(Editors Note: Following is a letter posted in a blog by students and alumni who support the current status of the college. The student’s name appears in the blog but is withheld from this series of articles for consistency.)
Dear Dr. Ruble, Erskine administration, and Board of Trustees,
It has come to my attention that there is much controversy going on in Due West about my alma mater. I am writing this letter in defense of Erskine College. I graduated from Erskine four years ago with a little over 150 members of the class of 2005. Many of the professors I had are no longer there. All of the students who were freshmen when I was a senior have graduated and moved on. I can not name one student there at this time. However, my heart is still with Erskine and with that passion, I ask that you take my letter into consideration.
First of all, I hear of many (or at least one person through a posted YouTube video) who wish Erskine would not admit as many non-Christians, as it is felt that this makes Erskine more secular. I could not disagree more. While I was a student at Erskine, I had several friends who found Christ and knew many, so many whose faith became so much stronger and so much deeper through Christian outreach on campus. Who is to say that since these students were non-Christians they should not have had the opportunity to attend Erskine and later find Christ? Did Jesus only preach and reach out to those who were already believers? We are to be witnesses to others, and we know God has a plan for each individual. If God’s plan places a non-believing student at Erskine, it is without a doubt for a purpose. Our place should not be to exclude him or her but to be a witness. It’s like an old quote my grandfather (Erskine ’58) used to tell me: We may be the only Bible he or she ever reads.
Secondly, I also read on a site’s post where someone actually documented notes from a history class where comments were made about religion. I am a teacher in a public school, and while I can not preach and I can not spread God’s word in certain ways by law, my students know I love God. They see me pray every morning and before every meal. They hear me talk about what I did at church. Just because I’m not quoting scripture does not make me a lesser Christian and I don’t believe it makes Erskine professors into lesser Christians or lesser educators. While I loved the fact that Erskine focused on Christian commitment and academic excellence, every class I took at Erskine was not taught with a mention of Jesus every single day. I don’t think it needed to. Erskine was a Christian environment that supported my every need and guided me on my faithful path. It was also a highly academic environment which focused on teaching me what I needed to know in order to be successful in my future career and taught me, not only how to be a student, but to be a thinker.
This group has also taken shots at Erskine’s faculty and administration. In the arena of personal attacks, certain faculty members have been targeted. Let me take the time to discuss one such professor who helped guide me on my academic path and simultaneously helped me develop my faith. There were many debates in Dr. Crenshaw’s classroom and he tended to fuel them by making you think (i.e. taking the opposite point of view for discussion). I will be honest: during my first class with this professor, I was frustrated; however after my second class, it clicked. I got it; I understood his purpose in teaching this way. He didn’t teach his students to have his opinion. Dr. Crenshaw taught his students to HAVE an opinion. He wanted to make us think and make us defend what we thought by articulating our position. In part to his teaching, it is not at all surprising to me that as of this very moment, there is a Facebook group of over 380 Erskine alumni (and growing) who are voicing their opinions. This group of alumni believes in Erskine and not just in the romanticized visions we have of our college days. This group of alumni is coming together to defend Erskine, what it stands for, how it helped shape our lives, and how we hope it will remain for students to come. We have opinions, we know what we believe, and how to articulate it. We believe in Erskine.
Finally, I get the feeling that a lot of this fight started when Erskine developed the slogan “Forever Connected Through Christ, Learning, and Life.” Many felt this took away from Erskine’s Christian commitment, and I strongly disagree. I think it makes Erskine seem more like a family, which is exactly how it felt to me. David Dangerfield once rephrased a saying that I know resonates with so many: “Due West isn’t where I’m from. But the first time I ever knew myself, that is where I was living.” I do feel forever connected to Erskine, and for you to understand that I need to tell you my Erskine story.
As a senior in high school, I applied to both large public colleges in SC, a couple in between, and then I had to pick one closer to home. I got in to all six places I applied but ended up choosing Erskine. At the time it felt a bit more like luck of the draw and it was closest to home for someone who was a mama’s girl like me.
Luck of the draw… how wrong I was.
Erskine ended up being a God-send. I didn’t fit inside the big “Erskine bubble.” While at Erskine, I was outside the bubble and inside several small ones. I am not a member of the ARP church; I am of the United Methodist denomination. At the same time, I was an Athenian, an ed major, a student senate member, dated a baseball player, played intramurals, etc. When I think of Erskine, I think of places. Carnegie’s lobby is where we watched the news on the morning of September 11, 2001. Carnegie is where I met some of the girls who would become my best friends. Bonner’s second floor is where my hair was teased and bottles of hairspray were used for big hair night when I rushed Athenian. Euphie Hall is where I later would sit as Athenian president. The circle is where I ran around like a little kid in a huge snowball fight, and the hill by the baseball field is where I went sledding on lunch trays when it snowed during my junior year. Moffatt is where I ate sizzlin’ salads with my friends on Thursdays after convo, and Watkins is where I always studied for history and Bible. The Erskine building is where I spent most of my days as an education major. The library is where we played hide-and-seek after hours one time when a friend was closing the library, and the baseball field is where I watched my boyfriend pitch for the Flying Fleet.
Four years later, several of those friends I made were bridesmaids at my wedding. Those hours in the Erskine Building paid off as I just finished my fourth year as an elementary school teacher. The fact that I was in the library back then was a small miracle, but a couple summers ago I used that library again – to work on a major research project for my Masters work while attending Clemson University. The boyfriend I watched as he played for Erskine is now a teacher and coaches baseball at the high school level. He’s also my husband of two years and the father of our two-month-old son.
I loved Erskine and I know things change. I often say I would love to go back to Erskine but I would literally have to go back because I would only want to go if it were with the exact same people at the exact same time. I grew so much as a person there. My understanding and kindness were enriched through relationships with others. My faith became so much stronger. My life became so much richer. It hurts me to think that the place I loved and the place that made such an impact on my life is both changing and trying to be changed even more by others.
I am proud to say that four years after Erskine, I am a Christian girl who loves and serves her church. I am the wife of a wonderful husband whom I met at Erskine. I am the mother of a precious baby boy who can expect to hear many of these Erskine stories. I am the granddaughter of a man who was also an alumnus of Erskine but sadly did not live to see me graduate from his alma mater. I am the daughter of a man who watched the first person in his family graduate from college when I walked across that stage under the towers. I am the sister of a boy who used to visit me in my dorm. I am the teacher of a classroom of 20 six-year-olds each year who are better prepared because their teacher learned from Dr. Emery and Dr. Jumper. I am a friend to those whom I met through my Erskine experience and to those who are still connected to me even though distance parts us. I am so blessed that I am an Erskine alumna and will defend her as she deserves.
If I can be of any service to my alma mater, please let me know.
With deepest support and appreciation,
(Class of 2005)