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.