The Irascible ProfessorSM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

This train is bound for glory, this train,
This train is bound for glory, this train,
This train is bound for glory,
Don't ride nothin' but the righteous an' the holy
This train is bound for glory, this train,

This train don't carry no gamblers, this train,
This train don't carry no gamblers, this train,
This train don't carry no gamblers
No hypocrites, no midnight ramblers,
This train is bound for glory, this train. .....Traditional Gospel Song

Commentary of the Day - August 23, 2001: The Righteous an' the Holy Behind the Orange Curtain.

Writing about religion and the doings of the religious always presents a special challenge, particularly when one is writing from the heart of Orange County, California -- a place where religion is taken seriously.  However, a couple of items passed across the Irascible Professor's desk in the past few weeks relating to activities at two of our local religiously based institutions of higher education that at the very least provided amusement if not offense.

Before going into the details, let me note that Orange County has more than its share of folks who stretch the limits when it comes to religious practices.  We are home to the "Crystal Cathedral", an immense and ostentatious glass skyscraper of a church that severely tests the Biblical injunction not to cast the first stone.  We also are home to the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which specializes in putting on the air some of the most garish looking TV preachers imaginable.  Elmer Gantry had nothing on these folks!  And, Orange County also has had more than its fair share of politicians who have wrapped their narrow-mindedness in piety and patriotism.

However, our religious cup is not completely filled with flakes and nuts.  We do have plenty of people who take their religion seriously enough to spend their time and energy comforting the afflicted, feeding the hungry, and providing shelter for the homeless.  Orange County, despite outward appearances of affluence, is home to a substantial number of folks who live in poverty.  Unfortunately, many of our local politicos would prefer that these less fortunate residents of the county remain invisible.  At times, a substantial amount of civic energy is spent hassling those who minister to the poor and helpless.

The first incident that the IP found somewhat amusing involved Winston L. Frost, Dean of Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, CA.  Trinity is a small (approximately 200 student) law school run by Trinity International University.  Trinity International is associated with Evangelical Free Church of America.  According to reports in The Los Angeles Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Frost has been accused of plagiarism in the writing of an article on the history of the human rights movement, which appeared in the fall 2000 issue of the Trinity Law Review.  Apparently, substantial portions of Frost's article were copied pretty much word for word from an Encyclopedia Britannica article written by a University of Iowa professor and from material in a book authored by J.J. Shestack.

Mr. Frost claimed that the problem arose because the law review staff did a poor job of "fact checking" and misnumbered the footnotes to his article.  Frost further claims that these "oversights" have been exploited by his "enemies".  Trinity dismissed Frost from his position as Dean, but so far has allowed him to remain on the faculty in paid leave status pending further investigation.

A few comments seem in order.  First, cribbing from the Encyclopedia Britannica is a bit lame.  Any law school dean worthy of the title ought to be able to crib from sources so obscure that no one should be the wiser.  Second, given the centrality of Christianity to the mission of Trinity Law School, it seems like there is an eighth commandment issue here.  The "thou shall not steal" admonition surely must extend to the words of others.  Finally, there is a "buck stops here" issue as well.  After all, this guy was the Dean.  He bears the ultimate responsibility for the quality of the work done by his law review staff.  Pardon me while I step behind the shield of Abraham for a moment, but blaming your law review staff for your own failure to properly review your article before publication seems to the IP to be the height of "chutzpah".

The second item that the IP found mildly amusing was found in a recent article by Alex P. Kellogg in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Kellogg's focus was on the current feud between Las Vegas gambling magnate Stan Fulton and Carol C. Harder, who is the president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.  In the past Fulton had been a major donor to the campus.  Fulton, while president of Anchor Gaming, contributed several million dollars to UNLV for a building that houses the International Gaming Institute.

Since his rift with the UNLV administration, Stan Fulton has been directing his philanthropy elsewhere.  According to the Chronicle article he recently has contributed more than $8 million to other institutions, and $5.25 million of that has been directed to Hope International University here in Fullerton, CA.  (Hope International is right across the street from the IP's home institution.)  Hope International University (formerly Pacific Christian College) is a small 800 student institution affiliated with the nondenominational Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

The IP made a number of telephone calls to Gordon Venturella, Director of Advancement at Hope International in an attempt to obtain the answers to a few pertinent questions.  Mr. Venturella did not return those calls, but the questions still remain.  Why would a wealthy Las Vegas gambling executive choose to make such a large donation to a relatively unknown institution?  What was the gift going to be used for?  What were the conditions on the gift?  Was the administration of Hope International concerned in any way about the provenance of the gift - did the fact that the money came from gambling interests raise any questions of ethics or morality?  Unfortunately, HIU seems unwilling to answer those questions in a public forum.

The IP finds it a bit odd that an institution of higher education that claims a close affinity with biblical teachings would accept a major donation from someone connected with an industry (gambling) that depends on the rather base human motivations of greed and avarice for its success.

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© 2001 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.