Olivet students rally behind professor
Olivet students rally behind professor
whose book challenges church's view
By Jon Krenek - Kankakee Daily Journal - 10/2/2008 - original
Problem resolved?
A student rally to support an Olivet Nazarene University biology professor on the firing line between theology and science started across the property line from campus. About 40 supporters of ONU Biology Professor Richard Colling stood across Main Street from the ONU campus making their presence known at the Burke Administration building across the street, and the cars driving past.

ONU senior Josh Sabinass, a former student of Colling's general education biology class, said the students were concerned about a fine the university leveled against organizers of an anti-war rally two years ago.

"My parents would be pretty upset if they got a bill for $500 for standing up for what I believe in," said Sabinas, an elementary education major. "They have always taught me to stand up for what I believe in."

Colling and his self-published book, Random Designer, have drawn the ire of fundamentalists within the Church of the Nazarene, who believe in creationism. The book attempts explain how God's role in creation can coexist in harmony with science.

In 2007, the university barred Colling from teaching general education biology, and prohibited the use of his book in classes. Student demonstrators said Collings is now being threatened with disciplinary actions again as college administrators are demanding documentation he's kept of the opposition he's drawn.

ONU Director of Marketing Communications Heather Day said there are no disciplinary action currently being taken against Colling, and that the administration had no intention interfering with the demonstration.

Colling declined to comment specifically on the matter.

"My current students and Olivet alumni know who I am and the principles I stand for," said Colling. "I sincerely appreciate their support."

Standing for convictions

Sabinas said he believes in God; but he now also believes in scientific explanations for why life exists on Earth. The conflicting concepts are often hard for ONU students to rectify, and that's exactly what students said Colling helped them do.

"He stood up and cleared the air for students who had the same questions," said Sabinass. "It helped me be more of a Christian, and helped me witness to people. It's a big question people have."

ONU Spanish and political science major Stacey Mahuna, who organized the rally, said Colling also helped her rectify the same conflict. But the debate did create unease among other students.

"He was very careful to say what he thought about it, with facts to support it. He never just said to believe it," said Mahuna. "But there were quite a few who were adamantly against what he said."

Freedom of debate

ONU senior Tony Calero, a political science major, said he joined the rally to promote academic freedom and open debate. "A lot of us here see there are larger issues at stake," said Calero. He said his friends got a $200 fine for staging an anti-war rally two years ago for failure to have a permit. Students are required to get a permit before staging rallies, protests or distributing material, according to the ONU University Life Handbook.

ONU junior Bill Gay, a political science major, said students attend college to have debates. He said he supports Olivet, but he can't understand why a demonstration would have to move off campus.

"I think they should absolutely be on campus," said Gay. "Not as a violent protest from the 60's, but to show that this man has support."