Weimar University’s accreditation body WASC last had a special visit to the campus on March 2-4, 2022. During this time, the accreditation team spoke with the university leadership, professors, and staff. They set up meetings with individuals one on one and in groups. And as is their protocol, they set up an anonymous email so that anyone from the university could contact them without the university administration knowing that they had reached out to the accreditation team and without the accreditation team knowing who had contacted them. The email system would strip away any identifying characteristics from the message and leave only the content of the message for the team to read.
This communication is essential for a university to function as an institution of learning. Professors, staff, and even students should be able to express themselves without fear of being targeted by the tenure committee, their boss, or even their peers. Academic freedom is necessary for new ideas to develop and for space to be given for those ideas to mature and be tested. Even in faith-based Adventist institutions, we respect the principle of academic freedom and tolerate dissent. This openness to new ideas and respect for dissenting opinions is the hallmark of universities worldwide. Agreeing to these critical standards, among other things, makes Weimar an institution of higher learning and worthy of accreditation.
Intelligent Adventist received information from sources within the administration that during this visit, an “inquiry” from the president’s office was made through an intermediary regarding the technical feasibility of finding out who was writing to the accreditation team. We have been left with no doubt from the sources that the inquiry came directly from the president’s office. “No one else could dare make such a request or even think of it,” according to one source who spoke with us on condition of anonymity.
We believe this is a betrayal of the values of an academic institution and a breach of trust. We also believe that the request possibly constitutes an attempt at an illegal search and a violation of several privacy laws of the State of California and possibly of Federal law.
It is conduct unbecoming of a Seventh-day Adventist University president.
IA knows there is no way that the university IT team could have seen who was writing to the accreditation team for several reasons: 1) Despite the fact the accreditation board email/contact link could be accessed through private data networks like Gmail or Yahoo on staff phones. 2) It would take a state or federal judge warrant to access the metadata from someone’s phone or through commercial data networks like Verizon or email networks like Google. 3) Even if the IT staff tried to see who accessed the staff-email system on campus to send their emails, the end user (staff member) would know it because their password, which is uniquely their creation, would have changed. Thus, “if you can’t sin, you won’t.” The request failed for reasons of technical feasibility.
Regardless, this breach of confidence shows the depth the university president is willing to sink to get back at his perceived detractors and political enemies. He is known to have asked staff point-blank if they had written to the accreditation team, and if the staff refused or were reluctant to reply, he would take their fear or reluctance as an affirmative answer.
Conservative Adventism has always prioritized economic realities over moral considerations. For example, I noted in an article a few months ago that every institution from Hartland to Weimar jettisoned the “blueprint” of Adventist education and embraced accreditation and degrees when threatened with financial bankruptcy.
There’s no reason to believe that anything more than that is present in this case. Regardless of the few members on the board who would vote him out today [they have since resigned,] the board will eventually show Dr. Nedley the door when the financial pain of keeping him is greater than the perceived economic pain of losing him. Given everything that has happened over the last few years and was revealed over the previous few months, the pain will keep growing through lawsuits and loss in admissions/enrollments.
All the while, over this last year and now into this new year, students at the university are getting a masterclass in economic expediency over moral values. Every teacher and professor at this institution should remember that one day their students will follow their example, not their advice.
Intelligent Adventist has contacted the accreditation team that visited Weimar University for comment.
The university board has a choice to make. It can continue to view the president as an indispensable man, or it can lead a new path towards openness, a culture of mutual forbearance and trust, and rejoin the ranks of world-class Seventh-day Adventist faith-based accredited institutions. Otherwise, it will go back to the golden days of hydrotherapy and financial insolvency.
One way or the other, the choices made here will reverberate into eternity.