Northland International University closing

Northland Grad & Undergrad Schools Closing, Camp Scaling Back

"For nearly 55 years, God has richly blessed an “out of the way” place in the northwoods of Wisconsin. Beginning with a camp and later a college and graduate school, Northland rose to become a year-round training center with a vibrant camp and conference ministry. However, on Sunday, April 26, 2015, after prayerful consideration, the Northland Board of Trustees voted to close Northland International University, the undergraduate and graduate schools of the ministry."

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GregH's picture

Who would have ever thought this news would get no attention on SI? Only a drinking thread could overshadow this Smile Smile

Rob Fall's picture

most of what could be said has been said on other threads.

GregH wrote:

Who would have ever thought this news would get no attention on SI? Only a drinking thread could overshadow this Smile Smile

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jim's picture

Consider all the filings on Northland (some to dead links but headlines still tell story.

Sampllng off top of my head:

  • The rename to University (kind of like me calling myself a professional golfer ... Smile ) (Better Minot International Airport)
  • Northland hasn't changed
  • Oh yeah
  • Big Daddy Weave 
  • Olson fired
  • Olson hired
  • Olson fired
  • Campus gifted to Southern 
  • Nope never mind we don't want it 

The drama makes Superman's Bizarro World look kind of normal. 

mmartin's picture

Jim wrote:

Consider all the filings on Northland (some to dead links but headlines still tell story.

Sampllng off top of my head:

  • The rename to University (kind of like me calling myself a professional golfer ... Smile ) (Better Minot International Airport)
  • Northland hasn't changed
  • Oh yeah
  • Big Daddy Weave 
  • Olson fired
  • Olson hired
  • Olson fired
  • Campus gifted to Southern 
  • Nope never mind we don't want it 

The drama makes Superman's Bizarro World look kind of normal. 

I believe Olson wasn't fired when he finally left.  I believe he resigned on his own.

 

After all of the threads, discussions, and comments, this entire fiasco can be boiled down to this:  Colossal failure of leadership, naive YRR led supporters (mostly younger people), and waste of Paul Patz' financial legacy.

 

WallyMorris's picture

Our daughter graduated from Northland 10 years ago. Now I guess that all the Northland clothes and coffee mugs we have are now collector's items. 

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Jay's picture

Quote:
I believe Olson wasn't fired when he finally left.  I believe he resigned on his own.

Yes, that is correct.

Quote:
After all of the threads, discussions, and comments, this entire fiasco can be boiled down to this:  Colossal failure of leadership, naive YRR led supporters (mostly younger people), and waste of Paul Patz' financial legacy.

If the Board at NIU spent the money the way that they felt was best and closely aligned with Papa's vision, then I don't think you can argue that it was "wasted", nor do I think that those of us who are younger were naive, simple, or "YRR" (whatever that means).  I'm sure that Dan Patz and everyone else who helped Northland after Matt Olson left felt like Papa's legacy was "worthless".  I know that all of us alumni and current students are totally thrilled that NIU will close.

The two things that I have been convinced of from this is that

  • people will believe what they want to believe
  • cultural fundamentalism is much stronger in our orbits than actual fundamentalism is

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

Jay wrote:
cultural fundamentalism is much stronger in our orbits than actual fundamentalism is

Fundamentalism is largely about anti-CCM, anti-Calvinism, the taboos ... 

 

However there are bright spots ... the so-called historicla fundamentalists. But they are a minority

Bert Perry's picture

.....that at least a credible case can be made that cultural fundamentalism owes more to B.F. Skinner than to the Scriptures.  And....sad.  I'm not arguing that it's completely the case, but it's arguable enough to make one sad.

Regarding whether the Patz legacy was wasted, I think that actually has more to do with whether the model of ministry is Biblical, and whether those running things had "counted the cost" on what they were about to do, than with whether the expenditures were authorized by the donor.  And regarding the answer to that, I make no judgment, as I'm not an insider.  I simply don't know enough.

On the light side, we could get a few more comments here if it was announced that it would reopen as a brewery......

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Since a few posters have come on strong against "cultural fundamentalism", let me ask this. If I believe CCM music leads to false worship, why should I support a school that allows CCM? If I believe Calvinism is a false representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, why should I support a school that promotes it by hiring teachers who teach it as the correct form of the gospel in their classrooms? If I believe allowing certain taboos (what ever those might be...lets take alcohol as an example) like alcohol consumption is wrong for a Christian, then why should I send my kids to a school that would allow alcohol consumption among the faculty (caveat, I don't recall whether NIU did or not, I am simply addressing Jim's taboo argument).

If a school used to oppose all 3 of the above, and then started to waiver on them, should it be surprised when a significant part of its support base leaves?

Absolutely not.

It is not the fault of "cultural fundamentalists", It is the fault of the school for not realizing the foundation they relied on to exist!

J. Baillet's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

On the light side, we could get a few more comments here if it was announced that it would reopen as a brewery......

"Patz" Blue Ribbon?

JSB

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark,

I think when people are talking about cultural fundamentalism, they are largely pointing out the immense amount of time and energy that is being invested in outward issues that are, at best, secondary topics and at worst, irrelevant personal preferences. In that context, at least some of the fault would lie with those who elevated cultural fundamentalism to the sin qua non of fellowship ultimately csusing unnecessary damage to the school.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jay's picture

 It is the fault of the school for not realizing the foundation they relied on to exist!

And I think that they realized that the foundation they used to rely on was failing them faster than any of us realized and they needed to expand that base, a struggle that killed Pillsbury and BJU is going through now.  As I've said before, the financial losses at NIU started and grew long before Matt Olson ever darkened the doors of the campus. Look up the Form 990s.

That's why I think that the 'NIU compromised!11!!!111!!1 and now they are closing because of compromise' story peddled by Lou and other people is reassuring to some but not grounded in reality.  As I said, look up the form 990s, especially from the early 2000s.  Facts are callous things, sometimes.

If you want the story, you have to be willing to read all the chapters, not just the ones that are most appealing.

***

As for drinking and CCM - your standards are your standards, and that's fine.  Support who you want, and feel free to pull the funding from who you want.  That's your prerogative.  But don't act like NIU was BJU; BJU and other organizations had cultural standards that everyone assumed were present at NIU, and they simply weren't there.  A lot of people knew of Northland but never really knew about Northland, or the changes that they made would not have been as shocking and unexpected.

Calvinism - I'm not touching that topic now, because I don't know what you mean by "Calvinism".  Whether you like it or not, a lot of Calvinists supported NIU in times past.  NIU was never an 'Arminian' school - not by a long shot. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

Chip's post (just before mine) is exactly what I am referring to when I say 'cultural' fundamentalism.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry Nelson's picture

 

If all or part of it was sold, to whom would the proceeds go?

Dan Miller's picture

GregH wrote:
Who would have ever thought this news would get no attention on SI?

Well, there's a time to discuss and strategize - and there's a time to mourn. Seems like there's nothing that can be done now, so not much to talk about.

Jim's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

If all or part of it was sold, to whom would the proceeds go?

  • The non-profit corporation
  • Look them up in Guidestar.org as Northland Mission in Dunbar WI ... look at the 990's (you will find a balance sheet there ... but be advised the data is probably a year and a half old)
  • So the non-profit board will have to decide on the future of all assets
  • Won't be easy because property assets need maintenance and that can be expensive for buildings 
  • Sale of assets cannot  inure to the benefit of board members
Larry Nelson's picture

 

Jim,

If I'm not mistaken, you toured the campus a year or two ago.  What is its condition?  Are the property/buildings in good shape?  Any deferred maintenance needs that you may have noticed?

 

Mark_Smith's picture

I'm a completely objective observer that watched a school point a gun at its own head and pull the trigger. For the record I was addressing Jim's comments where he listed cultural fundamentalism by mentioning anti-CCM, anti-Calvinist, anti-taboo.

I have no dog in the hunt with NIU (or NBBC for that matter) but I am sad to see something that was so successful and rewarding in the past being lost.

Jim's picture

Kathee and I visited the campus back in September. We were on the way from Plymouth MN to the U.P. and ultimately to Hastings MI where we had a rented cabin. 

  • I've been to many Christian College campuses: Spurgeon BBC in FL (think camp with spanish moss), TTU (shining campus surrounded by deteriorating housing), Grand Rapids (my Alma mater), Calvin, Cedarville, BBC Clarks Summit (very beautiful), Faith, Clearwater CC (nice location), Pillsbury
  • Northland is modern, spacious, clean and green. Very nice. Nothing looked runned down. 
  • The big downside and this is not news, is the absolute remoteness. My wife is from what we regard as remote Wisconsin (Mattoon) and Northland is far north remote. 
  • When you drive into Dunbar ... I whizzed through it ... Kathee said ... "where's Northland?"
  • I am very high on Faith in Ankeny and have followed them for years. Kathee and I support them a wee-bit and have over the years. We just drove through Des Moines on the way back from Dallas and spent the night in a motel near by. 
  • Faith contrasted with Northland:
    • Smaller and older
    • There was once space between Des Moines and Ankeny
    • Now Ankeny is part of Des Moines metroplex
    • Ankeny has what Northland needed: jobs for students. 
    • Plus Ankeny has accreditation 
    • Here's other contrasts:
      • Faith has the support of the Iowa GARBC and the larger GARBC
      • Iowa has 100 GARBC churches
      • Faith is rock solid ... no "change" there. It's like buying a "Coke" .. tight quality control. 
      • Also Faith is not flashy ... no heavy duty PR & blogs (it's the real deal)  - the Faith Pulpit is worthwhile!
      • I had dinner several years ago with President Maxwell. I commended him on the conservative financial management of the school.  Northland lacked financial controls and oversight. Administrators from Northland should find another line of work that does not involve money! Seriously  
Jay's picture

Mark,

I'm not sure that you're as objective as you think you are being, and I can totally admit that I'm not objective about this topic at all. 

Even if you are being totally objective, your perspective assumes that NIU is what you think it was.  The problem is that there are a lot of people who were there, as visitors, students, alumni, staff, or faculty (or combinations of that) who disagree with you.  NIU is not what you think it was.  That version of NIU simply

did.

not.

exist.

That's been my point from the beginning.

Even if it did - and it was close to what you think in some areas at times, like the fact that CCM was banned when I was there - the school changed at the direction of the Patz family and the school's Board, which is their choice, and their choice alone, to make.  They made those changes based on information that they had and that they felt were best.  We don't know all the deliberations and information that they have, so I am assuming that they acted with integrity and caution, as best they had and were able to do.  That's the whole purpose of a Board of Trustees.

As for myself, until I see things like Calvinism, the use of CCM, and the use of alcohol in line with personal beliefs definitely proven wrong by Scripture with a strong, clear, and Biblical argument, which has not happened yet in the ten years that I've been on this website, the question isn't really about CCM or alcohol or Calvinism.  It's about how far are you willing to go with people over issues, and where do they fall in the areas of separation. This whole mess revolved around the principle of separation, and it caused a division in the body of Christ as a result.

There are a lot of people that you disagree with, people like myself and my parents, who worked very hard and spent a lot of money to send me there.  You're completely ignoring the fact that there are some Fundamentalists, like myself, who approved of this change and there are some who even prayed for it (see Chris Bruno's post at TGC's website from a couple of months ago).  You want NIU to hold to your standards and your standards alone, and then you expect, as an outsider, that you know better than those of us who had a stake in the matter, and that's wrong.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dgszweda's picture

The school didn't close because it lost it's base.  Every single Christian college is struggling now.  I have seen all of the financial statements from Northland, and every single year the Patz family provided money to the school to cover gaps.  As enrollment dropped over the last few years, which is affecting every single Christian school and many secular colleges, the gap becomes to big to keep funding.  From what I have seen, the school never ran in the black.  Whether they changed or not I don't believe really mattered in the end, there was only so much money the Patz family could keep pumping into the school. 

Mark_Smith's picture

you are doing a lot of assuming about what I think about NIU.

 

I have said very little OTHER THAN to respond to JIM's comments (and tangentially yours) about "cultural fundamentalism" being anti-CCM/Calvinist/taboo. I generically responded that any school that changes from being anti-CCM to promoting it SHOULD NOT BE SURPRISED when the anti-CCM supporters leave. That is all I am saying.

Bert Perry's picture

I understand how the more "Old School" fundamentalists would believe that part of the issue with Northland was walking away from the old culture, but if indeed a close look at finances reveals that they were sinking beforehand, we need to heed what Jim says.  More or less, how many churches might be persuaded to send children there?  Can you support degree programs with the prospective enrollment?

One little place where I might quibble lightheartedly with Jim is in the notion that the administrators need to find a line of work that does not involve money--as long as the 13th Amendment stands and we are paid for our work, I'd suggest this is unlikely to be possible.  Rather, I would suggest that those who were involved take a good "post-mortem" look at what happened with NIU--was it overbuilt for its business case, was there no business case at all, etc..?--and learn from that.  Kinda like Dave Ramsey had a time of soul-searching after he nearly went bankrupt in his first career.

And the rest of us ought to do the same--what is the "business case" for our current ministry, position in life, etc.?  There is a tendency of people in our circles to echo Farragut and say "D*** the torpedoes, full speed ahead" in terms of charging into ministries without thinking of the long term impacts.  Sometimes those dollar signs and accounting spreadsheets are God's way of telling us that we need to slow down and do some thinking and praying.

One final thought; when we have no connection to a fight, it's OK to say we aren't connected and don't really have a dog in the fight, but it's probably an error to claim that we're not biased.  Really, in my experience, the most biased person in the world--and I'm pretty biased myself and I know about biases--is generally the guy who claims to be seeing with untinted lenses.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

I can assure you that I have no dog in the hunt...you can ask me rather than make a tangential swipe at me.

I am merely a spectator in this.

Mark_Smith's picture

and things like Big Daddy Weave and Olson's comments had little or nothing to do with it, why were Jim and Jay bashing "cultural fundamentalists" just a few posts ago?

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, I actually did not intend to swipe at you--my apologies for not stating that clearly!  All I'm getting at is that while you and I both have no close connections to NIU (well, I've got friends at 4th and elsewhere who went there, but not anyone in my family), we both have our own preconceptions and we really ought not consider ourselves unbiased.

Being an "outsider" like us can mean we're less likely to be fighting the political battles in an institution, to be sure, but I assure you that we both have biases, and that is absolutely fine.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

That, in my mind, was a giant ethical breach - the one(s) behind that need to do some serious soul searching. I presume they have repented. If I never see something like that again ( chuckles) in fundamentalism I would be glad. I'm not a'gin BDW : but to say out of one side of the institutional mouth we are against CCM and to sponsor a CCM concert through an intermediary - well one wonders!

mmartin's picture

Jay wrote:

 

Quote:

I believe Olson wasn't fired when he finally left.  I believe he resigned on his own.

 

Yes, that is correct.

 

Quote:

After all of the threads, discussions, and comments, this entire fiasco can be boiled down to this:  Colossal failure of leadership, naive YRR led supporters (mostly younger people), and waste of Paul Patz' financial legacy.

 

If the Board at NIU spent the money the way that they felt was best and closely aligned with Papa's vision, then I don't think you can argue that it was "wasted", nor do I think that those of us who are younger were naive, simple, or "YRR" (whatever that means).  I'm sure that Dan Patz and everyone else who helped Northland after Matt Olson left felt like Papa's legacy was "worthless".  I know that all of us alumni and current students are totally thrilled that NIU will close.

The two things that I have been convinced of from this is that

  • people will believe what they want to believe
  • cultural fundamentalism is much stronger in our orbits than actual fundamentalism is

Jay,

When I say Paul Patz' financial legacy was wasted, I mean in how it was managed, errr mis-managed.  Certainly his legacy lives on in every NIU graduate.  However, public information about the financial condition of NIU says that not that long ago the fund was $10M.  It is considered best practice in the education industry for a fund like that to last basically forever.

Regarding the idea about NIU having financial issues before Olson arrived is partly true.  However, he nor anyone else for that matter took ownership of the situation and made the necessary adjustments.

I see many people express thoughts about this blaming SBTS, blaming the economy, blaming old school fundamentalists, or blaming whatever else.  Some people are saying things like "seasons come and go and Northland's 'season' is done."

What garbage!

You don't have a financial fund like NIU's, not control your spending, mis-handle so many things the way they have in recent years and then blame something else.  You don't build buildings like they did costing millions of dollars and then say "well, seasons come and go . ."  You don't blow through that kind of money and then talk about those stuffy fundies.

An organization like NIU (I'm referring here to the college) with the fund they had is intended to last for 100++ years, not 40.

It is the job of leadership to think ahead, to understand your customer base, to understand your market and to treat it well, to be fiscally responsible, and to guide the organization through tough economic times.  As a leader of an organization that is a significant part of your job.

I believe to not do those things and then not accept the blame for it is irresponsible and not being a good steward of the resources you are given.  Earlier this week I read an article about the worst business decisions ever.  The world recognizes these things but in the case of NIU we want to play the blame game. 

mmartin's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I'm a completely objective observer that watched a school point a gun at its own head and pull the trigger.

Mark is completely correct about his assessment.

For those saying there were many supporters of NIU that wanted the changes Olson brought along (i.e. Bruno) is true, but it is also irrelevant.  So, there were many people that wanted NIU to keep changing.  Great.  That is their prerogotive.  But it is pointless and meaningless if those same people can't provide the revenue to support the organization.  What good does it do to market yourself to people that can't financially support you?  In the case of Bruno and many, many others like him, sure, they got what they wanted in NIU, but how many kids can they send to NIU?  Bruno has children, but they are all young, not even close to college age.

This is exactly what I mean when I said many of the younger supporters of NIU's direction were naive. 

Yes, they got a place they wanted.  Awesome!!  Happy day, right!!!

But they also got a place they couldn't support.

Be careful what you wish for.

NIU was perfectly content to poke in the eye the same people who supported them for decades, blow them off, and move towards a place they were in no position to fund considering the time it would take to make the transition, while being supported by the very same people who couldn't buy their product.

Yes, that does qualify as an organization putting a gun to its head and pulling the trigger.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I don't know anything about Northland in particular, but as others have pointed out, even on this thread, many smaller schools are struggling (not just Christian ones), and although bad decisions might have been made, it may indeed have been impossible for the board and administration to make any decisions that would have saved the school in today's environment, especially given some of the issues unique to Northland (i.e. in the middle of nowhere).  In hindsight, it certainly looks as if the changes that were made only alienated the old base without gaining significant new base.  That might only mean it may have taken longer for Northland to close with no changes than it did with changes.

If they have been bleeding red ink even while doing things the "old" way, then it's clear something would have had to be done to keep the school open indefinitely -- just "keeping on keeping on" would not have been an option.

Dave Barnhart

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