Eastern Mennonite University engages independent expert to conduct inquiry

The Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) Board of Trustees unanimously approved engagement of D. Stafford & Associates (DSA) to complete a comprehensive administrative inquiry of the facts related to allegations of sexual misconduct by Dr. Luke Hartman, a former employee of the university who served in the capacity of vice president of enrollment.

The purpose of the independent inquiry, which will begin immediately and is projected to be complete by mid-October, is to:

  • Determine the facts related to the allegations and whether appropriate administrative actions were taken based on available information about the employee;
  • Recommend procedures to further strengthen EMU’s commitment to the prevention of sexual misconduct and abuse and identify procedures to strengthen effective response to victims, offenders and the community harmed by sexual misconduct.

The administrative inquiry is in addition to a comprehensive review, currently underway, of EMU’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures which is also being conducted by DSA. The EMU Board of Trustees called for the comprehensive review in May to ensure robust compliance with Title IX, the Clery Act and other higher-education-specific state and federal rules, restrictions and requirements. Compliance includes a core set of employment and safety regulations, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

“These two reviews will help us evaluate how well we are meeting our goal of providing an environment where all members feel secure physically, emotionally and intellectually,” said Kay Nussbaum, chair of the EMU Board of Trustees.

The report from DSA will first be made available to the university’s trustees, she added. “We recognize the importance of transparency and accountability in this process; thus the findings and recommendations will be made public.”

DSA was selected by EMU’s Board of Trustees after reviewing proposals from four highly qualified organizations. Of those proposals reviewed, DSA has the most experience serving higher education institutions through comprehensive reviews, administrative inquiries and trainings for hundreds of universities, Nussbaum said. The group brings a trauma-informed approach to their work, she noted.

Representatives from Mennonite Church USA and its Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention and Mennonite Education Agency joined EMU in evaluating the four proposals and interviewing the two finalists, including the organization recommended by the panel.

EMU will cooperate with the additional inquiry that Mennonite Church USA is planning, Nussbaum said.

Mennonite Education Agency Executive Director Carlos Romero has worked closely with EMU and Mennonite Church USA to launch an independent inquiry in the process. “I want to affirm EMU’s Board for their careful work and leadership in responding to the allegations of sexual misconduct,” he said. “Their commitment, expressed by the comprehensive review of policies and the administrative inquiry, will help the institution in its goal of providing a safe environment. EMU’s willingness to publicly share the findings and recommendations will serve those at EMU, other Mennonite institutions of higher education, and the broader church well.”