excalibur.
Additionally, P. Lowell Haines, the president of Taylor University, issued the following statement on Friday in response to Excalibur:
"For the last 47 years of my relationship with Taylor University, I have been proud of the Taylor community's ability to have open and vigorous dialogue over the issues of the day, to wrestle with differences of opinion, and to always seek either common ground or better understanding. This university, this Christian institution of higher learning, has long been a place where community members aspire to acknowledge their differences, while striving to love and to seek God's best for each other. This is the Taylor I have known, and it is the Taylor I love.
Unfortunately, earlier this week, we were confronted with an incident that fell short of Taylor's lofty goals for life together. On Wednesday, an 'underground,' secretive newsletter was distributed that purported to add 'boldly' to the debate on several serious issues.
To the contrary, the unsanctioned, anonymous, and suspect distribution of the publication sewed discord and distrust, hurting members of our community. I am disappointed in the drafters and distributors of 'Excalibur' for their method of addressing these issues, and especially for their lack of foresight and sensitivity regarding how this approach could impact community members, especially those of color. Whatever their good intentions, they failed.
The Towel reminds us that community is messy - and is meant to be done in person and face to face. We cannot be a place of anonymous newsletters delivered in the dark with no attribution. Rather, we must wrestle with issues of the day openly, honestly, and freely, but always seeking to find God's truth in the midst of a complex world.
To those members of our community who have been hurt by this newsletter and the ill-conceived manner in which it was delivered, I assure you that you are loved, valued and safe here. You are of great value to God, to me, and to your brothers and sisters in Christ at Taylor University.
I was struck by and concur with a tweet broadcasted in response to this incident:
Anonymous commentary can create chaos in a community without assuming any of its risk. The real value of dialogue is the opportunity to seek to understand one another and to avoid reducing one another to an incomplex label. Human complexity requires more of us...so does love.
I am frustrated that we find ourselves here. Yet, I remain confident that we can continue to be the community that I have always loved. We must engage ideas on their merit, and be willing to risk offense for the sake of truth. This is the heart of a liberal arts education. But we can never forget the ideals of life together and the responsibility we bear for 'one another."