Title IX is a federal law that requires and regulates the investigation and punishment of sexual discrimination in the educational environment. Discrimination is defined to include “standard discrimination,” inequality, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
In 2013, shortly after Dr. White took over and during the continuing “Purge” that hailed the incoming administration, a federal investigation was launched to look at Cedarville’s Title IX policies. This was due to numerous complaints about their system and was extremely important because it can threaten their accreditation. Cedarville was forced to establish a Title IX office to address complaints and policies at Cedarville. However, the Title IX office is still a slave to the administration. Cedarville remains “exempt” from Title IX complaints as a private institution and can hide any Title IX complaint under the guise of religious exemption.
The purge continued after this investigation, wherein faculty were fired over any doctrinal differences with the new White administration and the opinions of the Board. Dissent was crushed, many female professors were shamed, and dozens of new taboos emerged such as sexuality, inclusivity, and openness to change. Along with the faculty, one of our predecessors in spirit, The Ventriloquist, went out the door as they dissented against some Cedarville policies and doctrines. Cedarville continued its policy of glossing over issues and making free discussion impossible.
More recently, Paige Patterson was (finally) removed from the board after several comments sexualizing women and even telling them to stay in abusive relationships. Two board members left after Dr. White was reinstated as president after knowingly hiring a sexual predator. There are countless stories of sexual assaults covered up and even the dean of the highly regarded School of Pharmacy was dismissed very quietly over sexual assault allegations over the summer. As part of that process, Cedarville refused the formal hearing the victim was entitled to. They avoided any confrontation of the issue and even brushed off her decision to leave the University. Thankfully, Dr. Bates has stepped up to the role and will undoubtedly lead the School of Pharmacy in the right direction.
Many may think that Dr. White’s debacle with the hiring and firing of Dr. Anthony Moore was a one-off mistake—something that can even be forgiven and learned from. But the Moore scandal was not Dr. White’s first run-in with Title IX—in fact, way back in 2003, he participated in the cover-up of Megan Lively’s rape alongside former board member Paige Patterson. His wife, Joy, counseled Megan as part of a “disciplinary plan.” Why a victim of rape was being “disciplined” is beyond me. Regardless, the handling of this situation was inappropriate and disturbing. Patterson stepped down over similar allegations, but White received minimal consequences when this news emerged.
In the Fall semester of 2018, a student named Kiara had sexual rumors spread about her behind her back and was completely dismissed by the administration. Title IX simply was not a priority: for Kiara, that meant she was not a priority. Another former Cedarville student and employee experienced sexual harassment during their time at Cedarville. Kat said, “As a former employee of Cedarville, I do not believe that the actions of those in leadership in this case represented the values and character of the faculty and staff that I had the opportunity to work with. I believe that Cedarville has a strong foundation built from individuals who desire to show students and the world how to live “For the Word of God, and the Testimony of Jesus Christ”. Unfortunately, this was not reflected in the tough decisions that needed to be made by those in leadership.”
Former Cedarville professor Melissa Faulkner was publicly shamed for teaching about a book that included a description of a sexual assault. The board refused to have a discussion about its value and simply shut it down. Unfortunately, Cedarville takes that approach to the vast majority of Title IX issues.
Last year, a female student at Cedarville filed a complaint with the Title IX office after her application was refused to run for chaplain. Their reason was that she was a woman, and women cannot apply for that position. She would not be allowed to campaign and her name could not be voted on. She began a petition (please check that out, since it speaks better to her beliefs and motivations) for women to be allowed to speak in chapel. She posted her petition to classifieds hoping to gain some traction. Her post was repeatedly removed by the Cedarville administration and one day she tried to re-post it, but she had been banned from Cedarville Classifieds. After going up the chain to find out why she was banned, she was told that ideas that are different from Cedarville’s are always welcome and students do not have to agree with the University doctrinal statement. But later in her statement, she wrote that any disagreement with a Cedarville policy or doctrine cannot be communicated across any Cedarville medium. Cedarville does not value differing opinions—Cedarville medium or not (as we know from the fate of The Ventriloquist‘s forceful censorship). Nearly a year later, the student’s Classified privileges have not been restored. After several months of back-and-forth with the Title IX office, she was informed that—as in all matters regarding Title IX violations—Cedarville was religiously exempt as a private Christian university.
Earlier in this semester, Cedarville launched a brand new Title IX campaign aimed at letting students “Speak Up” about Title IX allegations. In fact, they even dedicated a chapel to it. However, since then very little change has occurred. The reality is that a chapel and some signs will not fix this deeply systemic issue; so, you may ask, what will?
Cedarville is on the right track with increasing awareness, and chapels such as the one with the new Title IX coordinator are good steps, but more needs to be done.
- Leave it to the professionals. Get Dr. Wood off the stage. He has done so much to cover up allegations of sexual assault and does not deserve a place on stage with a qualified woman who really seems to know her stuff.
- Stay out of it. The Cedarville administration needs to have no affiliation with the Title IX office except to offer it resources and raise awareness. Title IX staff should not be the spouses of faculty or staff and should be fully independent of the University in order to provide due process to student allegations. Cedarville—and whoever heads the Title IX office—also needs to be more persistent in raising awareness and offering resources to students. Signs and a chapel are not enough.
- Don’t pin blame on victims. Cedarville’s HR has a lot of say when it comes to sexual assault allegations, especially if such allegations require or encourage the dismissal of a staff or faculty member. The HR staff must not pin blame on accusors, especially if a Title IX investigation has warranted the abuser’s dismissal.
- Own up to abuse. This is much more difficult as a step Cedarville can take because it comes down to individual integrity. Cedarville is terrified to address the claims we have made in this article. They quietly dismiss deans, silence accusers, empower abusers (I know of two victims of dating violence whose cases were refused because the Title IX office would not believe them), reinstate presidents after endangering students, and put the very people who allow abuse on the stage to preach against it. Cedarville must own up to its abuses as a Biblical organization. From a Biblical perspective, it is better to lose reputation to honesty than to lose integrity to good PR.
Unfortunately, at this point, corruption is evident within the administration. Any one person who tries to go against them or talk gets a stern talking-to from Mindy May, Jon Wood, or Brad Smith alongside a threat to be removed. However, this is exactly why awareness is extremely important, especially in the way we treat others. While this series has focused on the negative, there are redeeming qualities about Cedarville. The school’s academics are highly rigorous and there are many students who value the humanity and wellbeing of others. However, these qualities do not excuse the real issues that need to be addressed. The administration ultimately does not define the campus culture, we do. So from wherever you are as a student, faculty member, staff member, or parent stay committed to shedding light on abuse and do everything in your power to create a culture of openness, vulnerability, and boundaries. Whether that means talking to your roommate and some friends, making yourself a resource for students you teach, speaking up when you see abuse, or formulating policies that will improve Cedarville’s Title IX response, stand out in courage and take the steps to right the wrongs of the past and pave the way toward a safe, Christ-centered, academically rigorous campus culture.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts, feelings, and opinions alongside the impactful stories of those who have fallen victim to Cedarville’s damaging position toward women on campus. It might not feel like it, but there are students on campus who understand the damage that purity culture has caused and are working to prevent it in our actions and words.
A ‘qualified woman’
Resources for Victims of Sexual Assault, Harrassment, or any other Title IX-related issue:
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
Ohio Sexual Violence Hotline: 844-644-6435
RAINN Resource Center (including live chat if you’d prefer not to speak on the phone): https://centers.rainn.org/
Title IX Information: https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/
Cedarville University’s Title IX Office: https://www.cedarville.edu/offices/title-ix
Our Contact Form and Social Media: Open at all times to anyone. We will do our best to find you the resources you need with full anonymity.
Picture Credit: Incredible student artist Rayna Markle