Bush at Calvin College: the full story

This is an update to an earlier posting of mine, where I quoted an opinion piece Chuck Colson wrote about protests to President Bush’s commencement address to the Calvin College graduating class of 2005. The mainstream media wanted you to believe that there was a massive amount of Calvin College students, faculty, and alumni who didn’t want the President there.

But that wasn’t the case.

As usual, the media trumped up the amount of protesting and dissent, specifically because this was a Christian college, and any Christian who disagrees with the President is immediately looked upon favorably by our partisans in the so-called ‘unbiased’ press. Here was the real deal, directly from the pen (typewriter) of Calvin College’s president, Mr. Gaylen Byker:

However, some faculty members chose to express their dissent in an open letter placed in the Grand Rapids Press on Commencement Day. The letter’s intent was to articulate their convictions and urge President Bush to reconsider several policy matters on the basis of a shared Christian faith. The open letter was itself the center of campus debate. While some felt strongly that making these statements was a matter of Christian conscience, a majority of the Calvin community feared that the media and media audiences would construe the statement as disrespectful protest and a challenge of the President’s Christian faith. Yet, about 120 of the nearly 700 people who work at Calvin (along with a few emeriti) signed the letter. (Before the statement was even in print, two professors appeared on a confrontational political television show, which many also saw as sure to be interpreted as merely about protest and disrespect.)

In the same May 21 edition of the Press, an opinion piece written by Calvin communications professor Randall Bytwerk also appeared, articulating his view that President Bush should be welcomed without dissent β€” and his confidence that despite the debate, the Calvin community would put its differences aside and welcome the President with enthusiasm. Yet another column was printed that same morning, penned by the religion editor of the Grand Rapids Press, which praised Calvin for being a college “that likes to mix it up on a firm platform of faith.”

Complicating the picture further, a full-page ad appeared on Friday, May 20, in the Grand Rapids Press. On this page, 823 Calvin alumni and others expressed their views, without the benefit of the weeks of campus discussion that preceded the faculty statement. Calvin College had no part in that more harshly worded ad. Unfortunately, media reports confused the alumni ad with the faculty statement, fueling the charges of campus disrespect.

In fairness to the entire Calvin community, perhaps we should put those numbers in context. There are 53,600 members of the Calvin Alumni Association. Of those members, less than 700 participated in the “alumni and friends” letter β€” and, on the other side of the spectrum, it should be known that a “calvin4bush” website collected 1,754 alumni and friends names for a supportive statement in a matter of a few days.

Hat tip to the media relations department (specifically Phil) at Calvin College for alerting me to this media discrepancy.