Our son was in his second year at Colorado Christian University when last December (2008), he was sexually molested in his dormitory by a former student, then sexually harassed by the resident life director, Ryan Hartwig (Currently at Azusa Pacific University). He was lied to, threatened, and falsely accused of sexual misconduct by Ryan Hartwig. He was then forced to withdraw from classes, under duress. He was not given the opportunity to see the charges against him, or speak on his own behalf answering these accusations, as this whole process took place in the space of a few hours.
When our son arrived home for Christmas break, he told us what happened. I immediately phoned Ryan Hartwig, who told his version of the event, claiming that our son withdrew of his own accord. This of course, was not true. Ryan Hartwig coerced him into withdrawing. Ryan Hartwig then told me that he'd have to speak to his superior at Colorado Christian University, Vice President of Student life, Jim McCormick before he could say anything else. I said that I'd speak with Jim McCormick myself.
The next day, I received a call from Sharon Felker, who handles student discipline at Colorado Christian University, and she asked if my son felt he was coerced into withdrawing from school. I answered in the affirmative, and we agreed to have a meeting with Jim McCormick on January 5th.
My son and I, along with Jim McCormick and Sharon Felker, met in McCormick's office on January 5, 2009. Ryan Hartwig had falsely accused my son of sexual misconduct, and had provided verifiably false documentation which was the basis for forcing my son to withdraw from classes. A false accusation of sexual harassment is in itself sexual harassment. This is clearly stated in the CCU Student handbook. At that meeting, Jim McCormick condoned Ryan Hartwig's behavior, despite my bringing to his attention the absurd nature of the accusations against my son. I caught them in a bold faced lie by providing a signed notarized statement from a witness named in his documentation, refuting Ryan Hartwig's accusations.
Following that meeting, the false accusations of sexual misconduct against my son were dropped, presumably because of the documentation that I had provided. Our son was allowed to return to classes the next semester, pending a hearing. However, they made up new accusations that same afternoon, thereby further stacking the deck against my son. Again, he was forced to withdraw from classes for the spring semester because by now we were running up against the class drop deadline if they decided he was guilty. By all indications they had already decided as such, and we felt that a hearing conducted by these people would be too subjective to have any merit, and withdrawing was effectively the only option.
After we indicated that in light of further accusations, he would not be returning to classes that semester, we were told that he would be cleared of all accusations by May, and he'd be allowed to return to school in the fall with a clean slate.
I brought my concerns to the president of Colorado Christian University, Bill Armstrong. After several phone conversations with Bill Armstrong, he promised to look into the matter. He did not, however, do an investigation of any substance, and finally lost his temper with me saying, and I quote "Look, you're just a voice on the phone. You're not a student here, and neither is your son." Further, he said "I suggest you drop this matter, or it will not go well for your son." Then, he had the audacity to pray for me, and hung up the phone. Not the behavior I expect from the president of a Christian College.
By the time I got through with Bill Armstrong, he was so angry with me that he told me my son would never be allowed attend Colorado Christian University again.
I then wrote to the Board of Trustees. I included a very detailed description (60 plus pages) of the events, including documentation of how this incident was mishandled, and how Ryan Harwig lied in his accusations against my son. Further documentation was presented on how the procedures outlined in the Student Handbook were not followed.
Bill White, Head of the Board, condoned Ryan Hartwig's behavior, as well as Jim McCormick and Bill Armstrongs behavior. He wished us well, however, and said that they would pray for my son.
I've concluded that integrity among the staff and the board at Colorado Christian University is nowhere to be found, at any level. A college operating under the guise of a Christian mandate, as set forth in their literature, should honor truth. During the process of working with these people, I've learned that truth is in short supply, and there is even less demand.
The president, vice president and board of trustees should not condone lies told by the instructors. A parents concerns should not be dismissed in as cavalier manner as mine were. Sexual harassment should not be acceptable behavior for the instructors at Colorado Christian University, and when brought the attention of the Vice President of Student Life, the response "I do not apologize," as was told to us in the meeting with Jim McCormick, is unacceptable.
Now, my son will not be attending Colorado Christian University, obviously, but I would strongly caution any young person considering an education there, as well as any parent seeking a Christian based education for their child. They clearly do not follow the procedures set forth in their own student handbook with respect to student discipline. This parents concerns were dismissed at every level.
Ryan Hartwig is a graduate of Colorado Christian University, and is a leadership professor, astonishingly enough. Jim McCormick is also a leadership professor. Through out this process, they repeatedly told my son and myself that they would hold him accountable for their accusations against him. When those accusations proved to be false, there was no one who would take responsibility and be held accountable at Colorado Christian University.
Early this past summer, I sent letters to all levels at Colorado Christian University expressing my disappointment in their handling of this situation. My letters were ignored by all but Jim McCormick, who sent the letter back to me, twice, with no response. Hardly the behavior I expect from a leader, much less a leadership professor.
We contacted an accreditation board, and were told that nothing short of a lawsuit would curb their behavior. Still, there is nothing the accreditation board can do, which makes one wonder about the validity of such a board.
The bottom line: There is no accountability for small private colleges, regardless of how much they preach about holding students accountable. It matters not how flowery their literature is, or the sugary language contained in the bios on their website. Accountability is a one way street.
Colorado Christian University needs a lawsuit to correct this behavior. While we have considered following through with one, I have concluded that with children in college, it is not the best use of resources. Further, the outcome of such an action is questionable. If a Christian college can't behave according to guidelines set forth in their own literature, and offer no apology when caught sexually harassing students, and lying to students and parents, a lawsuit may or may not be the best course of action.
Further, students and parents of students at such institutions are often hard pressed to come up with the money to attend Christian colleges, and normally will have a difficult time pre suing legal avenues to get the administrators to behave. It's expensive, and not cost effective. Parents have the expectation that the instructors will be good to students. It is difficult for parents or students to fund lawsuits when the institution treats them as badly as we've been handled by Colorado Christian University. The board of trustees knows this, and this is why it continues.
At a state institution this probably wouldn't happen. Accusations against students would have to be substantive, rather than subjective, and the state would hopefully do a better job of holding their people accountable. But then, we wouldn't have the expectations of a biblical standard of behavior, so it's quite possible the situation would have never come up.
Parents and students, be very careful, more careful than we were, in choosing a college. Colorado Christian University is a place that does not practice what they teach.
Please see the long account for more details.