By The Signal Editorial Board
There’s a lot to like about The Master’s University. Nestled in the quiet, rural atmosphere of Placerita Canyon, the campus provides a tranquil learning environment that belies the hustle and bustle of the city that closely surrounds it.
Within that bucolic setting, TMU offers the epitome of a small-school experience, with a low, 12-1 student-professor ratio, an undergraduate population of just 1,000 or so students, competitive university athletic programs and close proximity to all of the amenities of the Southland that help make Santa Clarita a great place to live.
And, for students who value a faith-based education, TMU provides that, with an education centered around Christian values and beliefs.
All of it is in jeopardy.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, through its Senior College and University Commission, has placed TMU’s accreditation on probation — and the university has two years to address a laundry list of issues raised in the aftermath of a WASC visit to TMU in March.
We hope the university’s leadership is taking the complaints seriously, but there are hints surfacing that indicate those at the top are playing the role of victim. For example, TMU President John MacArthur, reportedly speaking before a group of Master’s Seminary students last weekend, portrayed the sanctions as an attack on the university and on him personally.
“These are the best of times for us, and we know that because the enemy is working so hard,” he told the group, according to a recording posted online. In the recording, the speaker characterizes it as “a rather orchestrated attack, if not by any human source, then certainly by Satan himself. There was an attack directly on me. And it came in all kinds of forms.”
A TMU source contacted by The Signal listened to the recording and confirmed it was MacArthur who was speaking.
The blog that posted the recording, “The Wartburg Watch,” states that its purpose is “to shine a light into the darkness, exposing hypocrisy, heresy and arrogance while also examining trends that affect the faith in the public square. Truth and transparency are of utmost importance to us.”
We hope truth and transparency are not getting lost in the shuffle at TMU.
Obviously, the university is a private institution so its operations do not receive the same level of public scrutiny that a public university would. However, the accrediting organization, WASC, wields a great degree of power over the future of the university. TMU has been told to get its house in order within a period not to exceed two years.
If it fails, its accreditation will be withdrawn.
Imagine you’re a parent of a TMU student. You’re paying more than $24,000 a year just in tuition and fees, plus room and board. If TMU loses its accreditation, the value of that education will diminish greatly.
We suggest a little more introspection at the top, starting with MacArthur, regarding the WASC accusations of wrongdoing or inadequacy, including the following:
1) Board Independence: “The institution does not meet the WSCUC requirement for governing board independence since many members of the board are employed by the institution or another organization for which the president has authority.”
2) Personnel and Management Practices: “..the visiting team observed and received reports of a climate of fear, intimidation, bullying and uncertainty among significant numbers of faculty and staff.”
3) Operational Integrity: “The institution’s 2017 financial audit contains a specific finding on appearance of conflicts of interest with the president’s son-in-law supervising a contract from which he benefits, as well as institutional aid that exceeds typical aid awards being awarded to friends and relatives.”
4) Leadership: “Some institutional leaders lack higher education experience, preparation and knowledge of key higher education regulatory expectations and professional standards for institutions of higher education. For example, when asked by the visiting team, the (chief operating officer) was unaware of the Clery Act, (the Violence Against Women Act) and the Family Education Right to Privacy Act (FERPA).”
These are not minor issues — and while it may be uncomfortable for the TMU administration, it’s very reasonable to expect that those who are paying the students’ tuition would believe they are owed transparency and real action.
It’s going to take some major changes to restore faith in TMU and its leadership. Hopefully the right people are willing to look in the mirror and see that TMU’s problems are not the work of the devil, but of human beings.
The WASC letter to TMU can be downloaded at: www.wscuc.org/institutions/ masters-university-and-seminary