Seeking the truth

Feb 24, 2020 by

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In a Jan. 31 letter to the Bethel College community regarding Ted Mueller’s history of abusing students, the Bethel board of directors says, “We will continue to seek the truth about Mueller’s interactions with Bethel students, and we are committed to addressing whatever issues we may uncover.” I want to take them at their word, but their letter conspicuously avoids mentioning the victims and survivors of Mueller’s abuses. If Bethel seeks the truth, victims’ stories must be heard and used to guide any actions they take. These women experienced real harm, and their stories matter.

Over the past 12 months, at the same time in which the college says it has been conducting an internal investigation, I have been collecting stories about Mueller and Bethel. I’ve talked to dozens of people, and not a single one mentioned Bethel reaching out to them individually to ask for their story. To my knowledge, no one from the college has ever reached out individually to any of the more than a dozen women, many former Bethel students in the U.S. and Germany, who have reported abuse by Mueller.

Bethel’s letter does not reassure those who fear reporting their experiences to the college. Current and former Bethel employees came to me with direct knowledge of Mueller’s abuses of students and the college’s mishandling of reports over the last two decades. The official statement that Bethel “has always supported victims and always acted with their best interest in mind” is not true and makes it harder for people to speak out.

The board says their “sole concern is for the security of our students and campus community,” but their actions seem focused on institutional protection. Their communication continues to insist on the righteousness of Bethel College and its actions. Truth-seeking must include soliciting counsel from those most deeply affected and engaging an independent and thorough investigation. Along with a commitment to transparency and a plan for acknowledging and correcting mistakes, these actions will confirm that Bethel is genuinely seeking the truth in order to address the issues uncovered.

Jason Miller
Newton, Kan.


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