by William Trollinger
Things are bad at Cedarville University, with the revelation a few days ago that in 2017 the school knowingly hired a sexual predator who rapidly became a central figure at the school. (Go here for the full recap.)
But while Cedarville has taken action, of a sort, the situation at the school is definitely not getting better. In fact, all indications are that the situation may be getting worse.
Last Friday the Cedarville University Board of Trustees put President Thomas White on administrative leave. Since this statement is relatively brief, I will include it in its entirety here:
The Board of Trustees at Cedarville University was recently made aware of additional information related to Dr. Anthony Moore’s past that led to the termination of his employment by our president, Dr. Thomas White, on Thursday, April 23, 2020. The board is incredibly grieved over this new information and the questions it raises. This matter was our priority at our spring Trustee meeting. We understand the gravity of this situation, and we covet your continued prayers.
The trustees have endorsed and ordered the following three courses of action:
1. We are hiring an independent firm to conduct an internal investigation to ensure nothing inappropriate involving Dr. Moore took place on our campus or with any of our students elsewhere. This firm will report to the board, and the board will then report the findings to the Cedarville University community at-large.
2. We are retaining an independent firm to conduct an audit of the entire process surrounding the hiring of Dr. Moore. This will include a thorough review of all relevant communication involving Dr. White and Dr. Moore, the trustees, The Village Church, employment references, etc. The firm will report its findings to the board.
3. We have placed Dr. White on administrative leave during these investigations and have appointed Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Loren Reno as acting president of Cedarville University. Gen. Reno currently serves as senior advisor, office of the president, and was formerly vice president for academics at Cedarville. Dr. White has pledged his full support of both internal reviews being conducted and will make himself available to respond to either inquiry as requested. Dr. White will also fulfill his commitment to participate in the Senior Celebration online event on Saturday to honor the class of 2020.
As our Cedarville University community processes this situation, we pray we would do so with humility, grace, mercy, integrity, civility, and respect. Above all, we pray God would be honored by our deliberations and actions. [Emphases in original.]
There are so many problems with this statement. Here are just four, from least to most problematic:
- “We have placed Dr. White on administrative leave during these investigations . . . [but] Dr. White will also fulfill his commitment to participate in the Senior Celebration online event.” So White’s possible administrative and moral failings are so great that they require him to be placed on leave, but they are not so great that he cannot participate in the graduation ceremony. What does it mean at Cedarville for an administrator to be placed on leave, and what does this “leave but not leave” suggest about the seriousness of the “investigation”? And is this further confirmation of the fact that, in fundamentalism, male leaders can simply act with impunity, with minimal negative consequences?
- “We are hiring an independent firm to conduct an internal investigation to ensure nothing inappropriate involving Dr. Moore took place on our campus or with any of our students elsewhere.” Let me see if I have this right. The school knowingly hired a man who – in his previous position as campus pastor of the The Village Church (TVC) in Fort Worth, Texas – had secretly videotaped a male youth pastor showering in Moore’s home on multiple occasions. More than this, they failed to inform students, parents, staff, and faculty as to what Moore had done, and they failed to institute a rigorous protocol to ensure that students, staff, and faculty were protected from a predator they did not know about. And now, after Moore is gone, Cedarville is investigating to “ensure” that nothing inappropriate happened. That is, they are investigating to confirm what they already believe to be true (which does not sound like an “investigation” as the word is understood outside of the world of fundamentalism). And there is another question regarding this “investigation”: Does the independent firm have access to Moore’s cellphone(s) and other recording devices?
- “We are retaining an independent firm to conduct an audit of the entire process surrounding the hiring of Dr. Moore.” Given how much is already known, at one level this is simply absurd. In January 2017 the lead pastor of TVC publicly announced that Moore had been fired for “grievous immoral actions”. In summer 2017 – as Cedarville was preparing to hire Moore as Multicultural Recruiter and Biblical Research Fellow – the TVC pastor “thoroughly informed Dr. White and Cedarville University about the details of Anthony’s dismissal and our belief that Anthony was not fit for ministry of any kind.” Last month Thomas White acknowledged that he did know about Moore’s voyeuristic videotaping, although his ludicrous defense is that in 2017 he was told about “at most two videos,” while he has now learned there are at least five. As I said in my previous post: “Two videos ok, five videos bad?”
When it comes to Thomas White’s role in the hiring of Anthony Moore, I am at a loss to know what else Cedarville needs to know. This said, it absolutely would be worth investigating who else in the administration and who on the Board knew Moore’s story. There seems to be no question that others knew, given that – on the day White announced Moore was going to be hired – he went out of his way to mention that
I have been working this summer with . . . our Trustees, Jason Lee [Dean of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies], Tom Mach [Vice President for Academics and Chief Academic Officer], Scott Van Loo [Vice President for Enrollment Management], and others on a multiyear plan were we will walk with Anthony through his continued restoration and reentry into ministry.
All signs are that other male leaders at Cedarville, and perhaps many male leaders at Cedarville, were complicit in the hiring of Anthony Moore. And yet, it seems that there is virtually no chance that there will be an actual investigation into who knew what and when. And that leads to point #4.
- We “have appointed Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Loren Reno as acting president of Cedarville University. Gen. Reno currently serves as senior advisor, office of the president, and was formerly vice president for academics at Cedarville.”
Given that he only has a M.S. in Systems Management, Lt. Gen Reno has had quite the academic career at Cedarville University. He was hired in 2012 as the dean of the School of Business Administration, an appointment that coincided with the beginning of Cedarville’s fundamentalist crackdown. In 2015 he was appointed the Vice President for Academics. In that role he enforced Cedarville’s notorious “Biblically Consistent Curriculum Policy”; as a former faculty member reports, Reno and President White used this policy to publicly shame a faculty member for assigning a Latinx memoir that included graphic language regarding the author’s experience of sexual abuse. (Assigning a book that talks about having been sexually abused, bad; hiring a sexual predator and not revealing this to the community, good.) In 2017 Reno stepped down to become a professor of management and special adviser to President White. And now, three years later, he has become acting president of the university while the institution engages in an internal investigation of the hiring of the aforementioned sexual predator.
But it turns out that Lt. Gen. Reno was intimately involved in the “restoration” of Anthony Moore, meeting with him on a regular basis to mentor him in the basics of leadership.
So the Cedarville Board places Thomas White on administrative leave while the school investigates the hiring of Anthony Moore. In White’s place the Board inserts White’s special advisor Loren Reno – a military man with a master’s degree, and with a track record of academic censorship – into the role of acting president. And given how closely Reno worked with both White and Moore, it is inconceivable that Acting President Reno did not know the full story of Moore’s sexual predation, and was not fully complicit in Moore’s hiring.
In this climate, the investigation looks much more like a cover-up.
As I have said before, if Cedarville were a normal institution of higher, Thomas White would be fired, along with the other administrators – such as Loren Reno – who had a hand in this. But Cedarville is a fundamentalist school with a fundamentalist Board of Trustees.
So it is that the scandal deepens at Cedarville.
Your breakdown of the entire thing feels like a witch hunt. Everything feels like an attack and twisted to fit your view. How is bringing in an outside source to investigate, Dr. White being on leave so as to have absolutely no interference somehow lessening what has occured? I for one appreciate a full investigation. The only thing I agree with is that Dr White was NOT alone in hiring Dr Moore. There is nothing Christian in the way you have reported this. I believe in accountability 100%. I believe people should absolutely be held accountable for actions. I do not agree with tearing someone down for your own personal vendetta. Yes the story needed to be brought to light. But not like this. There are so many families involved and not caring who gets hurt is not Christian like. From reading your other articles, you seem to have had an issue with Cedarville for a long time. I pray whatever has caused you to have so much hate does not continue to eat you up. I pray you get counseling for how much anger and bitterness that you seem to have. And I pray people remember that there are many aides to a story and many people involved. I am not saying I agree with Dr Moore being hired. I dont. I would not have supported it. But I also believe that the whole story needs to be heard before burning someone at the stake. It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and tear someone to shreds. It is easy to ignore that words are hurtful and cut deep. I pray you are careful and remember that slander is illegal. I pray that this serious of events is a way for the school to place proper protocols in place in order to prevent something lile the Ohio Dtate abuse scandal that was actually pushed under the rug and did actually include abuse. I do not believe someone who has committed sexual abuse should serve as a leader esp not over the demographic they abused. As someone who is a sexual abuse victim, I do know how that effects victims. I know what its like not to be listened to. I know what its like to have no justice. I know what its like to have to find counsel and healing. I do not ever wish that on anyone. I also believe that should be prevented at all costs and we should never believe that we can oversee someone that has been a predator dropped into the same area of temptation. But I also can understand the desire to restore someone. As any leader with a heart for God, the goal is always to restore. I don’t have to agree with the method to understand a well meaning intention, lack of facts and information, and people who have a need to protect themselves by lying and throwing others under the bus. Dr White has been honest every step of the way. He has not lied or twisted anything. He has not been arrogant or attacked anyone. So his character seems to speak to his intentions, no matter how flawed anyone thinks they were. Hindsight is 20/20. I just do not appreciate the blatant attack. I believe in delivering facts, asking questions, and presenting evidence. Not personal attacks, twisting intentions, and biased reporting.
Thank you, Rebecca, for taking the time to respond. You clearly have a very different perspective on what’s going on at Cedarville, and we at rightingamerica are very interested in hearing from those who might disagree with us. We are about dialogue, not culture war.
In that regard, I have to say I am dismayed by the fact that you found it necessary to pepper your response with ad hominem attacks: “twisted,” “personal vendetta,” “so much hate,” “anger,” “bitterness,” “slander,” and more. If you go back and read my piece, you will see that I do not use such words about White, Reno, Mach, and the rest. Unlike your diagnosis of me (a person you don’t know), I don’t say that I know the intentions of White and his compatriots. I have some pretty good guesses, but I don’t claim that I know.
I also confess that your argument is very confusing. If you agree with me that “Dr. White was NOT alone in hiring Dr. Moore,” then how is there going to be an independent investigation of this matter with all of those individuals still present at Cedarville?
I am also struggling to make sense of your claim that “Dr. White has been honest every step of the way.” What exactly does that mean? A sexual predator is hired — and moved up the Cedarville ladder – and the president is not at all transparent (most faculty and staff and students had no idea what Moore’s “sins” were). Is that honesty? And for their own protection, shouldn’t they have known?
Moreover, the folks at the The Village Church have quite clearly stated that they told White and company everything about Moore, a point that White denies.
Finally, I am very sorry that you endured sexual abuse – that’s awful. I have family members and students and colleagues who have endured sexual abuse and harassment, and it’s a dreadful burden to carry. Given your personal experience, and given your Christian commitments, I assume that you feel empathy with the students and faculty at Cedarville who have endured such abuse and harassment, and who are struggling with the fact their institution did not support them. See the latest post.
And I hope you will take seriously all the folks who have been deeply hurt by Cedarville.
All the best — bill
Couldn’t have said it better.
We are likewise grieved that you were once victimized and have had to endure a long road of healing.
We’re also glad to hear that you “appreciate a full investigation.” We do, too. With that in mind, please join us in asking the Board of Trustees to hire a truly independent organization like G.R.A.C.E. to throughly investigate the following: Title IX violations at CU under Dr. White; the mishandling of Title VII sexual harassment allegations under Dr. White; and the hiring of Dr. Moore and the cover-up of Moore’s past (the Bible faculty firmly deny Moore ever told them his “whole story” as White claims; men’s basketball coach Pat Estepp was never told Moore’s history; and White has clearly shown on his blog that he never told the faculty and staff; yet, The Village Church has adamantly stated they told White everything). Presently, Husch Blackwell, the law firm CU has hired to investigate, is only investigating the third concern (i.e., Moore) and ignoring the first two (i.e., Title IX and Title VII violations). In addition, they asked a CU employee, Mindy May, to contact all of Moore’s past students to begin the investigation, showing the investigation is at least partly internal rather than external. Furthermore, May sent that email out on Thursday, May 21 and instructed anyone who wanted to contact an investigator to do so by Tuesday, May 26—that means students had all of 5 days over a long holiday weekend during summer break to reply to the email. And students don’t check their email that much during such times. You can see that email here: https://julieroys.com/cedarville-hires-law-firm-to-conduct-investigation-retains-pr-guru-mark-demoss/
All law firms have a legal responsibility to benefit the client. Instead, an organization like G.R.A.C.E. doesn’t seek to benefit the client but rather to uncover the truth and help the possible victims of abuse get justice. Bob Jones University hired G.R.A.C.E. to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in 2013-2014; when G.R.A.C.E. did so, it also made its investigative process and all its findings transparent. You can still access them online: https://www.netgrace.org/bju. Instead, CU’s Board of Trustees says one investigation’s results will be transparent (the one into Moore) while the other will not be (the one into White’s cover-up of Moore’s past). This, too, is disturbing.
Finally, please join us in speaking on behalf of those at CU who’ve been sexually abused and harassed and denied justice when they sought help through the proper channels. And join us in advocating for present faculty and staff who’ve been oppressed and mistreated under Dr. White’s leadership.