Board of Trustees Member, Dr. Otto, Resigns

Image of Dr. Paul Otto. Courtesy of George Fox University website.

By Angela Groom

On December 22, Dr. Otto sent the Board of Trustees and Executive Board at Providence Christian College his letter of resignation. During the middle of January, the Blade reached out to Otto to inquire what caused him to resign.

Dr. Otto’s grievances with the college are not recent, as he states, “I have become increasingly dismayed with, and discouraged by, what I see as profound changes to the college for at least two years now.”

In one part of the letter, he wrote an introduction to the grievances that in effect stated that the board he joined, with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, looks different. “In recent years, there seems to be far less humility, far less willingness to listen to others, and far less self-reflection in decision making,” said Otto.

Among the grievances listed were issues such as: abandonment of shared governance, concentration of power in the executive committee, abandonment of academic environment in favor of corporate environment, apparent political rationale evident in crucial decision-making, efforts to eliminate free speech and scholarly inquiry among students and faculty, shift from cultural engagement to cultural warfare, adoption of consequentialism in decision-making, and the intimidation of students, faculty, and fellow trustees.

According to Otto, there had been a number of instances over the summer and fall semester in which rubber-stamping took place, “the Executive Committee made decisions without full board input,” continued Otto, “and apparently expecting the board to simply approve the decisions post-facto.”

Otto’s example of this was the board’s written response to the student’s address of grievances to the board, which occurred in October of the 2016 Fall semester. He is quoted, saying, “The letter ostensibly came from the board, but the full board never voted on the contents of the letter and some board members were not ready to approve it.”

He continued, noting an earlier instance where he voiced his concern that the full board was not being consulted to which the board chair explained that the cabinet and executive committee were unanimous in their decision, which effectively dismissed the approval of the full board.

Otto’s decision to resign was not all sunshine and roses, and certainly not a decision made on impulse as he brought his letter to a close with the following sentiment: “For most of my time as a trustee, it has been both a privilege and a pleasure to serve. During that time, I have gladly done all that I could to support the college. Two of my daughters attended for several of those years, and one of them graduated this past year.

Because of the changes, however, my youngest daughter has now chosen, as a third-year student, to transfer to George Fox University. With a sense of loss, I watch her make this decision, even as I, too, must part ways with Providence. As things now stand at the college, I can no longer support the institution.”

Although he felt he needed to leave and could no longer support the institution, he had a few solutions to offer as he went, saying,

I think that the board needs to establish much greater oversight on the president’s work, at least until things smooth out. I think president Belcher needs to attend much more to the major issues that face the college and let the vice presidents manage matters in their own divisions.”

Otto then ended his statement with, “Of these things, I think that the president’s most important tasks should be improving morale and increasing fund raising. And I think a system of shared governance needs to be quickly established and adhered to.

Otto is a Historian and the chairman for the Department of History at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. Prior to earning his PhD from Indiana University, where he specialized in early America and Native American history, he received his Master’s degree from Western Washington University and, before that, his Bachelor’s degree from Dordt College.