Megan Conley, Assistant Editor
People say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it seems that lately on the campus of North Greenville University, a video is worth a lot more.
On Aug. 27, 2015, a video was published online of former university president, Jimmy Epting that raised some questions as to the reasons for his departure last year.
According to Interim President Randall Pannell, the video came to NGU’s Board of Trustees in November 2014 as an accusation. The board then launched an investigation and met on Dec. 30, 2014 to discuss the issue. Pannell stated that the board concluded that there was no solid evidence of impropriety as had been insinuated.
After the video surfaced two weeks ago, the board released a statement to students that said: "The University’s board takes its responsibility to guide campus leadership very seriously and we hold each member of our community to the highest standards. We are focused on combining an academic environment with a Christ-like lifestyle, and our campus leaders are providing students with opportunities for spiritual growth, academic training, and Christian service."
One of the main concerns communicated through posts from students on social media was why the issue had not been made public sooner. According to Pannell, as a general rule, NGU doesn’t reveal the reasoning behind decisions that are made by the board. In this case, if the board released the video to the public, it would have submitted people related to the video with unnecessary scrutiny.
"Personnel matters that relate to a change in employment are not fodder for public consumption. These are people’s lives on the line and we owe them to take the time to investigate and try to discover the truth,” Pannell said.
He explained the board did not release the video to the public because of confidentiality reasons. People may have assumed at first glance that the video was the reason Epting is no longer working at NGU. However, Pannell states that that was not the case. “The things we said about retirement and health issues seemed like we concocted a story. Because the assumption of watching the video was not correct, in that context we did not cover up, but the video had the effect of misleading. The health issue was more of a matter of why the sabbatical was given. That was a real issue,” he said.
As students, faculty and staff move forward after this incident, Pannell offered words of wisdom for how he believes NGU should move on toward the future God has for the university.
“As we go forward as Christians, we just want to pray for all people involved, and that’s the whole university," he said. "It’s hard to come back from that and there are scars, pain, agony and some deductions are being made that are painful. As a Christ organization, we must lean on the Lord. We must look at our own selves, and there are lessons that can be learned there for every one of us. We as Christians are compelled to learn from every situation.”
Tony Beam, Vice President for Student Life and Christian Worldview, offered a perspective on forgiveness and grace concerning this issue.
“There has been a good faith effort, and I think we are all in need of grace. To take one failure and to write off all of the good the university has done, I don’t think that’s fair. We wouldn’t want that standard applied to our lives personally,” said Tony Beam. James 2:13 tells us: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn't shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
We must find mercy in our hearts when forgiving those who fall into sin, no matter who they are.
This incident has been the topic of several outside news outlets, and some students are concerned the bad press will have an effect on their job applicability after graduation; however, Pannell stated that there is no need to be concerned in those regards.
“I believe that as we move into the future that NGU's reputation has been strong and I believe that God is going to use this in a good way," he said. "Ultimately our reputation is in the Lord's hands. We cannot offer to anyone perfection. I believe God will do what He has done to favor the university. God does not favor us just as a university but He will extend to you [students] the same grace, favor and mercy. Because we believe that God is not through with NGU, we believe He is not done with you and your degree,” said Pannell.