(Third in a series.)
Note: It is a most insidious aspect of our present Woke Culture that courts and the rule of law have been replaced by social media, mob action, and public denunciation. This is particularly true of President Phil Ryken and his Wheaton College Trustees in their denunciation of their former President J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.
Here, Bruce R. Chambers, Wheaton Class of 1972, details his findings concerning Wheaton’s Historical Review Task Force Report. Chambers spent his career in federal law enforcement, also leading the Fraud and Ethics division of a large corporation. He demonstrates the kinds of evidence our Woke Culture thrives on, and its inevitable fruit of injustice. -Tim Bayly
On September 14, 2023, Wheaton College President Phil Ryken announced and released a 122-page Report by the Historical Review Task Force (HRTF) he and the Wheaton Trustees commissioned to “study the history and legacy of Wheaton College from 1860 to 2000 with respect to race relations.” Ryken reported there was much to lament, specifically citing the 1930’s when J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. was President.
Ryken with his Trustees further stated that changes were coming to Wheaton as a result of the Report, including the removal of Buswell’s name from the Library, removal of his name from any other public descriptions on campus, and the creation of a public display inside the Library which will tell all why Buswell’s name was removed.
So, following the practice of our Woke culture, not only will Buswell be canceled, but he will be shamed as those who enter the library will be told of his alleged racism. These draconian measures were allegedly justified by the Task Force’s Report.
I find the HRTF Report provides no evidence of racial misconduct by Buswell, and when it does try to report something, in light of Buswell’s fourteen-year tenure as President, it is extremely limited in scope. Some of the “evidence” presented lacks any credibility. The Task Force uses generalizations and makes conclusions—even while at the same time admitting they have little evidence. Yet they are determined to cancel a former president of Wheaton College.
For twenty-six years, I worked in federal law enforcement, rising to the senior executive level. In addition, for five years I directed a Fraud and Ethics division in a large corporation. In our work, we had to document our investigations and present them to the US Attorney for prosecution—or to corporate management for discipline. The reports had to state the facts proving violations of law or ethics beyond a reasonable doubt. Limited evidence and conclusions drawn from that limited evidence were unacceptable and not tolerated. Yet that is exactly what the HRTF Report does.
The following are my findings regarding this terribly flawed, unprofessional HRTF Report:
- On page forty-six, the Report states that most of Buswell’s tenure as president was during the Depression. Yet during those same years, Wheaton’s endowment grew substantially. During Buswell’s presidency, the College achieved the highest accreditation rating and enrollment nearly tripled. The faculty tripled in size and became more highly educated, increasing the proportion of PhDs from twenty-four to forty-nine percent. Under Buswell’s leadership, Wheaton solidified its reputation as a staunchly fundamentalist institution and acquired a national reputation for orthodoxy, piety, and rigorous academics. Students came from forty-five states and fifteen countries.
- The Report states these “impressive” accomplishments by Buswell were “easy to document” due to an “explosion” of records during his Presidency.
- So, in light of Buswell’s impressive record during fourteen years as President, what evidence of racial misconduct was found by the Task Force that justifies their canceling and shaming him and his family?
- The Task Force admits there is a “dearth of surviving evidence” regarding policies and practices related to race relations during Buswell’s tenure; also, that it is “difficult” to “speak with confidence” about it. Additionally, they state Buswell’s own writings and “public persona” revealed very little on matters pertaining to race relations. In light of this documented lack of evidence, how does the Task Force report anything on racial issues justifying their conclusion Buswell must be canceled?
- The Task Force does the following to overcome the lack of evidence:
- They state that, despite scanty evidence, it is possible to share what little is known and sketch in broad strokes an overview of Buswell’s administration. Yet at the same time, they stress there is the “distinct possibility” that future research “may nuance” the findings. In other words, the Task Force is going to use very little evidence to cancel Buswell while being fully aware that it could be wrong.
- They state the student body had little black representation, but they don’t mention that there was no change from the previous Charles Blanchard forty-three year tenure. They use phrases such as “it seems probable” and “it is unlikely” when making their case.
- This is not evidence. It is opinion.
- They further prejudice the reader by stating that “the surviving evidence suggests that, on balance, the campus environment would have been less than welcoming to students of color.”
- But, as they admit later, there is “insufficient evidence” to reconstruct the racial environment because “the evidence does not all point in one direction,” Thus the Task Force admits there is little evidence, and what little evidence they do have is inconclusive and conflicting. Yet, they cancel Buswell.
- On page forty-seven in footnote ninety-three, the Task Force states their methods are unscientific and their findings imprecise. The Task Force then states they can’t confirm if every student of color who ever enrolled has been identified. The footnote even ends with an incomplete sentence. They doubt their own findings, then use incomplete footnotes, abandoning the reader to wondering what is not reported?
- Footnote ninety-five states that a black student “bitterly recalled an insulting incident at the dining hall.” During a fourteen-year period of time, is this evidence of anything? Personally, I recall being a victim of a number of insulting incidents while a student at Wheaton.
- This evidence is merely an attempt to prejudice the reader. It does nothing to support their case for canceling President Buswell.
- On pages forty-seven thru forty-nine, the Task Force reports they found “glimpses” of positive and negative racial views. Their “glimpses” are few and far between. One they put forward in their Report is that “at least 3 times” during the 1930s, something was reported in the Wheaton Record. They also mention individual articles. Common sense, let alone fair judgment, would keep such “glimpses” from being used as indicative of trends or policies.
- On page forty-nine, the HRTF Report states there was no reversal of black student attendance trends during the Buswell years. They say attendance “seems” to have been in a trend established from the years before President Buswell arrived. But then, the Report states “at some point during his administration” President Buswell began to implement an institutional practice that prohibited Black applicants from matriculating.
- This statement is footnoted and it states “This de facto policy of discriminatory admissions practices is referenced in a book by Judith Hull which included an interview of Reverend Jaynes, a pastor of a church in Wheaton. The book states that Jaynes “had a conversation with Buswell about his policy of excluding Blacks.”
- That is their evidence of this alleged policy. There was no documented response from Buswell.
- To further undercut the credibility of this evidence, it turns out the interview between Hull and Jaynes took place thirty years after the alleged conversation between Jaynes and Buswell, and they go on to admit there is neither a recording nor notes of the alleged interview.
- No credibility can be given to this evidence presented by the Task Force. That the HRTF relies on such evidence to prove the existence of a merely “de facto”(De facto: “Existing in fact, although perhaps not intended, legal, or accepted.” Dictionary.cambridge.org ) policy of discrimination by Buswell reflects extremely poorly on the credibility, professionalism, and integrity of the HRTF. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable.
- In carrying forward the Task Force Report regarding what they claim was Buswell’s own de facto policy, HRTF tries to describe the issues surrounding the application of Rachel Boone to the College, and the resultant debates between Buswell, the Trustees, and their Executive Council concerning the admittance of Blacks to the College.
- The Task Force reports Boone was originally denied admission, but there is no report as to how that denial came about. The Task Force does not report who was involved in the decision, but merely continues to assume it was President Buswell. No evidence is presented.
- The Task Force does not report what the trustees’ Executive Council’s position was on this matter. The Task Force does not even report what the Board of Trustees’ position was on this matter. Rather, the Task Force continues its narrative that it was all Buswell’s decision and Buswell’s fault.
- What is missing from this whole Report is an understanding of the position of the Board of Trustees and their Executive Council.
- President Buswell was accountable to them, and his correspondence to Trustees Wurdack and Willard indicated such. Additionally, at that time there were other pressing issues for the Trustees and Buswell, yet there is no reporting as to how this intense conflict within the board affected any of the decisions made by President Buswell.
- It is easy to do as the Task Force has done, laying all the blame on President Buswell for the alleged ad hoc policy of not admitting Blacks. But the Task Force has not provided any evidence of the existence of what they posit as an ad hoc policy—nothing other than hearsay. Again, the Task Force themselves admit they found very little evidence available on the issue.
- In the end, Rachel Boone was admitted. President Buswell stated the College would admit Blacks “hereafter.”
- Even here, though, the Task Force goes on to make a prejudicial statement concerning President Buswell: “Had he stayed in the president’s office longer, Buswell might well have made good on this recommendation.” Note how the Task Force parades their scepticism concerning the commitments and character of this man they are determined to cancel.
- The “Summary of the 1930s” portion of the HRTF Report follows the same pattern of generalizations based upon a scandalous lack of evidence.
- The Report states that “evidence suggests” no Black students enrolled during Buswell’s tenure. However, their own Report admits their “evidence” is scarce and could very well be proven wrong.
- Their Report states the evidence is compelling that Buswell had an unwritten rule not to admit Blacks, but there is no evidence of such a rule or policy. It is all hearsay, with no documentation or supporting testimony.
- Their Report states “There is much to lament in the College’s admissions practices under President Buswell,” but once more, the Task Force presents no evidence as to what the policies were or who implemented them.
- The Task Force states there are “foreshadowings” of that policy of not admitting Blacks before Buswell was inaugurated into office, but even this general statement is not supported by any evidence from the HRTF.
I have read the entire HRTF Report. What is written here focuses on the Buswell portion. This is due to the President and Trustees’ decision to cancel and shame President Buswell and his descendants, even producing a permanent exhibit of their shaming for visitors to the library formerly known as Buswell Library (or campus vernacular, “The Buzz”).
This Report has no credibility and should have been repudiated by the Trustees. The fact that it was embraced and spread far and wide reflects very poorly on these women and men.
As the Task Force admits in their Report, the evidence they have based their denunciation on is scarce and their generalizations and conclusions unsupported. They had a fourteen-year span of time to base their research on, but the Task Force produced suggestions, innuendo, and scraps of dialog reported secondhand. From this they declare there were racist policies they themselves claim only to be “de facto.”
Again, the Task Force Report is terribly unprofessional. Based on the so-called “evidence” they have presented, there is no justification for their denunciation of President Buswell. It is shameful.
May God have mercy on President Ryken and the Trustees.
-Bruce R. Chambers, Class of 1972
(Third in a series.)