EMU to participate in independent, external review

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) Board of Trustees announces the institution will participate in an independent and external review regarding how it responded to reports of sexual misconduct by Luke Hartman, former vice president of enrollment.

Virginia Mennonite Conference (Harrisonburg, Virginia) and Lindale Mennonite Church (Linville, Virginia) have also agreed to participate in the external review. The call for the joint investigation, with representatives from each organization, came from Mennonite Church USA leaders in response to a May 2016 recommendation from the church’s Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention.

EMU’s board had previously requested a comprehensive audit of the college’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures to ensure compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act.

President Loren Swartzendruber and the administration have pledged their full support of both the external review and the audit.

“The external independent review is a critical step to verify the facts in the Hartman case, identify changes that will strengthen EMU’s efforts to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct, and promote a safe environment for every student, faculty and staff member in our community,” said Kay Nussbaum, chair of the EMU Board of Trustees.

The independent review will also meet the following goals, according to Nussbaum:

  • to determine whether appropriate administrative actions were taken based on available information;
  • whether the institution failed to disclose and/or act on relevant information in an appropriate and timely manner;
  • whether any changes are indicated to institutional policies and procedures in order to uphold both institutional values and standards of conduct and to comply with federal, legal and accreditation requirements;
  • and to identify lessons that will strengthen EMU and the broader church and its institutions in preventing sexual misconduct, and effectively responding to victims, offenders and the community.

Five organizations have been identified by the EMU board as potential candidates to conduct the external review. The process of selecting an external organization will be done in consultation with Ervin Stutzman, executive director, Mennonite Church USA; Iris de León-Hartshorn, director of transformative peacemaking, Mennonite Church USA; Anna Groff, chair of the Mennonite Church USA Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention; Carlos Romero, executive director, Mennonite Education Agency; and Herman Bontrager, vice-chair, EMU Board of Trustees. The goal is to select an organization by the end of June and complete the review by the end of August.

“We are committed to ensuring a safe community for students, faculty and staff,” Nussbaum said. “We are committed to transparency to enable EMU and the church to prevent and effectively respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. These independent reviews will aid us in honoring our commitments.”

She adds: “EMU’s current policies, procedures and resources are intended to promote healthy human relationships, raise awareness of sexual abuse and misconduct, and offer protocols for prompt and effective response if abuse or misconduct occurs. These policies are based on the ethical and moral values on which EMU is founded and are designed to meet and exceed the legal requirements imposed on higher education institutions.”