By Chrysa Keenon & Eric Andrews | Echo
A response from the Excalibur Board was published on March 5 on Excalibur's newly created website. It named four board members as men's soccer head coach Gary Ross, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies Richard Smith, Professor of Philosophy and Religion Jim Spiegel and Executive Director of Marketing Benjamin Wehling. Their pseudonyms are Legbiter, Skofnug, Durendal and Joyeuse, respectively.
Campus was informed of the website and statement by small paper slips placed around the LaRita Boren Campus Center with the text "A message from Durendal: www.the-res-publica.org." This link opened to Excalibur's website.
The statement was titled, "With Love to Our Critics," written by Spiegel and Ross. It defined the motivation of the publication to be "the edification of the TU community, especially our students, however ill-conceived some might think our endeavors to be."
It summarized an apology to students who felt threatened in Samuel Morris Hall by racial targeting.
"While we included no racist content in the newsletter, we understand how people may have read into our communication intent that was not there," the statement read. ". . . To be perfectly clear: we believe in racial justice! What we oppose is the prevailing leftist conception of social justice, which, in our humble opinion, seems to monopolize racial justice issues."
The statement acknowledged the uncertainty the board felt about originally protecting their identities, and requested forgiveness if the anonymity was cause for readers' concern. The authors noted the strain the publication caused on members of administration, and affirmed Taylor remains theologically orthodox on topics such as the divinity of Christ, His bodily resurrection and return, holding a high view of scripture and an evangelistic drive to impact the world.
The comment section was disabled from the website on March 6. Some of the comments prior to the section's deletion were both in favor of and against the publication.
"(Avoiding The Echo) suggests that dialogue was not the point," said Eric J. Moore ('06) in a comment on Excalibur's website. "There wasn't an intent of safe (for everyone) discussion. There was safe (for authors) soap-boxing. This is antithesis to meaningful dialogue."
Matthew Smithers, a former Taylor staff member, said he is in support of the publication and believes white conservatives feel unwelcome on Taylor's campus.
Matt Anderson Jr. ('12) and Libby Trudeau ('12) both wished for the publication to be more specific about their beliefs. Trudeau noted that political and theological conservatism are not the same thing.
"They never forced their ideals on anyone they simply stated their ideals," said sophomore Chase Christeson in a comment on Excalibur's website. "They (didn't) attack other ideals openly. But since they have their opinion stated, of course they go against other opinions."
The website was taken down on March 6. According to President P. Lowell Haines, university administration asked Excalibur participants to consider removing the website due to the growing discord on campus, which was not the original goal of the publication. Ultimately, the decision to take down the website was made by Excalibur authors.
According to Vice President for Student Development Skip Trudeau, the first edition of Excalibur did not have approval for campus-wide distribution. Skip Trudeau said it was likely the slips with Spiegel's message also did not get approval.
"Our LTC calls us to care for one another, calls us to speak truth to one another, calls us to work toward reconciliation towards one another, and if you don't know where to take your hurt or your concern or your questions or your suspicions, to directly address each other," said Provost Jeff Moshier. ". . . If you can't apply when your brother offends you, go to them, well, then we've circumvented a very important Christian principle."
Members of the Excalibur Board declined all interview requests from The Echo. Members of the Excalibur Board held a Q&A session at the top of the Hodson Dining Commons on March 7 from 12-2 p.m. without mass public notice.
A growing number of alumni (63 at the time of The Echo's production) with graduation dates ranging from 1989-2017 created an open letter to the faculty and staff behind the Excalibur publication. It was posted on The Echo's Facebook page by Moore. The letter addresses the content of the publication rather than the anonymity and invites further dialogue.
Reflecting back on his earlier campus-wide released statement, Haines pointed out those who believe he stood against the content of Excalibur misread his statement.
"Taylor is a place where we wrestle with ideas of all kinds," Haines said. "Struggling with differences of opinions is an essential ingredient of a vibrant liberal arts education."
According to an excerpt from an email sent from Excalibur's email address, there are three more editions in the works to be released in the spring. There are 1,000 copies of each print edition that are being planned for release. The cost to print the first edition was $91, according to the print shop.
The email excerpt also referenced Haines' statement regarding Excalibur, and encouraged those in favor of the publication to share their support with Taylor administrators.