EMU releases report on misconduct response

University-approved review finds no evidence administrators covered up former VP's actions

Dec 5, 2016 by

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Eastern Mennonite University announced on Nov. 28 that an external investigation of its response to allegations of sexual misconduct by a former vice president of enrollment found no evidence that administrators had reason to dismiss Luke Hartman prior to his January resignation.

In July, the EMU board of trustees engaged D. Stafford & Associates, a Delaware-based consulting firm that investigates campus safety and law enforcement issues, including compliance with federal regulations.

The external investigation was done in response to allegations of sexual misconduct by Hartman, who resigned days after a Jan. 8 arrest for solicitation of prostitution — a charge that was ultimately dismissed by a judge.

On March 20, Lindale Mennonite Church pastors and elders acknowledged in a congregational letter that an alleged “abusive relationship” involving member Hartman was brought to staff attention in August 2014.

EMU’s release states that DSA found no evidence that EMU administrators had prior information that would have been reason not to hire Hartman. DSA also found administrators did not have information that would have been reason to dismiss Hartman prior to his January resignation.

In performing its inquiry into what EMU knew, D. Stafford & Associates accepted as credible Lauren Shifflett’s April 12 blog posting, which included a recounting of her relationship with Hartman. The DSA report indicates Hartman and Lindale Pastor Duane Yoder met with EMU President Loren Swartzendruber on Sept. 2, 2014. The two men described the relationship as a consensual affair with a 19- to 20-year-old woman from the congregation — diverging from Shifflett’s descriptions of verbal abuse and threats of physical violence.

After the September 2014 meeting, Hartman was withdrawn from EMU-related speaking events. He had been a regular speaker at Mennonite Church USA youth conventions.

The board’s actions acknowledged that, based on the evidence from the investigation, “former President Loren Swartzendruber and EMU’s administration acted promptly and appropriately to the allegations of Dr. Luke Hartman’s misconduct, based on information that was provided at the time.”

In a Nov. 28 news release, Kay Nussbaum, EMU board chair, said: “While the investigation found that EMU acted appropriately given the information it had available, we are sorry that Lauren Shifflett experienced such pain. Additionally, many others in the EMU community have been deeply affected. Lauren’s courageous disclosure led to a deep and comprehensive review of EMU’s policies, procedures and practices related to sexual misconduct that will enable us to better support survivors, and for that we are grateful.”

DSA found EMU has “extensive and detailed policies” addressing sexual discrimination and/or sexual misconduct in multiple documents. DSA recommended the current policies be combined into one comprehensive institutional sexual misconduct policy. They also recommended the current part-time Title IX coordinator role be expanded into a full-time position.

MC USA investigation

MC USA has also contracted with DSA to investigate how church institutions responded to abuse allegations against Hartman.

That investigation, which was expected to be published by the end of November but was not available by MWR’s deadline, included interviews with personnel from Virginia Mennonite Conference, Lindale Mennonite Church and EMU. This separate report was expected to address whether Virginia Conference and Lindale Mennonite staff or board members handled the allegations properly.

Shifflett, who brought the complaints, declined to participate in the investigation, as did Hartman.

“However, Shifflett informed the assessors that her April 2016 blog and follow-up statement was her formal statement of what actually occurred,” the DSA report states. The blog is online at ourstoriesuntold.com.

The MC USA Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention also declined to participate after EMU required panel chair Anna Groff to withhold certain information from Shifflett, and the panel’s preferred investigating organization was eliminated from consideration. On Aug. 3 the panel ended its participation in the investigation, stating: “We cannot affirm the process that resulted in the selection of D. Stafford and Associates for EMU, or any proc­ess that does not involve Lauren.”

The public report can be accessed at emu.edu/dsa-report.

The full report is limited to EMU’s board and president’s cabinet in order to protect the privacy of the witnesses.


Comments Policy

Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.

About Me

advertisement