Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hogwarts-on-the-Brazos: How Brooks "College" is Profoundly Anti-Baptist

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? - James 2: 2-4

For half a century, male Baylor undergraduates have had limited choices for on-campus housing at The B. For red-blooded, Caucasian Protestants who were likely to join a frat or copulate with a Kappa Delta (usually both), Penland Hall was the dormitory of choice. The largest male dorm, Penland was built in 1960 and housed a cafeteria and multiple installments of Robert Sloan's male offspring. The second rung on the ladder of the Baylor dormitory hierarchy has long been Martin Hall, home to wayward, directionless whites and all the non-white, American students (usually concentrated on the 4th Floor and in the basement, or "The Dungeon" as it is still known.) Finally, Brooks Hall, was where the international students, pathetic upperclassmen, and University Scholars/Baylor Interdisciplinary Core/Honors students stayed. Brooks had a unique history and a pervasive stench of asbestos, cannabis, and agnosticism.

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Scene From Brooks Hall's Annual Hookah Tournament

While there were strange aspects of male life in the dorms, the three dormitories had the exact same room and board fee structure and were theoretically open to all male students. This mattered little, though, as most Baylor men left campus after the obligatory freshman year on-campus, and from then on enjoyed the life of Keystone Light, fraternity hazing, coed sleepovers, and fatalism. Yet, these established patterns of behavior were marked for extinction when former Baylor CEO Robert Sloan, Jr. articulated his Vision 2012. Imperative II spoke volumes for what was to come: "To facilitate and energize campus life, Baylor will seek to make more desirable residence halls available so that at least 50 percent of Baylor undergraduates are living on campus by 2012." This, of course, would cut into the jello shot-friendly lifestyle that many cultural Baptists had grown accostomed to after their year under the microscope.

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"Sic 'Em, Jello Shots!"

Soon, a new quasi-coed residence hall sprouted up, aimed at retaining male engineering and computer science majors after their freshman year. In order to make way for this new residence hall, Baylor had to ever-so-gently persuade the historic African-American congregation located on-campus, Second Missionary Baptist Church, to re-locate their flock to a locale more conducive to Baylor's student housing needs. That story complete with photos, linked here, is almost beyond belief.

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Imperative 13: Gentrification of Black Baptist Churches

What resulted was the creation of the "North Village" Community in 2004, which, for the first time, included women in its multiple-building complex. This was the dawn of a new era. The traditional fear of gender-mixing was discarded, as was the idea of the dorm as a place to live; they were now "residential communities," which instill a sense of group identity and long-term commitment to the dorm. However, the North Village was nothing new compared to the British Leviathan that was rising from the demolished ashes of Brooks Hall.

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Brooks Hall, R.I.P.

To understand the Brooks "College" project, one must understand the mentality of the Sloan administration and its many academic acolytes, the majority of whom still populate The B. For the Sloanites, the ideal college education must mimic the Oxford model - not the substance, mind you, but principally the form. The trappings of ivy-covered brick walls, stone walkways, impressive arches, and crests, were essential to create an atmosphere where faith and learning can walk hand in hand. Why are these people so obsessed with this crusty, antiquated model of the university, you ask? Precisely because it has its roots in the medieval synthesis, when, the Sloanites believe, faith and learning (read: traditional Christianity and science), went together like fish and chips, tea and crumpets, and witches and fiery stakes. This was the great period of inquiry in the West, when religion, politics, and education all received their authority and inspiration from the monarch who ruled by divine right.

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Sloan: The Once and Future King

Indeed, the intellectual class of Evangelicals who worship Oxford, Cambridge and all the other stuffy British schools, hoped to remake dear Baylor into a veritable Hogwarts-on-the-Brazos. A place where young wizards-in-training (bright Christians from around the country) would flock to in order to receive the most elite faith-based education that money could buy -- on this side of the pond, at least. However, the unfortunate thing about Baylor is that there are just too many boorish frat boys, secular types, and unpretentious students to make the dream of Hogwarts-on-the-Brazos a reality. So, the Sloanites set out to remake one part of campus into their petri dish of Faith and Learning. Their new project involved demolishing the oldest male dorm on campus, where the NoZe Brotherhood was founded, and in its place creating an exclusive dorm that would be given the title "college" to set it apart from other dorms. Not all students would be admitted to this "college" as they had to complete a separate application process, which contractually binds the student to living at the "college" for two years. Similarly, the "college" would be self-sustaining with its own library, chapel, and Great Hall/cafeteria (complete with a "High Table" for honored guests and students of distinction!). Of course, no dorm based on this model would be complete without a Faculty Master, who lives among the students and lords over them as the Complete Man. His presence would ensure strict compliance with this monumental flight of fancy. Lastly, this enterprise would require an official crest, just like they had in the days of knights and feudal barons. If one could only imagine what that would resemble . . .

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"In dreams, we enter a world that's entirely our own." - Albus Dumbledore

But what is wrong with all this, you ask? Why can't a university have an Oxford theme park on campus? Why all the digital ink spilled over this new residential "college"? These are the questions that our Dungeons & Dragons-obsessed interns have been posing for weeks, as we took turns writing this post. The answer is quite simple. Because Brooks "College" is a perversion of the values our cherished university, "proclaims it instills." (Hat tip to Lt. Col. Frank Slade, U.S.Army, ret.) How so? The room and board cost for Brooks "College" is higher than that of all the other dorms, save the new North Village, by at least $100/month per living arrangement. This is how the "college" will price-out students who cannot afford such luxurious living. These dormitories are creating a new class of on-campus student which separates the undergrad population into those who pay more and those who don't. As if the BMWs, Mercedes, and H2s in the dozen or so student parking garages were not enough to remind some students that they don't have it as good as their peers, now they will be grouped according to socio-economic status (ability to pay) starting their freshman year. But what's wrong with that? One could argue that the on-campus housing is finally mirroring the preference Baylor students have for luxury accomodations in off-campus apartment living. Since off-campus housing reflects the broad-range of parental incomes, what is wrong with the dorms doing the same?

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Harry Potter and The Bastion of Privilege

It is wrong because it is morally repugnant for Baylor to countenance such an arrangement. Student housing should be one price so that students are encouraged to regard each other as equals. This soul equality is precisely the concept that is behind the traditional Baptist notion of the Priesthood of the Believer. Christ called us to treat everyone alike, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, Roman and non-Roman, etc. If our school, which for 162 years has purported to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, suddenly, in His Name, decides what it most needs to accomplish that objective is to have a class-stratified housing arrangement on campus, then something has gone terribly wrong.

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2: 8-10

Baylor University. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas, founded by Texas Baptists. Hijacked by Evangelical elitists: 1995-present.

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  • Masterful.

    "went together like...witches and fiery stakes."

    By Blogger TB, at 6:21 AM  

  • Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to stay at the new Brooks "College": I'm sure it is a great facility, complete with rooms that don't seem like human rights violations in and of themselves, but this new approach to on-campus living seems even more "in loco parentis" than before.

    By Blogger Senior Editor Red Andrews, at 6:44 AM  

  • Nice job there, Red. So where do I send my money?

    Also, don't you think that you're pushing your luck with two posts in a row mentioning "He Who Must Not Be Named"?

    I mean Peckwith (oops, named him) always slithers around the net looking for his reputation.

    By Blogger Pat Neffistopheles, at 8:45 AM  

  • Point taken. No need to arouse the slumbering, sensitive internet police. Let's just say, problem solved.

    By Blogger Senior Editor Red Andrews, at 8:55 AM  

  • I'm pretty sure you have this all wrong. If you read the brochure and on-line materials about brooks, it becomes very clear that it is a refuge and haven for gay male students at the "B". And isn't it about time?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:38 AM  

  • Hah! I guess I never considered it from that perspective. Many academic articles have been devoted to the homoeroticism of the British boarding school, which is part of the model that Brooks "college" seems to be emulating. Maybe I need to rewrite this post as a paean to the tolerance of Baylor's "alternative lifestyles" now that Brooks College seems to be welcoming Oscar Wilde types.

    By Blogger Senior Editor Red Andrews, at 9:54 AM  

  • Thanks, Red, for explaining in more ways than one why Loomisboy is the HOMELESS son of Samuel L. Brooks. My Brooks Hall (1970's) was 20% cheaper than other halls (Kokernot was male in those days, too). And it was the home of all of us who flocked to the cheapest private university in America. Abner and Herb are looking better all the time.

    By Anonymous Loomisboy, Homeless Son of Samuel Brooks, at 10:40 AM  

  • Whatever happend to Baylor being a steal for the money? The tuition increases in the past 12 years have been starkly inconsistent with the rate of increase in the decades prior. Now its a good deal for students in the market for Ivy League prices but the educational value of Iowa State.

    By Blogger Senior Editor Red Andrews, at 11:23 AM  

  • Looking at the 2007-08 Estimated Costs for let's say a freshman, and I am completely astonished. $31,728 per year!!!!

    By Blogger Pat Neffistopheles, at 1:47 PM  

  • I'm not disagreeing with y'all here, however, the bit about "demolishing the oldest male dorm on campus" is a bit rich. I will admit to living in Brooks as a sophomore (1988-89), and it needed to be torn down then. (I will admit to being both an Honors student and a pathetic upperclassman at the time.)

    As far as setting up a neo-Oxbridge in its place, well, they don't put Oxbridge colleges right next to major interstate highways for a reason. If I were in charge, I'd put a Texan spin on the place -- call it Willie Nelson Residential College, serve CFS and Dr Pepper for every meal, require all-night 42 sessions, and... well, you get the idea.

    By Blogger Curtis, at 3:39 PM  

  • I'm not saying it wasn't a dump; it was, apparently the top floor had crazy asbestos issues. But it definitely had plenty o' history and character. It has now been replaced with what appears to be a Hollywood set for the movie Dead Poets Society.

    Your Willie Nelson idea is perhaps the greatest ever proposed on these hear BearMeats.

    Also, we liked your post on GuyMo, curtis.

    Sic 'em,


    By Blogger Senior Editor Red Andrews, at 3:51 PM  

  • Curtis, I would most definitely thrown down $32k a year to live in a Texas themed dorm with daily chicken fried steak, DP rivers and fountains, and a 12 hour class load.

    Waco does after all have a pretty good quality CFS per capita average.

    By Blogger Pat Neffistopheles, at 3:56 PM  

  • If nothing else, a Willie Nelson Residential College would give new meaning to the term "High Table".

    By Blogger Curtis, at 6:00 AM  

  • Bar none, this is the best sermon I've read all year. (And I'm in seminary... I read a hell of a lot of sermons...)

    Look forward to this post getting the full treatment at Cachinnation Central.

    I pooped myself over "Harry Potter and the Bastion of Privilege."

    Brilliant post, fellas. Keep it up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:55 AM  

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