Student Voices: #001

Our Student Voices series is a compilation of student stories with the intent to give voice to those who cannot speak out otherwise for fear of dismissal or judgement from their fellow students. To tell your story, send us a message through our contact form or by emailing cedarvilleinterpeter@gmail.com

This article contains two personal stories of two former students who faced a culture of inconsistency and works-based salvation when they attended Cedarville University.

No consistency.

Cedarville University is a place for intentional community. Everyone is equal, and everyone loves each other. No one matters more than anyone else, because God made all of us and we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So much rhetoric.

This is what Cedarville states in every chapel they teach, in every dorm meeting, and on every webpage you can find. If you asked the president, Dr. White, or any of his constituents if this is true, he would vehemently agree with you. If you asked the students? They would generally have a drastically different answer.

“Double Standard” by Ed Ruscha (1970)

Many individuals, including myself, feel that the RA’s (lol don’t we love ‘em) disproportionately distribute punishment to students. The first time I noticed this was in a dorm lounge. I was sitting next to my boyfriend, about 3” away, focused on my own laptop as I wrote a paper. He tapped on me to show me a meme. I looked over at his phone right as one of the RA’s was walking past.

Within an hour, I had gotten an email stating I’d earned a PC for sitting on my boyfriend. Given the fact that, well… I wasn’t, this was infuriating. It was especially so because at the same time, right behind us, a couple was expressing far more *physical affection* than I was. The RA told them hello, so I know they were noticed. However, the RA and the girl in the relationship were friends, and so they didn’t get in trouble as I did. These people were within 6’ of me. This was the first time I noticed the bias of the leadership towards the people they liked more, or that were more popular.

PDA is NOT allowed…unless you’re popular enough to get a pass.

Without even getting into the legalism of the rules which Cedarville has in place, I believe we can all see the issue here. There is no consistency. The handbook condemns actions such as “intimate forms of touching” (page 12 of the 2020-2021 handbook), but as far as PDA, that’s the only rule I can see.

Another personal story that should be included in this involves two friends of mine. One of them is a little edgy but absolutely wonderful, and the other is quite popular, especially amongst the authority figures on campus. This involves the dress code (specifically where it regards length of clothes) and how it is applied by those in authority. For context, the dress code states: “Clothing should not be excessively short or revealing. For example, skirts/dresses should fall mid-thigh, midriff and underwear should not show…” and that’s the relevant portion.

The first girl got pulled aside for breaking dress code recently. I don’t believe she got a PC, but she did get a talking to. She was wearing a knee length pencil skirt which had a slit for mobility (like all pencil skirts do). Basic officewear, but since it had a slit the RA told my friend that it was “inappropriate and distracting.” This also shows a lack of understanding on the part of the RA as far as what basic business formal clothes look like and what is considered immodest by most (Christian) people.

What does modesty really mean? Read our article on it here.

My other friend runs well within the popular crowd, including those with authority. Within the same week as this other story, she wore a pair of sheer tights with a skirt far above her mid-thigh. Many of the popular girls on campus wear similar things to this, and when I’ve spoken with them it has been clear that they haven’t been dress-coded for it.

This comparison may seem like a stretch, but these stories are barely breaking the ice when it comes to times that the “authorities” —fellow students who are supposedly under the same rules—take it upon themselves to bully those who are less popular and just allow those that are popular to do whatever they want. I could list countless instances that I’ve seen just in my time here, but there’s not enough space in this article for it. Let alone the fact that these legalistic rules regarding interpersonal relationships and “modesty” shouldn’t even exist in my opinion… but since they currently do, they should be applied to everyone justly. If we are called to “above all else: seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,” (Micah 6:8) why do we ignore this justice and humility in its most basic applications?

We say our rules are based in Christianity. If this is the case, we need to apply them the same way that Christ would. Equally and without preference towards people who have this “social status.” As Christians, popularity and how much we like a person should have nothing to do with how we treat them. Our internalization of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that should change that.

Faith by works is an uphill battle to disappointment. While it is not a doctrinal norm, this former student argues that it is a cultural norm at Cedarville.

Saved by Works or Faith?

At Cedarville University, what they preach and what they practice are very different things. If you spend much time in their Bible classes or their chapel services, you will hear the gospel of grace preached; that is, a person is saved by grace alone. However, what they practice is very different. They put such an emphasis on the “spiritual disciplines” and “doing” Christianity that the truth of salvation through faith by grace often gets pushed to the background.

I was a student at CU for a little over 2 years and I fell into the “saved by works” mindset that has overtaken the campus. One example of this was the big emotional altar calls that would happen at the beginning of each semester. They’d have a mandatory multi-day  conference focusing on a particular topic with sessions morning and evening for the first few days of the semester. Without fail, one predictable thing that would happen during one of the evening conferences was an alter call presented by one of the faculty members who would call for the students to turn away from the sins they had lived in during Winter/Summer break and return to the Lord. The emotions are high and the pressure is higher. “Be a good Christian and repent” hangs in the air of the chapel during the dramatic  altar call. I gave in to this pressure a few times while I was at CU. I thought “if I do this I’ll be a good Christian, right?” I truly believe that God was at work during those times.  However, I also believe that oftentimes the focus was too much about “doing the right thing” and not enough on the relationship with God.

The parable of the priest and the tax collector demonstrate the dangers of valuing one’s own works over genuine repentance and faith. This painting by Bryn Gillette illustrates the spiritual status of these two worshippers

But it was more than just the conferences that taught me Cedarville’s version of Christianity. While I was there I struggled quite severely in my personal life. When I would ask for advice from faculty—one faculty member in particular—they’d almost always respond with asking me how much I was reading my bible and praying.  Most of the advice that I got regarding my struggles was similar. This began my first semester as a student there and continued until I left partway through my Junior year.  I learned that if I read my bible every day, prayed every day, paid attention in chapel, etc., I was a good Christian. If I didn’t do those things I felt guilty and was a bad Christian. I learned from Cedarville that if I did all the spiritual disciplines, my struggles would ease back and life would get easier. Fall Semester 2019 was no different. I had spent the summer of 2019 mad at God and not wanting much to do with Him. Fall Semester came and Bible Conference was powerful as usual. And once again I repented from my sin and thought “maybe this time will be better” That was August 21, on August 24th I fell back into self-harm, and on August 31 I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. 10 days… 10 days between me “returning to God” and me being hospitalized for the suicide attempt. I had planned the attempt in about the 12 hours leading up to it and part of my reasoning was “I have done all the right things, and my anxiety/depression/borderline is still bad. Maybe this will help.” It didn’t. My mental health continued to deteriorate after that incident until I ended up withdrawing from Cedarville Mid-October 2019. I am by no means saying that the incident was CU’s fault, I was just me badly coping with what CU had taught me.

Recently I went back and read through journal entries from various times during my time at CU and I saw a theme. Most of them were written when I was struggling and they all said essentially the same thing: “I’m doing all the right things, yet my mental illness is still really bad. I don’t get it, what am I missing?!!” Time, after time, after time. I poured out frustrations about how life just didn’t make sense. I’d do everything my profs and leaders told me, yet life still sucked. There were several times throughout my time at CU that my mental illness was so bad and I was so confused with my faith that I was suicidal. It was one of those suicidal times that led me to the severe self-harm that ended me in the hospital. But what I didn’t understand it at the time is that I was frustrated because Cedarville had been teaching me a works-based gospel with a seasoning of the prosperity gospel in there. “If you stick to all your spiritual disciplines, your general quality of life will get better, that includes your mental illness.” This hurt me deeply while I was there, but I kept making excuses of why it was my fault that I kept failing time and time again.

Rob Stimpson, June 2017
Mental health is a challenge that none of us should face alone, especially at a University that holds to Biblical approaches to compassion, unity, and grace.

When I left CU in October 2019 I was barely holding it together. It took over 2 weeks for the anxiety and stress caused by CU to leave my system. But worse than that I left frustrated, frustrated at the university, frustrated at myself, frustrated at God. I went to Cedarville to learn and to grow, and instead, every semester felt harder than the last. The Christianity that I learned at Cedarville didn’t make sense in my life. So for months I just was kind of apathetic toward God. And now, February 2021, about 15 months after I left CU, I’m angry once more about the Christianity CU taught me. I am thankful to God that He has drawn me back to Himself and I am now finishing my degree at an online school. But I still hold emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds and scars from my time at CU.

Below is a excerpt from a letter that I wrote to CU, but never sent.

When people talked about CU they said what I wish was true of me. “CU has amazing community!” then why did so many of your people wound me and made me feel like an outcast. Where was that community when I’d melt down in tears from an panic attack in public and no one would help me? Was it that “amazing community” that cause so many of my “friends” to either ghost me or turn their back on me? “CU has a gospel of grace and loves their students.” Where was that gospel of grace when I couldn’t turn in assignments on time due to anxiety? Where was that love when my RD lashed out at me and made me feel like a criminal when I was hospitalized? Where was that grace and love when I watched friends leave in silence due to how you mishandled their high-profile sin? “We’re saved by grace” your chapel preachers and professors said countless times. Yet your faculty, staff, and students chastised me and judged me repeatedly for not reading my bible enough or praying enough. Yet your people blamed my anxiety on not doing enough Spiritual disciplines. Your “genuine community” was mostly fake. You taught people to lie and to just put on a good show. This recent scandal there nails in that point. It’s all about what you look like on the outside, not what’s actually going on. It’s all about keeping up appearances. I get it. You’re a private Christian University, you rely on appearances to keep students and money coming in. But I’m choosing to not live that life anymore. I’m choosing to not let my personal wellbeing stuffer just to stay at an expensive Christian school that is treating me like crap. It’s not worth it.

The Blame Game that Started with Eve, pt. 2: Virginity Rocks

This is part two of our three-part series on womanhood at Cedarville. In this article, our anonymous female student continues her contribution with input from our Editor to discuss virginity, purity, and pregnancy.

Uh oh, sex. The topic that is so taboo that two biology professors told their students that they have had students in their classes who didn’t know what it was…yes, in college. This taboo inherently exists because purity culture–the belief that Scripture tells us we should abstain from physical connections with others–requires extreme innocence under threat of “not being a good enough Christian.” I once knew a girl who told me that she wanted to watch Lord of the Rings on her honeymoon because it was sinful to have sex if it was not for the explicit purpose of childbearing. Abstinence-only viewpoints result in an inability to face reality and a lack of education on sexuality provides an opportunity for attackers that may have been avoided.

Two Cedarville students on a romantic date, with one of their roommates as a chaperone (far right), c. 1843 or 2021, I can’t tell at this point.

There is such a strong emphasis placed on arriving to marriage with your virginity fully intact in both Christian and Cedarville cultures that some parents will even make their children sign purity contracts (and hold them to it). While the concept of purity is biblical it, like far too many things, has been taken to an unhealthy extreme within faith-based cultures. It has come to the point that even kissing your significant other or (even worse) sharing a blanket could earn you a PC (personal caution) from an RA. One time, a guy kissed his girlfriend on the cheek after a chapel message because she had been going through some hard times and was informed that chapel wasn’t the place for that. This culture of purity-shaming forces well-meaning (and, admittedly, sometimes less than well-meaning) couples to put themselves in dangerous situations in order to be able to kiss or even sit close to together (pro tip: don’t go to the Indian mounds late at night, kids).

Problems with purity culture’s pervasiveness at Cedarville extend beyond merely their annoyance to couples. For some, both their childhood homes and Cedarville have taught them that their worth and their virginity are interconnected. Not only that but is it their fault if anything were to happen to their virginity. This means that having sex before marriage or being sexually assaulted will completely remove your worth in the eyes of God—and in the eyes of your peers. This is quite contrary to what the Bible says but unfortunately this is the way most Christians act. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation in Christ, but forgiveness of sins. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul points out that those who engage in any sin, including “sexual immorality,” are made pure through Christ’s sacrifice and will inherit the kingdom of heaven in spite of their pasts. He even says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

We hear over and over that “sin is sin,” but do we really believe it? If we did, why would we shame others for when they sin sexually but not when they in other ways? More importantly, why do we shame others at all? In John 8:7, Jesus asks the Pharisees who are shaming an adulterous woman, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus’ death was an act of shame and public humiliation. How could we subject his creation, made in his image, to such ungodly shame?

This purity culture is most famously touted in the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Josh Harris. If you are curious on my thoughts of this book, its life ended in blazing glory and ultimately a pile of ashes in my yard after the effects it had on me and my partner. Here is the introduction, summarized by Premier Christianity: Anna stands at the altar on the day she has dreamed about for months. The church is crowded with family and friends. But as the minister leads Anna and David through their marriage vows, the unthinkable happens. A woman stands up in the middle of the congregation, quietly walks to the front and takes David’s hand. Anna watches in horror as six others follow suit. “Is this some kind of joke?” she says. “I’m…I’m sorry Anna,” he answers, staring at the floor. “Who are these women?” she asks. “They’re girls from my past. Anna, they don’t mean anything to me now, but I’ve given part of my heart to each of them.” You get the idea: every relationship you have before your wedding is just baggage you bring to that relationship and pieces of your heart you’ve lost along the way. In fact, marrying a guy or girl with a dating history means dating their past as well. As Christians, we know that our past is what ultimately defines us…just ask Peter or Paul.

According to Harris and Washer, those with a dating history are incomplete when they arrive at the altar.

Harris suggests that society’s idea of dating ought to be rejected by Christians in favor of “courtship,” which means that a relationship should not be pursued until you are planning to pursue marriage with that other person. While recreational dating for the fun of it shouldn’t be our goal, to say if we date more than one person we are tainted is ignorant at best and extremely harmful at worst. In fact, in the text, Harris said that he needed to forgive his wife for dating other people before she met him. While his point may have been well meaning, we need to take dating seriously, it promoted a culture of shame that today still contributes to Cedarville’s culture. Harris also argues that a man does not own a woman outside of marriage. Uh, he doesn’t own her inside marriage, bud. *sassy snap* The book leads Christians to believe that in order to truly love God they must not only save sex for marriage, but also their emotional connections.

Furthermore, courtship is essentially a fancy word for friends with absolutely zero benefits. No emotional benefits, no physical benefits, and—I would argue—no spiritual benefits. Harris argues that parents ought to sit at the center of courtship and couples—err, friends? I don’t know at this point—should not hold hands, kiss, or be alone before their wedding day. This is damaging because the physical connection you share with your partner can help you determine how they will treat you physically in a long-term relationship. Furthermore, time alone together is incredibly important for couples who are planning to get married. Um, not to make this weird but y’all need to have a talk about some things before the wedding night. I know of one couple so ill-equipped physically to get married that they thought sex involved the belly button. These conversations need to be had before the relationship. Advocates of Harris’ dating style (which, to his credit, he has renounced…along with all Christianity, but we don’t need to get into that here), including Paul Washer, conclude that if you have a dating history, and I quote Washer from one of his sermons here, “You arrive to the altar an incomplete man.” Washer has also used an illustration of a random guy stealing his truck as equivalent to a guy—random or not—engaging with his daughter without permission. Dude, it has to be exhausting being that controlling. But unfortunately, this is the culture that had pervaded Christian circles since 1997.

If you grew up going to church, then at some point you may have seen an illustration of the ‘ungodly girl’. They take 5 or so guys and line them up on the stage, then one girl passes by each guy tearing off a piece of her paper heart and giving it to them. By the time she reaches her ‘husband’ she only has a little bit of paper left. Each guy represents someone that she dated, and by the end she has saved nothing for her husband and is essentially worthless.

Illustrations like these are not only harmful but also teach young girls that they ought to be ashamed of enjoying emotional relationships. Purity culture is filled to the brim with shame. It subtly (or overtly in many cases) forces you to be ashamed of your sexuality, rather than confident in it even within the confines of marriage. The reason that this emphasis exists is because the more ashamed and scared we are, the easier we are to control. Cedarville can easily take a group of uneducated ashamed young adults and determine exactly how they are supposed to live sexually. Professors at Cedarville have gone so far as to even suggest what sexual positions are ‘Godly’ for spouses in their ethics classes.

You may be wondering what happens to those that defy a culture this centered on shame. Just take a moment and ask yourself a question: how many pregnant women have you seen on campus? As The Ventriloquist once asked, “Where have all the pregnant women gone?” Surely someone on campus has gotten pregnant. Undoubtedly, many have. Sometimes it ends in a shotgun wedding and other times, the young women have been accused of giving up their ‘greatest gift’ that ‘belongs’ to their husband they are simply left on the side of the road. Getting pregnant while in college is an incredible challenge, and women should not be left alone to grapple with this struggle. We know of one student was definitively dismissed for becoming pregnant. They provided her no assistance and she was made to reapply to Cedarville and was forced to make an apology statement to the school. To restate, she got kicked out and was forced to apologize to the University for getting pregnant. Cedarville contributes to this culture of shame. Those policies must be changed.

Cedarville claims that they show grace, however that often only applies to certain individuals within Christian institutions (cough—Dr. Moore—cough). There are numerous reports of girls being kicked out if they are to become pregnant. The irony of this is that Cedarville takes a pro-life stance. However, rather than acting upon that stance and attempting to help them with the resources they need, they kick girls out on the street. This just perpetuates the idea that they are worthless, which is far from the truth.

However, if you do end up pregnant and want to stay at Cedarville during that time, try coming to the leadership first. Unfortunately, you may be strongly judged and admonished, but according to some women if you “confess” to them they typically give you a lesser punishment and you may be even allowed the grace of staying in their presence and giving them your $42k next year (thanks Dr. Wood!).

Most women at Cedarville have not had the experience of getting pregnant, but what would you do if you did? What resources has Cedarville made available for women facing an incredibly difficult time in their lives? What would your friends say? What would your peers think? These should not be questions that cross the mind of a woman who is pregnant during college. She ought to be recognized not dismissed, supported not ignored, appreciated not devalued, and accepted not judged. We must change the degrading and damaging culture surrounding sex, virginity, and pregnancy at Cedarville. It begins with us: with our recognition, our support, our appreciation, our acceptance. We are made in the image of a God of mercy and grace. It’s time our lives and our institutions reflect that.

The Puppetmaster: Cedarville’s Interminable History of Censorship

There is nowhere where free speech is more important than colleges and Universities. These years are the most academically formative years of our lives. According to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, “Freedom of speech is a fundamental American freedom and a human right, and there’s no place that this right should be more valued and protected than America’s colleges and universities. A university exists to educate students and advance the frontiers of human knowledge, and does so by acting as a “marketplace of ideas” where ideas compete. The intellectual vitality of a university depends on this competition—something that cannot happen properly when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators.”

So why, we ask in this article, does Cedarville continue to silence and censor opposing viewpoints?

Act I: The Purge

In 2009, Cedarville’s student newspaper Cedars received backlash after it published controversial articles about modesty panels, ROTC, and other non-conservative viewpoints, none of which had been reviewed by University administration. In response to the outcry of alumni and conservative leaders, Cedarville University caved and began requiring articles written by staff to be pre-approved prior to publication. The problem is, this policy led to Cedars becoming nothing less than the propaganda mouth of Cedarville. Most of the staff of Cedars, including its faculty advisor, recognized that this was wide-scale censorship and quit in protest. Cedarville wouldn’t budge on its policy, and several of these students still wanted their journalism to make a difference. Thus, The Ventriloquist was born. The Ventriloquist existed as an indepdendent student-run newspaper who sought to publish four issues per academic year. They ended up publishing thirteen issues between 2010-2014 in addition to some articles criticizing the Purge of 2013-2014.

Before the White era of censorship began, The Ventriloquist had a cordial relationship with the University under the Brown-Ruby administration. Of course, The Ventriloquist advocated many ideas the University did not support, but they were given a grant from the University to print their publication and distribute it on campus. Dr. Ruby even went to lunch with the editor at the time to talk about the role the paper played at Cedarville.

Enter Dr. Thomas White.

The Purge began with the removal of dozens of members of Cedarville’s faculty and staff, including anyone who dissented incoming president Dr. White’s specific ways of doing things. Victims of the purge include Dr. Carl Ruby, Dr. Michael Pahl, Dr. T.C. Ham, Dr. Shawn Graves, Robert Rohm, Dr. Andy Runyan, Shelly Nutter, Nancy Ranger, Dr. Dan Ebert, Dr. David Mills, Dr. Carl B. Smith, Dr. David Mills, Dr. William Rudd, and Rev. Chris Williamson. According to the Justice Collective, there are many more names that cannot be added to the list because hey were forced to sign NDAs or risk loss of severance pay. Furthermore, many “self-purged” because they could no longer stand abuse from the administration. Reverend Williamson wrote:

“The board of trustees repeatedly mishandled God’s servants while virtually ignoring the cries of students and alumni alike. Any hint of due process was abandoned, and the ability to have respectful dialogues on key issues was non-existent. I resigned because I could no longer be associated with a group that was constantly untruthful and unjust.”

Accoring to FIRE, “The right to due process refers to the idea that governmental authorities must provide fair, unbiased, and equitable procedures when determining a person’s guilt or innocence.”

This lack of due process is continued by this the same board of trustees we know today: Dr. White’s personal theological echo-chamber. While the president does get blamed for pretty much everything, we have to remember that the board of trustees was here before him and initiated the purge. Dr. Brown tried to turn the school around, but in Joshua Steele’s article for The Ventriloquist in 2013 hit the nail on the head when he called the incoming administration “The New Cedarville of 20 years ago.” But what did that mean for The Ventriloquist? When the team tried to distribute the April 2014 issue of the paper, as they had done for four years prior, Dr. White and Dr. Wood roamed the campus physically seizing copies of the paper. You heard me right: because of the crime of exercising free speech, differing ideas, and voicing student opinions that did not fall in line with Cedarville, the heads of the administration took time away from their important work of leading the University to physically silence The Ventriloquist.

Now, to clear up a major rumor that we have fallen victim to as well: the editor of The Ventriloquist was not removed from Cedarville. However, Cedarville did remove the professors listed above for believing differently than the University. Cedarville may not be as strict now as under the Dixon administration (spoiler alert: skirts aren’t actually more modest), but any viewpoint deemed as more “Liberal” is instantly silenced. Dr. Pahl was removed two months after immigrating from Alberta for not lining up with every single belief of the University. If it cannot be silenced, kiss your tenure, job, scholarship, leadership position, enrollment, or professorship goodbye.

The Show Goes On: Continued Censorship

After Cedarville had its fifteen months of fame after shutting down The Ventriloquist and firing a plethora of liberal insurgents, they shifted their approach in order to shy away from the limelight. Nowadays, Cedarville has become much more subtle in their methods of censorship. I cannot tell you how many messages we received saying Cedarville silenced me. They have silenced the conversation on mental health. They have silenced the conversation on the LGBTQ+ community (don’t worry, our little gay rebels, we’ve got a doosie coming for you here soon). They have silenced the conversation on female leadership. They have silenced the conversation on a non-six day creation (which, does it really matter if God created the world in six literal days or created it so perfectly that over a period of many years it formed into the world we know today?) Despite what they said in chapel on Monday, they have silenced the conversation on discrimination and sexual assault and relational violence and tried to hide scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal, censorship after censorship after censorship after censorship after censorship, belittlement after belittlement. They have silenced conversations created by secular voices by limiting materials professors may provide to their students (hey guess what, Dr. White? Boobies and bad words exist *gasp* and students will find that out whether or not the cirriculum covers it. It only comes down to whether they learn about it from culture or with a Biblical foundation. Wait–wasn’t that the whole reason Christian colleges are a thing? I digress…)

It comes down to this: tow the University line or tow yourself to another University. Do you know why The Ventriloquist got shut down? They published an article exposing the fact that Dr. Wood removed a student from leadership for being gay (oh, and they were also celibate and under full conviction that their desires were ungodly, but let’s just ignore that part).

Cutting the Strings: Where do we go from here?

You may be thinking…uh, hey yo Interpeter, this does not bode well for you. You would be right. Should we be scared of censorship? Most definitely. Are we? Absolutely not, and for two reasons that eats away at administrative staff who would have our website, Instagram, and Twitter (well, maybe not. Our three followers aren’t much of a threat. Please follow us) removed in a heartbeat if they could.

  1. Truth always wins. Believe it or not, there is justice in this world. In fact, that justice is out-of-this-world because God brings justice to all things in the end. We truly believe that the truth we expose through our articles bring glory to God, as does all truth. The light of truth outshines darkness and exposes abuse, restores victims, and enriches communities.
  2. We’re anonymous. Yeah, it’s that simple. There is no way for Cedarville University to know who we are. The Ventriloquist suffered primarily from exposure, making them an easy target for disciplinary actions. Unfortunately, everything from our domain registration, IP address, email addresses, and social media accounts are 100% unequivocally anonymous. I did hear reports of an undercover police vehicle on campus today, however, which gave me pause.

So here’s the bottom line: Let your voice be heard, whether through The Cedarville Interpreter or your own avenues, but know that we are here for you. We are 100% student-run, student-led, and student-written. Our goal is logical, accurate, and impactful reporting. There is no such thing as censorship here at the Interpreter. If Cedarville takes issue with that, then the student body should take issue with Cedarville.

“It was the Woman” – The Blame Game that Started with Eve

This begins our three-part series on womanhood at Cedarville University, written by an anonymous female student in tandem with our Editor.

Part 1: Stumbling Blocks

Picture This: You arrive on campus at Cedarville University as a wide-eyed freshman ready to experience your first taste of freedom. Your first day, yippee! As you walk into your new dorm, your RA informs you of a mandatory meeting that night so you can get to know the girls in the hall a bit better. After gathering all the gals together, your RA starts to go over some basic rules. No problem, we’ve all had a meeting like this before. You notice your RA wearing leggings and a t-shirt while discussing the dress code and think, “Maybe the dress code isn’t as strict as I thought!” But your RA informs you that the reason she is wearing leggings is for a demonstration. You start to wonder what’s going on when marshmallows are being passed out. Then something crazy happens: your RA instructs you to ‘stone’ her with the marshmallows because she deserves it for going against the rules and wearing leggings. This was the actual experience of one CU student and the rest of her hall.  While this might have just been a bad idea that was cooked up at 1am, it unearths an even larger, more systemic issue at CU:

Purity culture.

Purity culture lies at the root of many of the issues surrounding the way that women are treated at Cedarville. Seldomly talked about, yet sometimes so pervasive it can be felt in the air, purity culture can be boiled down to a blame game: Blaming victims for rape, blaming the clothes women wear, blaming the way that a woman talks, walks, or carries herself as the root cause of how others act. If you are a man reading this, this so-called purity culture has impacts you as well. I certainly don’t believe in demonizing men, as there are plenty of great guys out there. However, I think that this issue needs to be discussed, not only for the sake of women, but also the men who are treated by the culture as if they are so sexually motivated that not a single one of them can keep their hands to themselves if they see a woman in, say, leggings.

Are women really stumbling blocks, or is Cedarville’s misinterpretation of scripture the real stumbling block?

The “Stumbling Block” Policy

My freshman year, my bro-sis went on a camping trip at the start of the semester. I received a message from my RA that if I wanted to go swimming then I would need to bring a one piece with me in order to cover up and remain modest. However, when we went, all the guys were allowed to take their shirts off when they wanted to. This is a massive double-standard. First of all, Cedarville’s policies seem to assume that women do not have a sexual drive, especially not one that can be appealed to visually. Guys are the ones that struggle with pornography, lust, and impure thoughts. This idea hurts men because it casts them as walking perverted sex-machines whose minds are so impure that if they see a woman wearing shorts above her mid-thigh or a tank top with thin straps or (God forbid) see a bra strap, they will commit unspeakable sins in their minds. Men—especially men of God—are fully capable of having pure minds. Trying to hide women’s bodies as some sort of barrier to sexual thoughts simply makes the issue worse. As discussed in the article on Cedarville’s alcohol rules, when you make something illegal, it doesn’t stop people who want to do it.

Secondly, it promulgates the idea that women’s bodies are shameful and ought to be covered up. Men are allowed to wear insanely (and, frankly, disturbingly) short shorts in the gym and tank tops that are barely there, but women get in trouble for wearing normal work-out clothes like leggings or tank tops. A former staff member of the athletic center told us that guys that wore tight fitting or short length shorts were never punished, while women were given a PC or even asked to leave.

When we think Christian modesty, this is what usually comes to mind. #homeschooled

            Regarding modesty, Cedarville often references the second half of Romans 14:13:

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

That second half is extremely useful for Cedarville’s argument because it seems to be saying we should not do anything to cause someone else to sin, which in and of itself is true, but is not the point of the text. We must ask ourselves what is the ‘therefore’ there for? In the preceding verses, Paul is writing to the church to instruct them in how to welcome others into their community. Using the metaphor of food, Paul tells them to welcome those of weaker faith who may abstain from certain foods, but in doing so not to argue about petty disagreements. He continues by saying that Christian liberty permits believers to engage in activities previously not permitted by the law.

What Cedarville notably misses in this passage is verse 3: “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” In other words, Cedarville’s argument that women must change the way they dress because someone MIGHT be weak in faith is not Biblically grounded. Of course, women should dress in a manner pleasing to God as determined by their relationship with him. As verse 5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” and do everything in honor of the Lord. Cedarville would be wise to follow Paul’s instructions to welcome others into their community by allowing differing viewpoints and by relaxing overly strict standards to allow Christians to act in accordance with their Biblical conscience.

Unfortunately, whether it was at youth group, summer camp, dance, or even at school, girls have been required to cover themselves in certain ways for the sake of men. We are told that it is so that we are not a ‘stumbling block’ (a misquote of Romans 14:13) because if a guy sees our stomach or shoulder it could hinder his faith in Christ. What’s worse, sometimes the most stringent perpetrators of this culture are other women. Another CU student once explained to me the proper way I am supposed to pick something up, just so that a guy might not accidentally see my cleavage. Another student was wearing an oversized pullover with a pair of leggings. The pullover more than covered her butt, but her backpack snagged her sweater and briefly “exposed” her leggings (*gasp*). After she sat down to eat, an RA approached her and informed her she would either have to leave or get a PC for breaking dress code. She says, “She drew more attention to the matter rather than if she would’ve just let me eat my meal.”

“Are we all dressing sinfully? Or does modestly simply depend on what our culture deems correct?”

All the hurt that is perpetuated by this topic is for the cause of modesty. However, there is no such thing as a universal definition of modesty. In fact, modesty is not a defined biblical concept. Of course, the Bible calls for modesty, but never lays out the specifics (in fact when it refers to modesty it is speaking of humility rather than sexual lust prevention). Modesty is primarily a subcultural concept within certain religions, including Christianity. This is evidenced by the way that the church’s definition of modesty has changed with the culture. For example, what women wear today would be appalling to Baptists in the 1960s. Are we all dressing sinfully? Or does modestly simply depend on what our culture deems correct? As Christians, our standards are not decided by society, but by our faith and relationship with God as described in Romans 14.

So next time, whether your reasoning is to protect a ‘brother in Christ’ or because God likes modest girls, think before you judge someone walking by in clothing you may not choose to wear. We are called in scripture not to judge others whose beliefs differ from ours. This is especially true when those choices and beliefs still fall within the bounds of godliness. Is it really sinful to wear leggings, tank tops, or shorts? Is it sinful for women to be proud of and confident in their bodies? Where in scripture did God say swimsuits are a sin? Always remember, our communication with others, both verbal and nonverbal, will leave a huge impact on them. Communication is irreversible. Consider the words of grace, love, and acceptance found in Scripture and be mindful of judgmental stares or unkind words. You never know what a girl may be struggling with.

Nonexistent: Mental Health at Cedarville

CU Later: The Unavailability of counseling services

Cedarville, OH lies sandwiched between miles of corn fields and back roads and is notably sparse when it comes to counselors, especially on the budget of broke college students. So, when I first attended Cedarville University, I immediated applied for counseling services on campus. After applying in January, I heard nothing back until March. So four months later, I finally received an email saying availability had opened up. I scheduled my appointment, which was an outstanding counseling session with a great counselor, for the beginning of April. Through the entire semester, I managed to have two sessions in April.

My application for counseling included symptoms of severe depression, anxiety, and a past of emotional and verbal abuse. Why did it take Cedarville four months for me to get help? Another former student, in this article, recounts that they were able to receive counseling after applying in the summer. However, after one appointment, they were placed back on a waiting list and were not seen for the rest of the academic year.

Cedarville has to hire more counselors–instead of maybe, I don’t know, building more buildings?–in order to address the needs of its student body. The counselors on staff, as far as I have heard and experienced, are highly proficient, skilled, godly individuals. They won’t rat you out (because they legally cannot) and seem to truly care for your well-being. The problem is, 1 counselor for every 1,000 students is woefully insufficient, especially in an environment that can be so damaging to students’ mental health through legalistic restrictions presented under the guise of Biblical truth. The availability of counselors is a simple issue to solve, but a necessary one. As we will see as this article continues, Cedarville MUST change its environment.

CU Never: Removal for Mental Health

Cedarville has a long and deeply disturbing track record of dismissing students for mental health concerns. I personally know an individual who was dismissed after seeking help for thoughts of self-harm. A website called The Wartburg Watch published an article detailing large-scale abuse of and ignorance towards individuals struggling with mental health. According to their source, all chairs and deans received an email in August–soon after Dr. White preached a message of intolerance toward abusers, aggressors, and assaulters–stating that student accounts of abuse, aggression, and assault were simply not true and that Cedarville had done nothing wrong.

Cedarville says they did nothing wrong. Not even getting into the Dr. Moore crisis, there are countless examples of Cedarville’s wrongdoing. The Wartburg Watch recounts the story of a former student who experienced an eating disorder and sucididal ideations. They met with Dr. Jon Wood (Vice President of Academics) and Dr. Mindy May (Vice President of mishandling mental health concerns). These, at the time, unlicensed individuals decided she was fine and no action was needed. Apparently, Dr. Wood found it much more interesting how people pronounce “crayons.” In spite of May and Wood’s evaluation, their friends brought them to Kettering and they were hospitalized. Tragically, they were sexually assaulted while hospitalized. After returning to campus, they were forced to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement about their experience.

Another story recounts a student named Kiara experiencing mental health issues and a roommate (an aspiring RA, no less) who spread false sexual rumors about her and rumors about her mental health on campus. Mindy May addressed this issue by meeting with her and her family at the field house during registration, surrounded by hundreds of students and their families. Very private. Mindy May disclosed that the roommate had admitted she spread those rumors after previously telling Kiara that the RA position would not be granted if her accusation was true.

Here’s the kicker: Mindy May gave her the RA position back anyway.

Kiara requested a No Contact Order against the girl through the Title IX office. The Title IX office approved her request. She was told any proximity of her former roommate to herself constituted a violation and her roommate was required to leave line. When violations occured, Mindy May responded that these were not, in fact, violations. In fact, she informed Kiara that her story probably wasn’t accurate and that she was innacurate in her details.

I’m sorry, what?

Harrassment continued to occur from this now RA towards Kiara and Mindy May continued to ignore her requests. Appeals as far as Dr. White were ignored and belittled. Kiara became actively suicidal and was hospitalized. Two days after her release, she was informed she had a meeting with Dr. Wood and Dr. May to discuss. In this meeting, Kiara was belittled and Dr. Wood actually rolled his eyes at her as she recounted the harrassment she was experiencing. Her parents emailed Dr. White. She was given the number for campus safety in case she ever felt like killing herself again.

Dr. White never responded.

Doesn’t that seem to arise as a theme with the Cedarville administration? We don’t like it, so we won’t respond.

If you have experienced trauma caused by Cedarville’s administration, please reach out and we can help you. Whether that be sharing your story, finding advocacy for you, or finding counseling services for you, we will do whatever we can to help you. Our anonymity ensures yours as well.

CU shouldn’t have brought that up (CU Never, part 2)

Why have so few articles been written on this issue? Why have so few students spoken out publicly?

Cedarville’s handbook states, “Cedarville University will permit only those demonstrations, solicitations, or distributions that, in the judgement of the University, are orderly and peaceful.” This makes sense, until the handbook further defines this stance. “Demonstrations, solicitations, or distributions [especially those people over at the Cedarville Interpreter!!] that, in the opinion of the University, involve advocacy of unscriptural positions, are disorderly, or that interrupt or disrupt [any University function].”

In other words, if you disagree with Cedarville in any way, you can get kicked out of the University. Students must receive permission from the university to distribute any materials. So I could very easily get kicked out just for writing this article. Cedarville claims to value truth, but punishes free speech or any form of dissidence. The FIRE institute put it incredibly well:

Freedom of speech is a fundamental American freedom and a human right, and there’s no place that this right should be more valued and protected than America’s colleges and universities. A university exists to educate students and advance the frontiers of human knowledge, and does so by acting as a “marketplace of ideas” where ideas compete. The intellectual vitality of a university depends on this competition—something that cannot happen properly when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators.

Foundation for Individual Rights for Education

This free exchange of dialogue, pushed down by the Cedarville administration for the sake of self-image, is especially important in the area of mental health. Allowing students to come forward with their issues is not as easy as posters with an email address you can email. It begins with a culture of acceptance, understanding, and frankly, a lack of ignorance of mental health.

Cedarville must open their hearts and minds to the struggles of hundreds of students on their campus who fear getting help from an administration with a track record of turning their backs on students for nearly a decade.

Todd Wilhelm of Thou Art the Man and The Wartburg Watch provided some resources that may be helpful for you: Redeeming Power by Diane Langberg, Somethings Not Right by Wade Mullen, The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout, Healing Spiritual Wounds by Carol Howard Merrit, The Long Journey Home by Andrew J. Schmutzer, and The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen

Dry Town: Why Cedarville Township exists as one of only hundreds of dry towns in the U.S.

From Jan 17, 1920-Dec 5, 1933, the United States amended Constitution to ban the sale or possession of alcohol. In Alcohol and public policy: beyond the shadow of prohibition, Paul Aaron and David Musto write that before prohibition, “Drunkenness was condemned and punished, but only as an abuse of a God-given gift. Drink itself was not looked upon as culpable, any more than food deserved blame for the sin of gluttony. Excess was a personal indiscretion.” (Aaron & Musto, 1981) However, a social movement continued to demonstrate the “dangers” of alcoholic consumption, including heavy taxes levied on alcohol proposed as a so-called “sin tax.” You can read more in the Wikipedia article, which provides an excellent overview of the history of prohibition, even into recent times.

The point of all of this is to say that prohibition was tried and massively failed the 20th century. So why, you might ask, does Cedarville Township remain a dry town?

The point of all of this is to say that prohibition was tried and massively failed the 20th century. So why, you might ask, does Cedarville Township remain a dry town?

If you were to ask Cedarville University students, Dr. White—no, Dr. Wood—no, Dr. [insert basically any name]—no, the University itself—no, campus doge—owns the liquor license for the entire township. There’s a massive oral history of Cedarville University’s involvement with liquor licensing within the township. However, through research, we discovered that these statements are inaccurate. There is no lump-sum amount of liquor licenses available that can be bought up or controlled by one individual.

In order to obtain the most factual information about the rules and regulations behind Cedarville’s ban on alcohol, the Interpreter contacted the Ohio Department of Commerce, who deals with liquor licensing and regulations for the entire state. We inquired on why Cedarville is a dry town and who controls the liquor licenses within the township. Michael Gravely, the Public Relations officer for the ODC, informed us that Cedarville’s liquor licenses are controlled by popular vote. So, when the Rip/Shell Station apply for a liquor license, they must essentially campaign for the vote of Cedarville residents in order for their license to be approved.

Dry Counties (Red), Mixed Counties (Yellow), and Wet Counties (Blue), March 2012

Why does this matter?

Cedarville University, as discussed in this article, is strongly and unequivocally opposed to the use of alcohol, continuing in line with social constructs not followed since the 1930s. In Cedarville’s student handbook, students must agree that they are morally opposed to alcohol. Students are also commended to participate in civic engagement and vote their conscience. If students support use of alcohol, they can be dismissed from the University. The same goes for faculty and staff who largely reside in Cedarville township.

In other words, Cedarville University controls a vast majority of the vote on liquor licensing. By forcing students to adhere to the Student Handbook and forcing staff to adhere to the Staff/Faculty/Affiliate Handbook, Cedarville essentially forces them to vote against liquor licensing under threat of dismissal or loss of their job. Cedarville University ought to strongly consider rewriting their policies under Constitutional and Biblical considerations. Controlling the votes of Cedarville affiliates should be strongly discouraged. Cedarville must come to the realization that their policies would be illegal in nearly any other environment for good reason. Cedarville affiliates ought to be free to vote their conscience and behave in accordance with their conscience, not vote and behave under threat of dismissal or getting fired.

Cedarville University must accept change.

NOTE: The views expressed in this article certainly do not represent those of Cedarville University. Articles are submitted and written anonymously in order to protect the identities of students and non-students alike who could face backlash or punishment for expressing their viewpoints that differ in any way from Cedarville University.

The Sobering truth of Cedarville’s Archaic Prohibition Rules

If you are a student at Cedarville, you know that the university resides in the historically dry town of Cedarville, OH. The university itself is also strongly anti-alcohol, arguing that consumption of alcohol is inconsistent with a Biblical lifestyle, even though Jesus drank wine and the Bible is filled with positive references to alcohol. In this article, our anonymous author discusses the practical, common sense issues with the policy, the detailed policy issues within the student handbook, and a Biblical review of the alcoholic prohibition instated at Cedarville.

The Practical Aspect

Cedarville’s policy on alcohol is simply another notch in the post of treating students like children rather than adults. According to the student handbook, “Nearly 70% of our undergraduates are under the legal drinking age. For these students, drinking is not only unwise, it is also illegal.” While this is undoubtedly true, the policy fails in two major areas.

The first is that prohibition does not equip students for the reality of the world after they leave the campus of Cedarville University. From 1920-1933, the United States unwittingly participated in a massive experiment into the idea of illegalizing alcohol of any kind. As we know from history, prohibition massively failed. Use of alcohol was simply pushed underground out of regulatory bounds and resulted in the creation of a black market.

The second problem is that Cedarville seems oblivious to the fact that the same thing has happened at Cedarville. There is no doubt in my mind that students who wish to drink will find a way to do so, just like students who struggle with sexual temptation will find a way to engage in such activities if that is truly the desire of their hearts.

The reality is this: laws cannot change hearts and minds. Cedarville’s prohibition of alcohol simply diversifies students’ tactics to engage in the habits they will inevitably choose to form. Alcohol certainly should not be allowed in dorms as this can be highly damaging to the academic environment and abuse of alcohol that affects studies or endangers other students should result in disciplinary action. But controlled and responsible use of alcohol—which Christians too often forget was how Jesus approached alcohol—should not be limited because it has the mere potential to be used irresponsibly. The only Biblical justification provided in the handbook is that it is listed as a “disputable matter” by Paul, which we will get into later.

The Policy Aspect

Cedarville justifies their policy by referencing the “Drug-free Schools and Communities Act,” which requires universities to provide, “Standards of conduct that clearly prohibit, at a minimum, the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol on school property or as part of any school activities for employees (Policy) or students (Code of Conduct)” and a statement of disciplinary actions associated with those violations. Cedarville goes far beyond regulations mandated in the DFSC Act by attempting to regulate the daily lives of their students whether on or off campus. “Students are not to attend clubs or bars where alcohol is the primary feature” and “Students are not permitted to attend parties where alcohol is being used in a manner that violates university standards.”

So, to be clear: Students may not eat at a brewery, alehouse, or pub even if they are just going to eat food because they can be dismissed from the University. Furthermore, students may be dismissed if they attend a party where alcohol is present, whether or not the student makes what the University would deem “wise choices” by avoiding drinking.

Any interaction with alcohol, innocent or not, “may result in dismissal.” So next time you see a bud light in a gas station…run for your life.

Then in a moment of disturbing—yet not uncommon—hypocrisy and contradiction, the next sentence reads, “All students are expected to live independently and are responsible for their own personal care.” Unless, apparently, you violate a non-Biblically based rule and are expelled from the University.

The Biblical Aspect

D.A. Carson engages in an enlightening discourse on the “disputable matters” Cedarville references in the student handbook. You can view it here. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/on-disputable-matters/) While I do not agree with every aspect of Carson’s analysis, he does raise some key truths about “disputable matters.”

However, his ultimate conclusion is that Christians must make decisions based on whether they will be further sanctified. While this is a nice general principle, it is not full proof. For example, can we ever seriously argue that taking jet skis out on a lake or visiting Kings Island are a means of divine sanctification? 1 Corinthians 8:8 argues, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” Just like if we do a 270 double front flip on our jet ski, we are no better or worse off.

Unfortunately, 1 Corinthians 8 is the famous and ever-taken-out-of-context passage used by Christians to justify substituting their convictions for Biblical truths. D.A. Carson, writing for what is arguably Cedarville’s favorite theology blog The Gospel Coalition, writes, “one should not confuse the logic of 1 Corinthians 8 with the stance that finds a strong legalist saying to a believer who thinks that eating meat offered to idols is acceptable, ‘You may think that such action is legitimate, but every time you do it you are offending me—and since you are not permitted to offend me, therefore you must not engage in that activity.’”

In other words, there is a difference between going out to drink with a friend who is an alcoholic and drinking in front of someone who is just offended by it. The difference is, God cares about the first and does not care about the second.

D.A. Carson outlines ten items that can be used to determine what constitutes a theologically disputable matter—which Cedarville claims includes use of alcohol. There are a couple I’d like to flesh out. First, he writes that something that can be disputed does not make it a theologically disputed doctrine. Drinking alcohol is certainly disputed between Christians with different opinions on it, but it is not a disputed doctrine. Rather, Carson rightly points out that dispute only relates to doctrines concretely repeated throughout scripture. Alcohol use is not repeatedly rebuked in scripture. In fact, Amos 9:14 says, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

Amos’ prophecy describes the restoration of God’s people as involving drinking wine. Hey Amos, you’ve got a very urgent meeting with Dr. Wood tomorrow. I’d go ahead and start packing.

1 Corinthians 9:4 says, “Do we not have the right to eat and drink?” Paul goes on to argue that we should not do so if it would cause a stumbling block to other believers.

Christians not overtaken by an archaic dislike of alcohol from the 1920s can read this passage and apply it to Cedarville in this way: Students should not drink with students who are not legally allowed to do so and students should not drink too much alcohol, thereby maintaining self-control over their bodies. Believers should also take 1 Corinthians 8-10 to heart and be sensitive to the struggles of our fellow believers. We should not drink alcohol around underage students or those who struggle with alcoholism. Just as with eating food offered to idols, as Paul discusses, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with alcohol consumption. The problems arise when we disregard our fellow believers who are of weaker conscience. But 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.

Conclusion

The administration should be an example of leadership by listening to its student body, a large portion of which would support the change to the student handbook. Cedarville’s policy on alcohol is not founded in fact, policy, or Biblical principle. Cedarville would be served well to move on from archaic legalistic principles of the past towards being an example of grace and freedom in Christ.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive argument for changing the alcohol policy at Cedarville and more articles will likely be posted in relation to this subject to review Biblical principles in depth. Additionally, using any source (such as D.A. Carson) does not equate to belief in everything they believe or agreement with any or all of their actions. Furthermore, the views expressed in this article certainly do not represent those of Cedarville University. Articles are submitted and written anonymously in order to protect the identities of students and non-students alike who could face backlash or punishment for expressing their viewpoints that differ in any way from Cedarville University.