On April 27, 2017, The Collegian published an opinion piece that encouraged Hillsdale to secularize. The article entitled “The Importance of Identity: Why Hillsdale College Should Consider Secularization” explained the reasons to secularize if Hillsdale wishes to continue its pursuit of truth.
Secularizing Hillsdale would be a mistake. Free Will Baptists founded Hillsdale. The college’s founders were Christians and put their beliefs and values into its creation. The college is a result of the Christians who struggled to build this school and the values they instilled into its founding.
If we secularize Hillsdale after nearly 175 years of Christian influence, we are wholeheartedly rejecting the Christian values on which this school was founded. If Hillsdale secularized, it would change the institution on a fundamental level.
No longer would Hillsdale tie itself to timeless spiritual truths but would open the door for many dangerous teachings to enter.
Other schools have gone this disastrous direction and Yale is a prime example. William F. Buckley Jr. describes the shift away from free speech that followed with Yale’s increasing secularization and Nathan Harden speaks of the various forms of promiscuity that have invaded Yale’s halls since the school has turned away from its founding. There might be arguments that Yale is an exception and that we would not fall into similar straits, but I see no evidence for this assertion.
Secularization also would make the statement that Hillsdale views Christianity and its values to be false. Hillsdale claims Christian values are a part of the intellectual and spiritual foundation on which it stands.
When I initially visited the school, one of the admissions counselors said the Judeo-Christian tradition of morals is as fundamental to Hillsdale as the Greco-Roman tradition of government. With Hillsdale so closely tied to the Judeo-Christian tradition, secularization would mean that we are declaring this tradition to be false.
One argument in favor of Hillsdale secularizing is that our college is missing out on potential students that would find Hillsdale’s Christian atmosphere uninviting.
If Hillsdale is willing to sell one of its core values for the sake of attracting a few potential students, we may as well disavow other core values that might discourage potential students. Should our economics department begin teaching communism? Should our philosophy department begin teaching moral relativism so as to encourage potential students of these mindsets to attend? If we are unwilling to abandon other core values, then we cannot consider setting aside our religious values simply because potential students might dislike them.
Another argument for secularization is that Hillsdale is choosing to sell their values to wealthy Christian donors by not secularizing. Buckley has also noted that for private colleges, alumni and donors hold an incredible amount of influence over the ideology of the college since it is their generosity that allows the school to operate.
Some might argue Hillsdale is selling itself out to donors in this way, but it is the donors that allow Hillsdale to exist and fund the scholarships and financial aid the vast majority of our students receive. I am unaware of a vast wave of individuals who are waiting to replace the funding that would be lost from Christian donors. Even if there existed such a group, we simply changed one master for another, one that abandons our founding principles.
Andrew Simpson is a sophomore studying the liberal arts.