Christian prof. claims he was fired for mentioning God

A professor at Bucks County Community College (BCCC) in Pennsylvania was fired recently after mentioning God in a farewell letter to students who completed his course.

Dwight “Mitch” Anderson told Campus Reform he was dismissed from his job as an adjunct professor of astronomy at BCCC after a former student sent a copy of the letter to administrators along with a list of complaints about his pedagogical practices.

“This whole thing started back in 2013,” Anderson said, explaining he had brought copies of a book called, Since Nobody’s Perfect, How Good is Good Enough? for each of his students at the end of the spring semester that year. He acknowledged the book “was clearly Christian,” but maintained that students had the option to either accept the free book or decline it without repercussion.

One student who elected to take a copy of the book, however, was allegedly less interested in its spiritual and moral insights than in using it against Prof. Anderson.

“One student called me about it and said that if I didn’t do something about his grade, then he would go to the administration about the book,” Anderson said. “I didn’t do anything about the grade, so he went to the administration, and that was my first offense.”

He claims BCCC officials reprimanded him for handing out the book, and warned him to avoid doing anything “overtly Christian” in the future.

Roughly a year later, at the end of the 2014 spring semester, Anderson included a farewell letter as an attachment to emails he sent informing his astronomy students of their grades. In the letter, Anderson praises some students for their efforts throughout the course and chastises others for “[choosing] to be disengaged in a variety of ways from the beginning,” though he does not single out any individuals.

Anderson went on to reflect upon his students’ potential for personal development, recommending they pursue a course rooted in wisdom and concluding with the statement: “If each of us, little by little with God’s help, can incorporate these foundation stones of goodness into our lives, we will find an anchor for our lives, which will result in a deep and lasting satisfaction through life, and allow us to influence the world for good as we live out our lives.”

An unnamed female student, whom Anderson described as “obstreperous” and disengaged with the course from the start, became so incensed that she contacted the dean, calling Anderson’s comments “sad” and “disturbing,” and asking BCCC to review the farewell letter.

“I feel an apology is in order … and not just to me but to the rest of the class as well,” the student asserts after cataloging allegations ranging from belittling struggling students to requiring the class to travel off campus for stargazing. “Evaluate your personal teaching practices and restructure to fit the needs of the class not just how you have done it in the past,” she advises, apparently referring to Prof. Anderson.

The student, who reports receiving a grade of 73 percent in the course, also asserts that just eight students completed the course out of the 19 who were originally enrolled, implicitly attributing the dropouts to Anderson’s treatment of those who failed to grasp the concepts he was teaching. Anderson disputes this assertion, saying 11 students completed the class out of 13 who were originally enrolled, and that both withdrawals were compelled by outside circumstances.

The dean who received the student’s complaints proceeded to forward them on to Prof. Anderson, along with a curt note informing him that his employment would be terminated.

“As you probably remember, you were warned that any further violation of College policy would result in possible termination,” the dean wrote. “Your letter, as are your previous actions, is inappropriate.

“I read in your letter that you are closing another chapter in your life,” the administrator continued, referring to the claim in Anderson’s letter that he would no longer be teaching his astronomy course. “If I interpret this correctly, and you are not returning to teach at Bucks, that is a wise decision on your part. I've removed your name from the schedule and am processing the necessary paperwork.”

The dean did not specifically identify the reference to God as being the offense in question, but Anderson said that based on the context, “I’m assuming it couldn’t be anything else, because I was warned not to do anything overtly Christian again.”

When he pressed the dean for clarification, Anderson said he was told that his letter had violated the school’s policy on academic freedom. Even after the school sent him a printed version of its unabridged policy manual, though, Anderson said he found no mention of any such policy, leading him to believe the school’s decision to fire him was made without consideration of whether his actions actually violated either the law or BCCC policy.

“I’m on the school board for Quakertown, and it turns out that our solicitor is the college’s solicitor,” Anderson told Campus Reform. “I’m amazed that they would have fired me without even consulting with their counsel.”

Anderson is contesting his dismissal, in part by using his Facebook page to encourage former students to contact Robert Loughery, Chairman of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, with their recollections of him as a teacher.

Spokespersons for BCCC did not return messages left by Campus Reform, and Anderson noted that several former students who contacted the school were uniformly rebuffed on the grounds that his firing is a personal matter.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete