Sexual misconduct and compliance investigation: administration acted responsibly, policy changes recommended

In July, the board of trustees of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) engaged D. Stafford & Associates (DSA) to conduct an external independent investigation in response to allegations of sexual misconduct by Dr. Luke Hartman, former vice president of enrollment. In response to the report submitted by DSA, the board of trustees has taken several actions.

The actions include affirming “the clear commitment of EMU’s administration to prevent sexual violence and ensure a safe and secure campus community for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.” A second action reaffirms “the institution’s commitment to investigate reports of employee and student misconduct or violations of the Community Lifestyle Commitment to the fullest extent possible, regardless of the position of or familiarity with the reporting party.”

The board engaged DSA to review:

  • EMU’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures to ensure compliance with Title IX, the Clery Act and other higher-education-specific state and federal rules, restrictions and requirements;
  • EMU’s administrative policies and procedures used to prevent sexual misconduct/abuse and to follow up appropriately on allegations of sexual misconduct/abuse by administrative staff or faculty; hiring policies and procedures; and the adequacy of administrative actions taken in response to allegations of sexual misconduct by EMU’s former vice president for enrollment.

DSA found no evidence that EMU administrators had prior information that would have been reason to not hire the former vice president. DSA also found that administrators did not have information that would have been reason to dismiss the vice president prior to Hartman’s resignation in January 2016. In performing its inquiry into what EMU knew, DSA accepted as credible Lauren Shifflett’s April 12, 2016, blog posting, which included a recounting of her relationship with Hartman.

“While the investigation found that EMU acted appropriately given the information it had available, we are sorry that Lauren Shifflett experienced such pain,” said Kay Nussbaum, board chair. “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 also found that EMU has in place “extensive and detailed policies” addressing sexual discrimination and/or sexual misconduct in multiple documents. DSA recommended that the current policies be combined into one comprehensive institutional sexual misconduct policy. They also recommended that the current part-time Title IX coordinator role be expanded into a full-time position.

One of 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.”

The board also requested EMU’s president and administration to present a plan of action in response to DSA’s report to the trustees, with recommendations regarding 1) updating and adoption of a comprehensive policy and procedures on sexual misconduct; 2) staffing and infrastructure to support Title IX and Clery Act requirements; and 3) training of students, faculty, staff and board on their responsibilities related to Title IX and reporting of sexual misconduct. This plan of action will be submitted in March 2017.

The board stated that the purpose of the DSA investigation and resulting Board actions are to “strengthen the resolve and capacity of the whole EMU community – trustees, faculty, staff and students – to stop abuse, prevent its recurrence, remedy its effects, acknowledge the harm done to the victim and others, and support an environment where sex-based harassment and discrimination are not tolerated,” according to a public report of the DSA findings and recommendations.

The board received DSA’s report “with appreciation for the professionalism, thoroughness, and integrity in conducting the external independent review,” and noted “appreciation for the cooperation of EMU’s administration and staff, former President Loren Swartzendruber, Lindale Mennonite Church, Virginia Mennonite Conference and the many witnesses who participated in the inquiry.”

“We are satisfied that the investigation was thorough, fair and done with professional integrity,” said Nussbaum. “The findings provide expert insight as we learn from the past and focus on institution-wide improvements going forward.”

Additionally, Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency, noted, “We are grateful that EMU promptly investigated the sexual misconduct accusations. This is a process that will benefit not just EMU, but other institutions and the broader church as we continue to learn the best way to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse as we strive to make our institutions safe for all.”

The public report was prepared in consultation with DSA. The report, entitled “Eastern Mennonite University: Findings and Recommendations from the Independent Investigation by D. Stafford & Associates,” can be accessed at

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