Local News

Meredith Cuts Baptist Ties

Posted February 26, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— After 106 years of being linked to the Baptist State Convention, Meredith College has severed the ties. The board of trustees voted unanimously to elected its own board members and to be independent of all Baptist influence.

Board chairman Norman Kellum was quoted inThe News & Observeras saying, "We feel it is best for Meredith to select its own trustees. Meredith is a grown woman, not a little girl."

Jeannie Morelock, Meredith's marketing and communications director, echoes that sentiment.

The largest women's college in the Southeast, Meredith is located on 225 acres in West Raleigh, next to Hillsborough Street and the Beltline.

The move protects the school from political currents affecting the State Baptist Convention. In recent years the organization has become increasingly conservative, leading faculty to worry that textbook censorship, Bible studies and chapel services might be mandated. Other Baptist-affiliated colleges, among them Furman, Stetson and Baylor, have cut ties to the state conventions in South Carolina, Florida and Texas.

Meredith's Alumni Association President Elizabeth Beam expresses disappointment in the decision.

Only 34 percent of Meredith students are Baptist. Alumni response was mixed, with some women applauding what they see as defense of academic freedom, and others saying they wished something else might have been worked out.

Mandy Cozart is a Meredith student who says she'd like to see the Baptist affiliation remain.

Student Yvonne Ward says she sees this as an opening up to everyone.

The faculty has been nearly unanimous in its approval of the separation.

The trustees told the Baptist State Convention that they hoped for continuance of a harmonious relationship.

Convention president Greg Mathis said Meredith's decision represents a "great loss." He also noted that he is puzzled by the school's action, since he knows "of not one ounce of pressure that has been put on them."

Trustees, however, said they wanted to remove any possibility of political influence from its academic decisions.