This article is written about an anonymous student’s experience with Cedarville’s disciplinary process relating to alcohol use and posession. The individual requested their name to be omitted, so we will be calling them “Hudson” for the duration of this article. If you know who this article is about, please respect their privacy and do not share their real name or any additional details.

Cedarville University has one of the strictest alcohol policies of any university. While many secular universities have “insurance” policies to help underage students get out of alcohol charges, Cedarville prohibits the possession and consumption of alcohol regardless of age, location, or enrollment status. In other words, whether or not you are 21+, whether classes are currently in session or you are on a break, whether you are on or off-campus, and whether you are a student at any level, you cannot drink or even go to places where alcohol is “the main feature.”

Cedarville’s disciplinary response to a violation of this policy is remarkably vague. “Violations of these guidelines may result in dismissal,” the handbook reads. But where does the University draw the line of dismissal? It would seem Cedarville itself does not even know, as we will see in this story of a student who by all accounts was a stand-out Cedarville student who was dismissed after their first alcohol offense.

The frightening reality is that this student’s disciplinary process revealed that the handbook seems to exist merely as a way of silencing students who Cedarville Student Life may deem a threat to the University’s reputation or an inconvenience that is not worth expending time, money, or effort. If you are influential enough or bring the school enough money, the handbook does not apply as strongly to you. But if you just are one student in a sea of 4,500 others–even with excellent academics and community involvement–the handbook will be used to its fullest extent.

The Incident

Hudson was in his last year at Cedarville University. In addition to being involved in major-specific activities and org activities, he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and the International Justice Mission.

Hudson was well-liked among students. In fact, although we never met, I had heard from many of my friends what a good guy he was which is something I don’t usually hear–typically I hear from my friends about people they don’t like.

But on October 9, 2021, things took a turn in Hudson’s life at Cedarville. He and his friend drank on Cedarville’s campus and decided to ride their bikes around the lake. A noise complaint was made to Campus Security, and Hudson and his friend were stopped and confronted about the smell of alcohol on their breath. The two admitted that they had been drinking and granted Campus Security permission to search one student’s dorm, where they found 28 against-covenant items, only 4 of which were Hudson’s.

According to the Campus Security report,

“When Campus Security arrived to investigate [a noise complaint], they discovered that two of the individuals [redacted] and [Hudson] had the smell of alcohol on their breath, were slurring their words, and had difficulty standing up without support. When they were first confronted by CS, [redacted] and [Hudson] denied that they had been drinking any alcohol. However, after further questioning, they began to be more truthful. They eventually acknowledged that they had drank multiple drinks in a residence hall.”

Cedar-12 is always on the prowl, don’t worry. They’ll never leave a student unbothered in their car in a parking lot.

Later in the report, it notes that “[redacted] and [Hudson] acknowledged ownership of the alcohol.” It failed to specify how much of the alcohol was owned by who, which we’ll come back around to later.

Hudson was understandably shaken by the experience and was faced with the possibility that he might be expelled from Cedarville University. In the car with the security officer who drove him home, he asked if they thought he would be kicked out. The officer said he was probably fine because he had no previous record. Two days later, on Monday the 11th, he met with the dean of student life Brad Smith.

The Response

What stood out about his meeting with Brad Smith was that both Hudson and his friend were “charged” as if they were the same person. Although 24 of the 28 items found were his friend’s, Hudson was never granted permission to be adjudicated separately throughout the entire process. After the meeting, Dean Smith said that they were most likely dismissed but the final call would be through Mindy May.

We all know how the Mindy May story ends. Hudson was dismissed.

As a student, Hudson was committed to Cedarville and had a lot of friends who supported him throughout this process. He was deeply involved in the campus community and his fellow org members advocated for his membership not to be terminated.

But Student Life’s response did not align with the love and support Hudson felt from the rest of campus. When the appeal process began, he sat before a student council chosen by SGA along with faculty. Some of the students tried to ask questions about him as a person, but for the most part, all questions regarded this singular incident–and the incident as a whole, not just his involvement. After the council concluded, Hudson waited for their deliberation. Twenty minutes later he was officially dismissed.

As he waited, he had heard laughter from the room where they discussed their decision.

The official decision called for “Immediate Dismissal for violation of CU alcohol possession.” Graciously, it states that “[Hudson] may reapply to CU for the Fall 2022 semester” conditional on “a positive letter of recommendation from a counselor with whom [he] has shared the details of this event, as well as his acknowledgment that he has struggled with alcoholism” after “a number of sessions” as well as “A positive letter of recommendation from a pastor of the local church where [Hudson] attends and with whom he has shared his struggles with alcohol.”

This is laughable and so typical of hyper-conservative Christian organizations to address a one-time sin as a lifestyle issue. Hudson was supposed to get counseling for alcoholism. Let me restate. For alcoholism. Why? He drank one time. This is not a struggle with alcohol. This is drinking one time. It is absolutely absurd for the University to make these claims as grounds for dismissal.

I wish I could be there when Hudson transfers to another university and they ask cautiously, “Can you tell us about this administrative dismissal?” and Hudson says, “Yes, I drank one time when I was 21” followed by howling laughter from any sane school administrator. They’d probably congratulate him for being the only student who got in trouble for drinking when of-age EVER at that school.

The Double Standard

Of course, possession or use of alcohol is prohibited at Cedarville University, but it is by no means a zero-tolerance policy. In the section that addresses alcohol, the handbook says, “Violations of these guidelines may result in dismissal.” (p. 16, emphasis added) This is an incredibly vague statement and could apply to any violation of the handbook. A more specific section of the handbook is possession of firearms, which states that disciplinary action up to dismissal is possible and includes fines and specific regulations regarding what is allowable on campus. The disciplinary process for alcohol use and possession is not made clear, and even after his dismissal, Hudson discovered a final level of appeal on his own without being made aware by the University, which was a direct appeal to the Presidential Cabinet.

No statement is made that its alcohol policy is “zero-tolerance” meaning automatic dismissal. If you ask me, I think I know why. For students like Hudson, he contributed greatly to the culture of Cedarville through his service and commitment to community. But when the entire soccer team got busted at a 21st birthday party, they got off scot-free. “But Cedarville Interpreter, they got put on probation.” Wow! That means absolutely nothing! That means no drinking if they’d get caught, or maybe holding off until probation is over.

@ the Cedarville Soccer Team

My question is what is the difference between Hudson and the soccer team? Ah, the soccer team is viewed as an asset by the administration. They make Cedarville marketable to incoming students because “We’re a real school with real sports!” They also bring money to the school through sponsorships and funding. Because of this, they get off with a slap on the wrist while Hudson is dismissed, treated like a nameless face on a Campus Security report.

I know personally of multiple individuals who have been caught with alcohol who were not dismissed. The difference? They had connections at the school.

Cedarville’s double standard in this area–as in so many other areas of disciplinary action–is sickening.

If you disagree, consider this: if Dr. White’s own child were attending the University and got busted for alcohol, would a gracious redemption plan suddenly come onto the table?

The Implications

There were three things that stood out about Hudson’s dismissal, which he outlined very well in his final appeal to the Presidential Cabinet. Firstly, his case was adjudicated together with his friend who was charged for criminal offenses. He writes:

As we can see in the first page of the CU Campus Safety report, my charge was described as “NON-CRIMINAL INCIDENT : RESIDENT LIFE ISSUE/VIOLATION”, versus the other individual I was caught with [redacted]  “ORC CRIMINAL : 2925 : 14 DRUG PARAPHERNALIA OFFENSES”.  Due to the difference in nature of our charges, I requested on multiple occasions our cases be judged separately yet despite my greatest efforts, this apparently was not done.  At every stage, from start to finish, our cases were presented as one in the same.  Even the dismissal papers we both received were almost identical, with the only difference being the addition of “substance abuse” to [redacted]’s form. 

This is incredibly malfeasant on the part of the Cedarville administration. To judge two separate cases as one simply because they were associated is misguided at best and unjust at worst–I, personally, call it an injustice. This sends the message to students that if they are even in the room with someone who has made bad decisions, they could be held liable as if they were that person. So don’t visit anyone’s dorms or apartments–if you get in trouble and then you’re there when they get busted for weed it might as well be yours.

This is absurd.

Second, there was no attempt by Cedarville administrators to bring Hudson back into the community. Instead, he was treated like a dirty sinner who needed to be gotten rid of. In his appeal, he writes:

There was no effort to attempt to bring me back to the community.  From start to finish, the solution seemed to be an effort remove me from the community for the betterment of the Cedarville Campus.  While I can see this reaction being understandable for repeated patterns of disobedience or lack of a desire to change, I did not exhibit either of those.  I find this approach to be inconstant [sic] with 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 and Matthew 18:15-17. 

While I recognize Cedarville is not the church, I nevertheless wonder why I am treated so much more harshly than the sinner of Matthew 18:15.  I feel rather than having my misconduct declared to me and offered an opportunity to be restored to the community, I have been treated as the sinner in verse 17 “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

The actual community of Cedarville came behind Hudson during this difficult time. According to him, he received little judgment from his friends and colleagues. Ah, but from the administration, there was no holistic consideration of who he was as a person. Instead, he was defined totally and completely by one incident and given no chance for redemption.

Such swift dismissal is ironic coming from a University administration who designed a redemption plan to hire a sexual predator a few years ago.

Third and finally, Cedarville’s appeal process was not fully explained to Hudson. This is not due process.

“‘Tis not due process, ’tis dumb process.”
-Thomas Jefferson, probably

Hudson writes in the appeal:

Upon the completion of the appeal, I was never offered this second level of appeal.  We were brought before the appeal board who decided to uphold Dean Smith’s decision and then to Dean Smith’s office where he explained to us that dismissal was upheld and we were to start the process of leaving Cedarville immediately.  Only after reviewing the “Appeal and Hearing Board Process” document did I realize I was entitled to this second level of appeal.  I don’t believe there was any ill will in not advising me of this right, but one would hope future students would be accurately apprised of their rights under the policy.

I would agree with Hudson that there was probably no ill will in this situation, but when it comes to the most important disciplinary proceedings at a University, leadership is neglectful if they do not know about and inform students of all levels of the appeals process. Based on past situations, Cedarville loves to sweep issues under the rug and do away with anyone who exhibits imperfect behavior or does not fit their mold, so it does not reflect well on a University that already has this reputation to also withhold the details of its disciplinary process from students facing dismissal.

Even during the disciplinary process facing dismissal, Hudson continued to invest in the University. He went to his classes, saved seats for his friends in chapel, and contributed to the campus community. But it didn’t matter. Drinking alcohol once is so vile a sin that students must be immediately removed–unless they’re good at kicking soccer balls into goals I guess.

Cedarville’s alcohol policy is outdated and impractical, but it probably won’t change anytime soon

Reshaping the Policy

As someone who went through this broken disciplinary process, Hudson had two recommendations if Cedarville chooses not to change its alcohol policy. First, distinguish between underage and of-age students. If a student is underage and is caught drinking, they have violated the law and Cedarville is within its rights to discipline the student.

However, students who are of age should not receive the same level of discipline. Hudson pointed out that he did not, “want future students to misunderstand the goal of that policy or Cedarville’s effort to create a safe campus by assuming drinking is a greater sin that is harder to be redeemed from.”

I honestly don’t understand Cedarville’s deep fear of alcohol, but their policy clearly sends the wrong message to students about what is right and wrong, especially by showing no distinction between underage students and those who are over 21.

We’ve definitely never been to one of these before.

Hudson’s second recommendation is to clearly define whether or not the policy is zero-tolerance. He said,

“This immediate dismissal approach is inconsistent with the central themes of the overall discipline policy: progressive sanctions and restoration. There was nothing about my case that indicated any progressive punishment. And, rather than restoring me–for my good and the good of the university–I was punished by taking away my chance to graduate with my class.  This sanction is far more severe than the offense.”

Zero-tolerance policies should be listed as just that: zero-tolerance. The policy states that dismissal is possible, but not the only recourse. You cannot convince me that Cedarville had just cause to dismiss Hudson more so than its soccer players. On the whole, he was a golden child of the University. His volunteer experience alone as well as the community that surrounded him with faced with dismissal demonstrates that.

But did he know the right people? Did he play the right sport? No, but he did dare to drink one time and be there when someone else got busted for drug paraphernalia.

Or not.

Where was the redemption plan the University touted a couple years ago? Where was the love and acceptance Cedarville claims to foster? Where was the excellence in effort to holistically view Hudson as a person and seek his reconciliation? Where was the integrity in conduct to explain the appeals process to him? Cedarville may defend its actions by saying they are fostering a godly community. Love for God, they might say, comes first. I have one thing to say in response.

Love for God will never come at the expense of love for others.

It never ever will, because God loves his creation and pursues them constantly, even when they make wrong decisions or fall into the trap of sin. But Hudson was not treated with love, he was treated ignorantly and wrongly. Still, he holds absolutely no ill will toward the University or the administrators that dismissed him. He is a better person than I because I am frankly upset for him. Cedarville needs more people who are committed to its community at such a high level and give of themselves not only at Cedarville but in its surrounding community.

Our Recommendation

We recommend that Cedarville University change its alcohol policy to prohibit alcohol on all University property but allow alcohol use off-campus, at least over breaks, for of-age students. Underage students should not be permitted to drink, but Cedarville should not seek to do the government’s job by regulating students over breaks. That is serious overreach from a private institution like Cedarville University and constitutes an invasion of privacy.

In our first article, we argued against Cedarville’s archaic policy and wrote:

God does not write off enjoying anything unless it is harmful to our bodies or hurts others, neither of which are true about alcohol. Cedarville ought to take this Biblical message to heart and change their policies to allow responsible use of alcohol. Unfortunately, that will probably never happen for one simple reason: Cedarville is so concerned with their image that they are more willing to treat their students like children than follow actual Biblical principles.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Vote on alcohol, circa 2145 A.D. at best

That is still the sad reality. Cedarville will likely never change until the entire Southern Baptist Convention does, many affiliates of which just stopped prohibiting interracial dating a couple decades ago. So buckle up: it may not happen in our lifetime…or our kids’ lifetimes.

Saving face, it seems, is always Cedarville’s first priority and they get away with it because the face they save is that of a godly, Biblical university with high moral standards for its students. But what higher morality is there than Scripture, and how dare they claim their standards are superior to those God himself created?

It is time for a change at Cedarville. No student deserves to go through what Hudson did, treated like a criminal in a place he loved and called home. He pleaded in his appeal: “Please get to know me as a sinner saved by grace who has made a mistake rather than a case that needs to be removed from Cedarville.”

Cedarville University did not listen.

11 thoughts on “Defined by One Mistake: What One Student’s Dismissal Revealed about Cedarville’s Disciplinary Process

  1. The rabbit hole goes much deeper than this. I was dismissed my junior year of school at cedar ville and the university enlisted the cedarville police department to aide them in a “witch hunt” my story has traumatized me for almost a decade now and I still have PTSD because of cedarville it’s a shame what the school is actually able to get away with.

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  2. This article was really well written and I appreciate sharing Hudson’s story. I know stories from Liberty- another huge conservative Christian college with no alcohol policies, in 2014 my brother’s friend was busted for drinking and substances in his dorm while of-age, but Liberty decided to allow him to be enrolled if he took counseling or had an accountability partner. Maybe Cedarville could do the same as well as introduce Hudson’s ideas if relabeling it to a zero-tolerance policy.

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  3. I am truly saddened by this article if it is true. If this is how Cedarville treats their students, shame on them. It also makes me understand God’s reasons that my grandson chose another university! You will be held accountable before the Lord!

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  4. Speaking as someone kicked out of cedarville for drinking on campus, this article spoke so many truths hidden in my heart given shape by yours and “Hudson’s” words. I was kicked out in 2017 and have let go of bitterness and held onto grace.

    My one piece of advice for people cast aside is this; there is more to life and this world then a small school in southern Ohio. Christ works in ways we do not always understand, have hope and continue to live your life.
    Cedarville isn’t perfect but neither is anything on this earth. We are all hopefully on a path of becoming more like Christ daily and that’s all that matters.

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  5. Alcohol is a gateway to other sinful actions, thus Cedarville takes such a strong stance on it. People send their children across the nation to Cedarville because it is one of the few remaining colleges that have not bowed their knee to modern progressive ideologies. They have had this policy on alcoholism since they were founded in 1887, so I hardly think that this is the first occurrence of its type. Like their stance on alcoholism, Cedarville will not adjust any of their other policies to conform modern ideologies because when they do this, it will open a tidal wave of pressure to conform. Romans 12:2 warns against conforming to the ways of the world and Galatians 5:9 describes the result of beginning to make small changes. I can hardly imagine that Hudson, being a 4th year student, didn’t know the policy about alcoholism, and I doubt it was his first time drinking on campus. You don’t abstain from alcohol for 3 years and then decide to get drunk out of the blue. The Cedarville Interpreter seems to do more complaining than anything, and I have not seen any “progress” in the topics they write about. This type of constant negativity can result in individuals not receiving an authentic, christ-centered education that would build a strong foundation for their spiritual walk, simply because they read a biased, progressive blog presenting information about sporadic occurrences, which probably are written by students whose education is paid for by mommy and daddy.

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    1. @custudent, part of me wonders if your name should be ‘custaff.’ Regardless, you should have a beer some time. Your post makes it clear that you never have. Much like CU’s leadership, you fear it because you do not know it. I’m sure I don’t need to remind of you of Jesus’ first miracle, right?

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    2. Cedarville seems unfortunately to be a rather legalistic community in more ways than just its policy on alcohol. You (following the school) seem to be unable to recognize the distinction between drinking alcohol and getting intoxicated. To state the obvious, Jesus himself, along with his disciples, drank wine. God created it. Please note the first recorded miracle in the Gospel of John (chapter 2, verses 1-11). And don’t try to give us fabricated nonsense about wine really meaning grape juice in Scripture. While it is true that excessive, irresponsible alcohol use is a gateway to other sinful actions — perhaps especially sexual sin — it is not correct to state that alcohol itself is such a gateway. This is somewhat akin to the distinction between money, which is not inherently bad, and the love of money.

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  6. Regardless of what custudent said, having a policy like that and then a case as drastic as “Hudson’s” will make students question their own roommates in fear they might be consuming alcohol or other paraphernalia. This, in turn, would make students search for different universities that aren’t so 1984 with their policies. Cedarville has a great educational system with great staff that know what they are talking about. However, parents and students shouldn’t look over the obvious bias that the school has towards students that have money and those that do not. Of course that is a problem in every university, but it is a bigger problem at Cedarville because they put on a face that is not the case, when clearly to “Hudson” and so many others, it is.

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  7. As someone dismissed less than a month after Hudson, it is both comforting, and discouraging to see that others were treated the same way as I was. Granted my experience had it’s differences, but I relate to Hudson’s in many many ways…as much as I recognize the error in my actions especially being underage and under a covenant I’d signed, it was still the worst experience I’ve ever had and the appeal process was something I wouldn’t wish on anyone and did not feel fair by any means. As shaken as I still am by the experience, I can’t say how glad I am that I’m not alone.

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  8. Guys, how hard is it to go a short four years without drinking? Is sacrificing your college education really worth a drink? The rule banning alcohol is completely justified and reasonable. The real problem on campus is the people who are willing to bend the truth to attack kind Godly people in an effort to try and gain fame.

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