Avondale president responds to rumours

Avondale's Bethel Hall. (Credit: Avondale College)

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Avondale College of Higher Education president, Professor Ray Roennfeldt, addresses the critical, often unfounded things people say about Avondale in this open letter.

Rumours, rumours! Perhaps you have been impacted by rumours or gossip about yourself. It’s difficult to bear, especially if it’s untrue, and particularly if it is coming from people you thought you could trust. It’s also very hard to counter. If you over-react, people will think you’re being defensive and have something to hide. And, if you don’t respond at all, then obviously, you have no good answers to the rumours.

Not only does gossip do great damage to individuals, it also harms institutions such as Avondale. And again, it is difficult to know how to respond. At the risk of perpetuating some of the rumours about Avondale let me list a few. Avondale has lost its way in terms of its mission and commitment to its Seventh-day Adventist roots! Avondale’s courses are second-grade and if you want a good job, don’t go to Avondale! Avondale is like a gaol (“Avongaol”) and doesn’t allow its students freedom to think for themselves (or the opposite: Avondale is no longer a safe place to send our children because they are free to do exactly what they want)! Avondale has had to retrench 35 staff members during 2018 and is in such a bad financial state that it will be closing within 5 or 6 years!

How does one counter such rumours? We’ve tried several methods like ignoring the gossip and getting on with what we do best: providing quality education that leads to employment as well as commitment to faith. At times, I personally have tried to track down the source of the rumours and have had some success in getting people to delete false statements from Facebook, etc. However, the wins have been limited in that the “news is already out there“ and spreading. I am also personally committed to answering questions or comments that come to me via email or mail. I sometimes receive letters unsigned and without address that I’d like to reply to, but I’m not able to.

So, let me very briefly address some of these rumours by providing the real story.

Avondale has lost its commitment to its Seventh-day Adventist ethos and mission: No, not true! More than half of our students identify as Adventists and Avondale itself clearly identifies as an Adventist institution. We continue to provide multiple opportunities for students and staff to engage with our Christian values. Avondale College Church is thriving with over 20 baptisms during 2018. Our theologians teach the Fundamental Beliefs of the Church. The Church continues to support Avondale; something that other Christian higher education providers envy. If we were to lose our Adventist distinctives, we will have no reason to exist.

Avondale’s degrees are inferior to those from Australian universities: No, not true! Avondale is one of a handful of independent Australian higher education providers that has full self-accrediting authority. This means that Avondale has been assessed by the national tertiary education regulator as having all of the processes in place to accredit its own degrees; the key characteristic of an Australian university. In addition, Charles Sturt University, although it does not teach into Avondale’s degrees and does not control the content, recognises our degrees as equivalent to its own and “jointly badges” Avondale’s degree awards.

Avondale graduates struggle to find employment: No, not true! Avondale’s graduates are surveyed in regard to both their satisfaction with their courses and also their employment situation four months after graduating. In both categories Avondale ranked extremely competitively. If you are interested, you can track satisfaction with Avondale’s learning experience through the Quality in Learning and Teaching website: www.qilt.edu.au. And, 89 per cent of Avondale graduates find employment within four months. Compare that result with the Australian university sector.

Avondale is not a safe place to send your children: No, not true! Avondale’s campuses are still smoke/alcohol/drug free and our dormitories are definitely not co-educational. Certainly, your children will be treated as adults, which they are. And they will also be “finding their feet” in terms of what they think, just as you did when you were their age and even when you were Avondale students. I have to say that I am somewhat surprised when people tell me that they would not send their children to Avondale because it’s not safe and then they encourage them to go to a public university where they encounter lifestyle and worldview options without the positive mentoring that Avondale can provide. Avondale students do have an enormous amount of freedom—many of them have their own cars—but we encourage responsibility as well.

Avondale will be closing within five to six years: No, not true! What is true is that Avondale is facing financial challenges, just like many of the regional universities. Prospective students have many choices these days and Avondale does not offer all of the courses available at a large university. However, the majority of our courses are employment focused with excellent outcomes and a number of them are able to be studied online. This is Avondale’s 121st year of continuous operation and we are here for the long haul. We’ve had to look very carefully at our staffing levels and have made some adjustments to our admissions/enrolment processes so that the whole process will be easier. What is the scope of our problem? Basically, we need about 100-150 more fulltime students in order to make Avondale “hum”, and we are definitely targeting that number.

What to do with rumours and gossip? When I was a child my parents taught me to cross a road by instructing me to Stop, Look and Listen. So when a rumour about Avondale comes to you stop it in its tracks. Don’t pass it on unless you’ve actually confirmed its truthfulness. Look into it carefully before believing it. And listen to more than one source in determining what to do with it.

Avondale is certainly not a perfect place; it never was. However, it is still a great and good place. If I had my time over again, I would still encourage my children to come to Avondale, and (although it’s a while away) I will surely be encouraging my granddaughter to attend Avondale.

Professor Ray Roennfeldt
Avondale College of Higher Education

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