By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
In the wake of allegations and evidence that Bill Gothard has sexually harassed and molested young women for several decades, Oak Brook College of Law (OBCL) has announced plans to distance itself from Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles.
When OBCL was launched in 1995, it was done so as a joint effort between Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI) and HSLDA stakeholders. Bill Gothard served as the law school’s Chancellor, Michael Farris served on the Board of Trustees, and former HSLDA director and staff attorney Jordan Lorence served as the school’s Constitutional Law Professor as well as Chairman of Oak Brook’s Board of Advisors.
OBCL was launched by ATI itself. Their graduation ceremonies have been held at IBLP Training Centers. Law students at OBCL not only study Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar material, but up until last year were required by Oak Brook’s official college policies — as a prerequisite for admission — to attend “all the sessions of the Seminar in Basic Life Principles sponsored by the Institute in Basic Life Principles.”
Much of this appears to be changing, however, with the college’s recently announced plans. These plans involve three organizational changes, specified on Tuesday, February 18, through an internal news bulletin by OBCL to their faculty, staff, alumni, and current students. (Oak Brook’s website still has no official public statement on the matter.) These changes are:
1. Bill Gothard will “no longer serve as chancellor.”
2. Oak Brook’s board, which previously “consisted of a few IBLP Board members and several OBCL faculty and alumni,” will — at least for the present year — include “no IBLP Board members.”
Note: While #2 is technically accurate, it can also be misleading. There remains a strong and significant connection between Oak Brook, Bill Gothard, and IBLP as Oak Brook’s current board includes Bob Barth. While Bob Barth is technically not an IBLP board member, he is nonetheless a key figure in Gothard’s empire. Barth is not only the General Legal Counsel for IBLP, he is the Secretary for 3 organizations of which Bill Gothard is President: IBLP, Embassy International, and ALERT.
3. Whereas all prospective Oak Brook students were required as of last year to take IBLP’s Seminar in Basic Life Principles, the school will “no longer require completion of the Seminar in Basic Youth Conflicts as a prerequisite for admission.”
You can view the college’s internal news bulletin in full as a PDF here.
IBLP has reciprocated the distancing, no longer listing Oak Brook as one of its “educational programs.” This is a new change as of at least February 3, when IBLP still listed the college as one of their programs. (A screen capture from February 1 confirms this as a recent change as well.)
These announcements come slightly more than week after Jordan Lorence emailed Homeschoolers Anonymous and said that, as of February 10, he had “resigned from all of [his] connections with Oak Brook College of Law.”
Neither OBCL nor IBLP has made any public statement on either these organizational changes, the evidence concerning Bill Gothard’s abusive actions, or IBLP’s attempts to ignore Gothard’s abusive actions — or if there is any relationship between them.
Question is, is this for real or are we just seeing Damage Control and/or Maskirovka?
I’m an OBCL grad myself (and have rejected the Gothard viewpoint completely). My understanding from fellow alumni closer to the situation is that there has been a push to sever the relationship for quite some time. This crisis was a good opportunity.
At the beginning, of course, 99% of OBCL’s students came straight from ATI. When I went through OBCL, however, most of my classmates were openly critical of Bill Gothard. I still remember some of the jokes we made at his expense. To that end, it would be ludicrous now to think that most OBCLers share IBLP’s views on most, or even many, matters. OBCL’s student body is now composed of two distinct groups: (1) homeschoolers who enroll in OBCL straight out of high school (most of whom have heard of IBLP and/or even been involved in IBLP), but very few of whom agree with everything, or even anything, that IBLP teaches, and (2) much older second-career folks (many of whom have never been involved in IBLP in particular or the homeschooling community in general).