by William Trollinger
There are now even more painful reports on the toxic culture that is Cedarville University. (And for those of you who are just now coming to this story, see: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
But before we get to the latest revelations, there’s word from the Cedarville Board of Trustees that President Thomas White has been reinstated from administrative leave, which the Board had imposed because White:
- knowingly hired an individual who had just been removed from his ministerial position at a Texas megachurch for, on multiple occasions, videotaping the church’s youth pastor in the shower
- kept this information from Cedarville faculty, staff, and students, all the while moving this individual into an ever-expanding list of positions, including Biblical and Theological Studies professor, presidential advisor, and assistant basketball coach.
Now, it is important to note that, at a normal university, this behavior would have ensured White’s firing. But this is Cedarville, an institution that operates according to a very particular fundamentalist logic. And after a seven week (seven weeks?) internal investigation, the Board concluded that White deserves to be reinstated as president. Here is the Board’s official statement, which can be summarized as follows:
- White hired Moore with the best of intentions.
- White has apologized for his mistake, which he made because he thought Moore only videotaped the youth pastor two times (instead of the actual five times).
- Moore apparently did not abuse anyone at Cedarville.
- White has been a great president, and he will now take courses on victim prevention and advocacy to help ensure he won’t make this same well-intentioned mistake again.
There are so many questions to be asked here, but I will limit myself to these:
- Two videotapings not a problem, five videotapings alarming? And what about the fact that the church that fired Moore has been clear that White was fully briefed at the time of Moore’s hiring?
- White’s good intentions are enough for the Board to ignore the fact that he made no attempt to inform faculty, staff, and students of whom exactly he was hiring? Does the Board have no concern about potential lawsuits?
- Given that White was clear that he communicated with some top administrators and some Board members about Moore, why aren’t they mentioned here? Is it possible that Board members are giving White a pass because they are trying to protect themselves?
- Given that (rumor has it) formal complaints against Cedarville have been filed with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and given that the HLC will be visiting Cedarville this autumn for an assurance visit, is it a good bet that the HLC will be satisfied by the Board’s decision and rationale?
It is significant that not all Board members agreed with the decision to reinstate White. Two of them – the president of Southeastern Seminary and an evangelical pastor/author – have resigned in protest. And the Gospel Coalition – a collection of conservative evangelical churches – has also registered its unhappiness with the Board’s decision, calling White’s reinstatement “deeply and extremely troubling,” in part because “the process of reinstatement fails to provide adequate accountability.”
To be fair, we perhaps should be heartened by the fact that White will be taking classes – taught by whom? – on victim prevention and advocacy.
Will these classes alert White to the fact that his university has a terrible record when it comes to protecting and advocating for women students and faculty, to the point of shaming those who talk about sexual abuse? Will these classes lead White to order his academic Vice President and other administrators that they must begin enforcing Title IX requirements, or will the university continue its inexplicable practice of ignoring these mandates? Will these classes prompt White to reform Cedarville’s Counseling Center so that it is actually a place that cares for and protects students who have been raped and sexually harassed?
In his book, Fundamentalist U, Adam Laats makes the very wise point that fundamentalist schools like Cedarville sell themselves as “safe schools.” All I can say is that, even if I accepted Cedarville’s hardline fundamentalist theology, I could not imagine allowing any of my three daughters to go to Cedarville, a place that is anything but safe for young women.
Of course, this might all change. Thomas White might be transformed by the victim prevention and advocacy classes he is supposed to take.
But White is a Paige Patterson protege. It doesn’t seem like transformation is in the cards. The best bet is that, if White remains as president, it is more of the same at Cedarville.
That said, the remaining members of the Board of Trustees and Thomas White are not the only voices in this struggle. Contingency rules. We shall see.
Thanks for another great article! Your four questions are our four questions, to be sure. In addition, we cannot fathom how the trustees did not consider whether White has the moral authority to lead his employees any more. Clearly, he does not, as he’s lost the respect of most of them.
Question #3 above is also something the trustees did not care to address: Did White lie to all those people he named in his blog? We know he lied about Moore’s supposed revelation of his full story to the Bible Department and to basketball coach Pat Estepp–neither revelation ever happened. So why didn’t the trustees also address the dishonest statements in White’s blog? Why didn’t they clear Pat Estepp’s name? And why didn’t they clear the names of all the other people White claimed he told about Moore’s background? Was he truthful with some of them, such as Jason Lee, who oversaw Moore’s “restorative process” at CU; VPA Tom Mach, who hired Moore as a faculty member; admissions director Scott Van Loo, who employed Moore as an intercultural recruiter in the admissions office; and Lt. Gen. Loren Reno, who met weekly with Moore for “leadership” mentoring? Did they all know everything? If so, they all should be attending those classes with White! If they didn’t know, why didn’t the trustees clear their names? In short, the trustees hung these men out to dry. (Considering the extremely close relationship between White and Lee, their lock-step views and shared cronyism, and Lee’s role as elder at Grace Baptist Church, which has now lost its pastor over this scandal, we believe Lee, at the very least, had to have known.)
Finally, we also just want to remind your readers of Megan Lively’s stunning revelation. On May 21, amid the CU investigation into White, Lively revealed that Dr. Thomas White and his wife Joy helped Paige Patterson cover up her rape at SWBTS in 2003–and blamed & shamed her for that rape. The Roys Report explains in its article that day the following vital details:
“Megan Lively, says Cedarville University President Thomas White participated with Patterson in the alleged cover-up of her rape in April 2003. Lively added that in the months that followed, she was required to meet multiple times with White’s wife, Joy White, now an assistant professor of women’s studies at Cedarville, as part of a ‘disciplinary plan.’ ‘I was made to feel like what happened to me was my fault,’ Lively said. ‘The sexual assault was downplayed,’ Lively added, saying that those involved tried to convince her that what had been done to her was not rape.” (See that article here: https://julieroys.com/rape-victim-whose-story-ousted-paige-patterson-says-cedarville-pres-thomas-white-was-part-of-cover-up/) Interestingly, Rachael Denhollander, the whistle-blower in the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal that has exposed all the abuses in USA Gymnastics, publicly supported Megan Lively during the Patterson revelations and now has publicly supported her with the White revelations.
We’ve connected the dots and believe this explains the reason for the classes the board is now requiring White to take. However, again, the trustees’ statement doesn’t address the situation with Lively at all. It pretends like it doesn’t exist. Yet, Paige Patterson was disgraced and fired from his job as President at SWBTS. Patterson also lost the house they were building for him to retire in on that campus. In contrast, the CU trustees just slap White on the wrist, order him to take some classes (but not his wife!), and assure that his family will occupy the 9000 sq. ft. house being built for him on CU’s campus (that house, btw, is bigger that the OSU President’s house! To say it’s extravagant is an understatement.)
In short, remember Megan Lively, too, please. The trustees’ decision ensures that misogyny will continue to reign supreme at CU. The classes are part of the slap on the wrist. As you pointed out, we wouldn’t let our daughters go there either. Nor would we let our sons go there; after all, we want our sons to learn how to respect and esteem women and don’t want them taught the toxic masculinity that is lauded there. You don’t have to hunt, shoot guns, lift weights, etc. to be a real man. Instead, we want our sons to follow Romans 12, I Corinthians 13, and Philippians 2: 1-11.
We pray the HLC will hold CU accountable.
Thank you for such a substantive response — this is outstanding. Yes, all sorts of folks are left out to dry, while White and cronies move on. Yes, you are absolutely right to point folks to the horrific Megan Lively story — see also here https://rightingamerica.net/rape-sexual-harassment-and-more-the-cedarville-stories-are-multiplying/ — and the fact that the Board has been publicly silent about it, and the fact that all signs are that misogyny will continue to rule supreme at Cedarville.
And yes, you are right to mention that we don’t want sons going there, either: here I should have listened to Sue, who wanted me to include the point that we would not want out our son as well as our three daughters attending Cedarville. The last thing we need is more young men indoctrinated in toxic masculinity.
The HLC has responded to my formal complaint about Cedarville University AND is taking action. Due to the potential concerns my complaint raised, the HLC is conducting a further review of Cedarville University. The HLC has forwarded my complaint to Cedarville University for formal review and response. Cedarville University has been given 30 days to respond to the concerns in writing and to provide appropriate supporting evidence. The HLC will be reviewing Cedarville University’s response to determine what action is needed, if any, based on the evidence. If HLC’s continued review of my complaint leads to a formal evaluation of Cedarville University including the scheduling of an Interim Report, Focused Visit, or other such evaluation, it will be published on Cedarville University’s Statement of Accreditation Status on the HLC website.
**If CU is allowed to keep their accreditation status following complete review, then it’s probably high time to investigate the HLC.
Thanks for keeping us posted!