Protest and Consequences at Pacific Union College

A student demonstration made its way across the campus at Pacific Union College today ending at the President’s Office where President Heather Knight met with the students. She praised them for their peaceful march and prayed with them for the college. The students were responding to the resignations of several faculty members in the Department of Psychology and Social Work and requesting more open communication between the administration and the student body.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Indeed, it must be extremely painful to see your life’s work of building and maintaining a department destroyed. And yes, from a distance it appears to be a quite mortal wound to an academic department, if indeed 5 out of 6.5 staff members are leaving. Should they ever be replaced, it would be a completely different department, probably more akin to some department of “sales techniques” than to social work and psychology.

The greatest enemy to academic freedom apparently isn’t ignorance - but fear.


Knowledge Renaissance at Adventist colleges ??? could be!!! Firstly I hope the Board of Governors is not seeking to intimidate or play hardball with (i.e. threaten to dismiss) Fulton just before he accumulates the quantum of years (he already has NEARLY thirty years) needed to be eligible for full pension, I suppose???.Am I right? There is more going on, it seems, beneath the admin’s decimation policy of the BSW Dept. Social Sciences, Political Science, and Psychology programs are well known in secular universities for producing students impatient of the status quo. Both big Business and conservative Adventism operate under an agenda of assumptions which no longer seem to resonate with the values of the young. We expect that as bright Adventists, Boards will be able devise rapprochement with students who are developing new ways of looking at social matters, and knowledge content.Surely we cannot just allow Adventist education to sink with hardly a trace.


I would suspect that some of Aubyn Fulton’s “failings” would have been his generous and compassionate support for the LGBT students on campus.

President Heather Knight has not exhibited much tolerance for this group, following the “party line” of the homophobic hostility at the GC level.

Regrettably teenagers when they enroll in college are not always totally aware of their sexual orientation, and if they are, they desperately hope to “pray the gay away”–a forlorn hope that the denomination still proposes as a “possibility”.

As I posted elsewhere in a blog about La Sierra, where rapists are tolerated on campus, but LGBT students are denied a safe place to meet on campus, most Adventist LGBT students are very isolated. Faculty members, like Fulton, who give them compassionate support are rare.

I would advise every Adventist LGBT college/high school student, who wants to maintain their self esteem and well being, to enroll in the cheapest instate public institutions. Adventist colleges are anathema for them!

Thank you Aubyn Fulton for your generosity of spirit, your compassion and kindness to a hated minority. I hope you will find an institution that values your excellence!


I can understand Academic Freedom from my little world when a teacher of Senior Health Class for almost 25 years at Laurelbrook Academy. I also taught chemistry for several years.
I had complete freedom in the classroom and in the content of my classes. There was no micromanagement by Administration. The students were OK with the materials. I would discuss HIV during the unit on blood and circulation along with other conditions. One year in class a student brought up that her uncle had HIV and the students were not offended by that, and took a few minutes to discuss it before we went on.
Had my class been micro-managed I would certainly been very angry about the whole affair.


The existence of new ways of thinking is not in and of itself evidence of being more correct than previous ways.


I find this very troubling! As a nurse who was educated at PUC I needed to learn how to relate, treat, and accept all kinds of people! I learned not to discriminate and that even if I did not understand or agree with peoples choices and life styles my job was not to judge and to help them to the best of my ability. The same goes for any other health professional! How can a student earn a degree in psychology or social work and be told to leave out certain people just because of gender or sexual orientation? You can’t pick and choose when you work in the marketplace and if you do you don’t have a very user friendly reputation and also can be sued.

This report boggles my mind and also is very telling about what type of department the behavioral sciences are going to become at PUC. If one of my children was looking at going to PUC for behavioral science I would have to sadly encourage them to apply elsewhere.

As an alumnus of PUC I am disappointed. I have always been very proud of my choice to attend college there and my daughter also had a great experience being a student at PUC. I am finding it harder and harder to continue being proud and supportive of a school that can be taken down such a restrictive, discriminatory, and shunning path and only a few are brave enough to take a stand and say enough is enough!


It is incredibly small-minded, yet appreciated by church leadership who have no feel for the academic ethos, to deny any former (or even suspect current one) Adventist a chance to speak on an SDA campus. Are we afraid that the students will be bowled over by a poorly thought-out atheism? His leaving the church is not the issue: his leaving faith is, and before it’s over, many of these students may face the same journey he has taken. Why would it not be helpful to campus discourse to have the professors deal with the issues?

This is why you will find few, if any, people willing to sponsor lectureships on an Adventist campus. The “openness” of the process will depend on the openness of leadership which is incredibly hampered by church politics and orthodoxy.


In most cases, the employer holds a “trump card,” but in this case PUC is constrained to keep the “trump card” close to their chest as it could very well reveal the true nature of the administration’s agenda of “toeing the line” of the current SDA corporate worldview. But if this were the case, a better place to start would be in their biology department where they should get rid of all textbooks referring to any organic living matter known to have lived more than 6,000 years. That should do it.


The shadow of Elmshaven reaches far, particularly during the past 6 years, smacks of the Ford era.


In my admittedly limited experience, SDA campuses often tolerate one professor who pushes the boundaries, people speak about in concerned whispers, and the students adore. This professor can be the one person able to keep the free-thinkers and the rebels involved in the church. I fondly remember the one at Andrews when I was there.

I have little doubt Fulton was a pain in the rear. That’s what these professors do, but they serve an important function and every campus needs one. By getting rid of him, the university will be more bland, less challenging for those who need to be challenged, and a less safe place for those kids who don’t feel like they fit in traditional SDAism for whatever reason. So that’s how you treat those of us who are on the margins? Well, okay then.

Blaming the professor for his own dismissal will be the mode of operation, I’m sure, but that doesn’t fly with those watching who identify with him. Your traditional SDA parent and student might be relieved, but those who are struggling will be taking away a damaging message.

Balancing the cats of academia with the demands of conservative SDAism is a very tough job. I think the administration chose wrongly here, but then again, I was one of those students struggling to reconcile my doubts and questions with a conservative religion.


Jim, at the Democratic National Convention this summer in Philadelphia, supporters of Donald Trump will not be invited to share the platform in the name of “equal time.” Trump and his followers have their own platform, at their own convention (presumably!) or any place else. But not at the Convention of the opposing party.

The issue is not whether or not a “poorly thought-out atheism,” or any other ideology hostile to the Seventh-day Adventist faith, will “bowl” anyone over. Rather, the issue is that institutions controlled by the Seventh-day Adventist Church are essentially confessional in nature. They exist, not to offer yet another path into the world of material success, bur rather, to prepare young people to participate in the Bible-based mission of the Advent movement. While such institutions have an obligation to equip students to answer the honest inquiries and objections of those holding a different spiritual worldview, they have no obligation to provide a platform or paycheck for persons who hold views at variance with the doctrinal and moral convictions of the sponsoring church.

I don’t agree with Roman Catholicism. But I wouldn’t think of applying to work at a Roman Catholic university with the intent of undermining Vatican teachings. I disagree with the theology of Mormonism, but I wouldn’t think of applying to Brigham Young University for a teaching post, with the intent of undermining the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Speaking as a former student leader myself, on the PUC campus and elsewhere, I confess to being happy to see young people recognizing that what happens at their school is in fact their business, that their mission on campus isn’t merely to get a degree and then get out. (Albert Einstein was correct in saying he tried not to let his schooling get in the way of his education!) I am equally confident that while many students may find themselves presently troubled by the College’s recent or pending actions, many more will in time recognize the school’s obligation to uphold the church’s Bible-based teachings, and that it is less than honest for an employee at such an institution to accept pay from an organization whose principles he or she rejects.

I have found in my experience that the young are fiercely intolerant of hypocrisy, irrespective of where they find it. And it is no less hypocritical for a Seventh-day Adventist professor to accept pay from the church while denying the church’s teachings than it is for a pastor, parent, or teacher to demand obedience to a set of beliefs or standards while disregarding the same when it is assumed no one is looking.

Aubyn is my friend. We had some great times together on the PUC campus as fellow students, and have maintained a cordial relationship through the years on discussion threads like these. He will always be my friend. But the denial on his or any church employee’s part of the Bible-based teachings of our faith is just cause for a parting of the ways. I wish him and his family well as they seek work and influence elsewhere.


Good. Maybe they will get rid of a few more like they did there and at SAU (formerly SMC). A good house cleaning is in order.


It is baffling to me that given Fulton’s open antagonistic approach toward Adventism and PUC’s leadership this should be a surprise. The Ryan Bell incident which seems to be the straw the broke the camels back could have been handled so much better by Fulton:

  1. He knew that Ryan was not just an Adventist Christian turned atheist but someone who has been at war with the Adventist denomination in a very public way. If his goal was to expose his students to a particular point of view, there are undoubtedly dozens of other folks who could have done a credible job. I am convinced this was as much about antagonizing the church and PUC administration as it was about teaching.

  2. He then doubled down by openly attacking the university and by extension his church, demanding in the name of academic freedom that he be allowed to invite an avowed enemy come speak to students who’s parents sent them to this school to affirm they faith in Jesus and in Adventism not to destroy it.

  3. I have seen several people praise Aubyn and Ryan for their great integrity standing up for what they believe in. This is wrong. I think that when you find yourself fundamentally at odds with the theology and practice of a religious organization that pays your salary, the only act of integrity is to resign rather than continue to accept a paycheck from an organization you fundamentally oppose.

  4. If we are honest . . . and I have some personal experience with this . . . Aubyn has been teaching things and ways of thinking that are destined to drive our young people away from Adventism not to embrace it and Jesus.

He has been undermining PUC and the Administration for too long. The administration should be praised for their long suffering on this. Aubyn has never once had any sympathy for the pain and heartache he has caused them.

This is a good thing for PUC.

In the Grip of Grace

Steve Moran


I think you’ve exactly got this right, Beth. Every campus needs a professor like Dr. Fulton for all of the reasons you listed, especially to help the students who don’t feel like they fit in traditional SDAism (for whatever reason) to know the too can have a home in their church as they work out their faith. It’s a huge, huge loss. And when a department loses well over 130 years of teaching experience in such a short time period (teaching experience at PUC), there’s just a huge sign of a big problem that needs attention. I’m grateful to today’s current students at my alma mater for peacefully and effectively bringing attention to this. I hope this is the beginning of a real dialogue and more transparency.


Fully knowing that this will make me even more disliked by some I admire, I must say that from 500 or so miles away this looks bizarre.

All this about President Knight instructing Professor Aubyn Fulton to dis-invite Ryan Bell?
I would have thought that as a matter of common collegiality and courtesy he would have checked with her before inviting him. Did he?

Academic freedom gives a person a right to teach, research and publish in his or her specialty without reprisal. My university has given it to me in truck loads when I have said and done things in my specialty that are far more controversial than anything I understand Professor Fulton to have done in his.

What, I wonder, could the Department have said or done that would justify this disproportionate and destructive cycle of academic violence? Are there actually those on “The Hill” who care this much either way about whether Ryan Bell speaks in Professor Fulton’s class? Is there no one either side who is willing to yield some ground and lose some face on this trivial matter for the common good?

Something deeper, wider and longer-lasting must be going on. I can otherwise make no sense of it. None at all.

As a graduate of PUC Prep and PUC who spent a slice of his life living with his parents, siblings and an albino horse named Hoku on 10 acres of beautiful land at the end of what I now think is called Bell Canyon Road, it bothers me to see people on all sides of this making so much of so little.

For decades, my college has demonstrated a questionable gift for fanning academic sparks into forest fires that long leave smoldering ashes and painful burns. But why? What’s the point?

If the administration, faculty and staff on all sides of this dispute must join forces in seriously searing the college from which I graduated, I wish they would do it for something important.


I respectfully disagree with your statements and believe them to be a distortion of the truth. It is clear that you are unfamiliar with Dr. Fulton’s theological belief system perhaps because you are listening to your fear and unable to see past it.

Fear and repression shows a lack of growth and actualization.

The core issues are that Dr. Fulton continually challenges the Adventist belief system with social issues that are well within his expertise and responsibilities that the Adventist leadership have not reconciled themselves.

  1. I would submit that Dr. Fulton and the entire Psychology Department has developed 3 decades of a CHRIST CENTERED faith based community of thousands of students and alumni. These values are clear and have been established for over 3 decades.

  2. Dr. Fulton is and the entire department have demonstrated tireless commitment to engage students in meaningful conversation. Whether you agree or disagree with each other any specific subject isn’t the point. Engagement in meaningful dialogue in a Christ centered environment is the hallmark of what once was PUC and has produced an entire legacy of Alumni of critical thinkers who have become productive successful members of society.
    Those very conversations which are challenging to the administration and values of the doctrines are exactly what enables us to affirm our beliefs and develop useful skills which enable us to serve our diverse communities.

  3. The very point behind Ryan Bell’s invitation to speak at PUC, and Dr. Fulton’s message behind the discussion was not to abandon your faith, but that it is quite normal to question your faith and to ENGAGE those students who are questioning their faith in a thoughtful Christ centered conversation to STRENGTHEN their faith - which is quite normal during moratorium, something you would expect during your collegiate experience.

  4. The very text books psychology and sociology department is charged with utilizing engages the subjects of aethism. It is part of the curriculum. Guest speakers on sensitive subjects which challenge the SDA faith should welcomed and are no problem for those of us who are grounded in our faith. It is the VERY REASON we pay the tuition. It differentiates the experience from any other collegiate experience.

  5. Instead of shoving those critical developmental conversations under table, he and his department did their jobs, they fully embraced a thoughtful Christ centered dialogue around subjects such as religion, social issues, human sexuality, politics, all well within their area of expertise and duty.

  6. When you have a MASS EXODUS of that many tenured professors that have spent their entire lives building a University that produces thoughtful, productive and successful Christ centered professionals, you have A PROBLEM. Don’t be tempted to attack the teaching style of one professor, just because you disagree with academic freedom. Or that you disagree with the fact that he did his job within his expertise to promote a safe environment to celebrate diversity on a campus who’s leadership has not figured out how to reconcile the issue of the homosexuals within their community. The administration is shooting the messenger. WE have lost the cornerstone of our educational foundation that we cherish.

  7. Regardless of your personal opinion, if you look at the data in context (because raw data is meaningless without context) the department has been quite successful and extremely competitive among other Universities in terms of achievement and competitiveness. I would submit that if a study was completed on successful graduates, one would find that MANY would say and WILL say the department and Dr. Fulton played a key role in their fundamental development.

The topics that challenge the church values, should be met with a more thoughtful leadership approach, by the administration and by the conference.

How can we possibly expect to be so far advanced to discuss relevant social subjects such as human sexuality, religion, politics or spirituality when we can’t get out of the gate on basics like equality? We accept the tuition, educate and ordain women in leadership, but we won’t support them as pastors. If monkeys can figure out unequal reward for equal behavior…


No college operates in a vacuum. It must please parents, alumni, students and teachers. But neither should predominate or have the last word.

Colleges are in the business of offering an education to students. Without students–no college. But without teachers–no college. Without parents and alumni support–no college. None control the institution. The administration is there to facilitate and aid in seeing that all four are reasonably content.

It has already been stated here that some would not choose to send their children to PUC; likewise, this sends a chill to all faculty and future teachers. Who would risk losing employment just short of tenure? Teachers are leery of administration encroachment on academic freedom; when it is subject to the winds of various administrators there can be no security.

Refusing to give students the opportunity to engage in the pros and cons of religion–something that all religious colleges should encourage–is an admission that even when that coveted degree is given they have been coddled and protected to the extent that while well informed of the pros of their religion they are woefully deficient in knowledgeable discussions with agnostics and atheists. This is the kind of preparation a religious school offers to graduates?

Personally, a close relative has visited and was highly impressed with PUC. But after this, the three immediate family members, all PUC alumni, will actively discourage attendance there. When a long-time faculty member with hundreds of former and present students made very unhappy with his termination, it will be seen that a very short term president has gotten control of the college (more likely her church administrators) and it will become like the fiasco at SAU of several decades ago. Faculty house cleaning is always run from afar. Students, steer clear if you want an education that challenges your thinking.


As I read about the disparaging issues percolating in our universities and colleges it becomes painfully plain that the correctness, that is, the political(government) correctness and the media vogue it has created - dictate a new freedom that in many cases is what I would refer to as free dumb - which - is that place where freedom of conscience becomes a freedom from owning one. Which is also that place where relativity enlists that there isn’t truth when everyone’s opinion IS truth, rendering the Biblical absolutes as meaningless. When and IF it IS all truth - immorality is ITSELF “truth”… and the last politically incorrect word: ‘discipline’ has as well lost its meaning because it now has no application. When we stop believing in God we don’t start believing in nothing: we start believing in anything.


I wonder if it feels strange to write a post and refer to yourself in the third person

1 Like