Students & staff to leave Montreat College over 'covenant' given to staff

Several students and faculty members at Montreat College are protesting a new handbook, or "covenant" that faculty and staff were asked to sign to continue their employment. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Several students and faculty members at Montreat College are protesting a new handbook, or "covenant," that faculty and staff were asked to sign to continue their employment.

The new addition, labeled as a "Life Covenant," asks faculty and staff to affirm the word of God in committing to several tenants, including "chastity among the unmarried and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman." The entire document and it's commitments can be read below.

Some students, like sophomore Ander Crenshaw, believe the commitments were already implied, and the reaction is overblown. "It was just clarifying that biblical stand point of view and making it more, I'd say, black and white and less ambiguous," Crenshaw says. News 13 heard similar statements from students while on campus.

But, for at least two students, the clarification in the covenant was enough to make them pursue the remainder of their education elsewhere.

"A lot of people on my friend group, they're either transferring or dropping out altogether because the school has just ruined it for them," says sophomore Bailey Mathews, who was president of her high school Gay-Straight Alliance. "I feel very strongly when they decide to actually write this down and set it in stone the school's belief. So, I feel like I can't be apart of that and then, most of my teachers are leaving, so why would I stay somewhere where I can't get a quality education."

Kelly Ann Madden is a junior at Montreat College. "It has affected me greatly in that sense the people that have kept me in college thus far are leaving," Madden says. "I became an environmental studies minor by being inspired by Melissa Wilson, and she is one of two females in the environmental studies department who are both leaving Montreat."

A faculty member that wishes to remain anonymous sent News 13 a list of eight faculty/staff members who have refused to sign the covenant, thus refusing to continue their employment at the college following the current semester.

When News 13 sent the list to Adam Caress, director of communications for Montreat College, for confirmation, he would not confirm or deny which faculty or staff refused to sign and instead issued the following statement:

"People decide to leave employment for many different reasons, and it is not correct to assume that all of those leaving are doing so due to concerns over the core documents. The college is not at liberty to discuss information about individual faculty members, but in general, just two faculty members--one of our 39 full-time faculty and one of our 142 adjunct faculty--have informed the college that the core documents included in the faculty handbook are a primary factor in their decision not to return to the college next year."

The previously mentioned list sent to News13 included 14 other faculty or staff members who are leaving the college for unknown reasons. Neither of these lists have been confirmed by Montreat College.

Montreat College issued a statement about the addition to the handbook. The entire statement can also be read below in full.

The students that spoke to News 13 did agree that the situation could have been handled better. "I will say it was a little bit abrupt," Ander Crenshaw says. "I think students weren't explained why they did what they did, it just kind of happened."

Students also told News 13 they were upset after the student mission statement removed the line "student focused," believing it reflected the school's lack of response to their concerns. The following is the response received from Director of Comminications, Adam Caress:

"The college’s Mission Statement was changed in May of 2016 to read: “Montreat College is an independent, Christ-centered, liberal arts institution that educates students through intellectual inquiry, spiritual formation, and preparation for calling and career, all to impact the world for Jesus Christ.” The previous statement had been more of a slogan than a Mission Statement. It read: “Christ-centered. Student-focused. Service-driven.” The college, of course, remains student-focused. And we believe the new Mission Statement is far more specific and descriptive about how the college is focused on its students."

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