You are being redirected, please wait...

12.05.2004

What I would do

Okay, if I were covering this story, I'd have a field day with it. Based on Dr. Gyertson's letter, these would be my initial questions. Initial questions. I'd of course talk with students, campus safety, etc. It's not easy to get a real grasp of what occurred based solely on this press release. My questions are in blue.


Early Friday morning December 3, 2004, there were a series of student behavior problems on the Upland campus that exceeded acceptable levels.

What are acceptable levels?

We are addressing these prayerfully and proactively. It appears now that our investigation will result in significant disciplinary action for several of our students.

Who's heading the investigation? You? Student development? The Dean of Students? Campus law enforcement? Outside investigators or other civil authorities? Who will have the final decision on "disciplinary action"?

The purpose of this open letter is to inform all who are a part of our Taylor family of the facts, advise of next steps, affirm the confidence we have in the Taylor student body and ask for prayer as we firmly and redemptively deal with those who have stepped outside the covenant commitments we expect in our Christ-centered community.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we prepare for a series of predictable pranks that have become a part of the Taylor holiday tradition across several generations. Usually these are creative but benign involving the hiding of our life size manger scene figures as well as a variety of other activities that become the legends alumni love to rehearse. However, this year the behavior got out of hand and crossed appropriate boundaries.

Has there been a shift in how Taylor feels / responds to these types of incidents? Do they only occur during this time frame? What is the "variety of other activities" that you refer to and how do they compare to what occurred Friday morning? Again, what are the boundaries and how are they communicated to the student body? Who's responsible for communicating the boundaries to the student body?

Early Friday morning the area electrical company shut down power for about four hours to the greater Upland community to do required upgrading. This was announced well in advance. Apparently a series of pranks were planned to coincide with the outage.

How long in advance? Was campus law enforcement / student development aware of what was to occur? Where their any proactive steps taken to limit what occurred? Was law enforcement's response (Campus Safety) proactive or reactionary?

Once the power went out several hundred students poured out of their dorms for some good natured celebration.

Please clarify what was expected to be "good natured celebration." What did the university anticipate these students were going to do?

Unfortunately, as it appears now, we had those who took advantage of this opportunity causing damage to some of our facilities. Among the damage was the vandalizing of the Christmas decorations including the manger scene and those in the Dining Commons, scattering of trash, breaking into the Zondervan Library as well as the Hodson Commons and Ayres Hall. A bookshelf was overturned in Zondervan. A small but unauthorized bonfire was set outside that required the intervention of the fire department.

What was the bonfire set with? Where in the library was the shelf turned over? Was it a large shelf in the stacks or something else? What kind of trash was scattered? Were facilities actually "damaged" or was it just Christmas decorations? When and to what extent has this occurred on campus before? What was the response by student development, campus police on prior incidents? What is the dollar figure for damage? What is the dollar figure for man power to correct the damage? How did the students gain access to the facilities? Was it forced entry or did they have keys?

Additional behavior involved running through women’s residence halls, banging on windows and doors and other activity outside of our accepted standards.

Again, what is the "other activity" and what are the "accepted standards?" Which residence halls? How did they gain access to the residence halls? Was there any physical damage? What windows and doors were banged on?

There were reports of “streaking” by a few male students.

Define streaking -- where they clothed at all? Where did this occur?

In addition we are following up on incidents of serious disrespect expressed when small groups were directly confronted.

Confronted by whom? What would you define as "serious disrespect?"

The event was short-lived with the campus returning to its usual tranquil state by about 3 am. I credit the grace, wisdom and patience of our campus safety and student development professionals as well as the good sense of the majority of our students for bringing all of this to a quick conclusion.

Is two hours "a quick conclusion"? What amount of time would cause you to remove that label? What student development staffers were involved? What incidents did they specifically witness?

In-depth investigations are underway by the Student Development team. We expect that these will conclude in the next several days. Disciplinary action can include fines, restitution, probation and, in more serious cases, suspension and dismissal. While we will handle the process through our internal systems, some of the more extreme behavior, and the level of damage done, may result in criminal charges.

What extreme behavior? How will you decide who gets dealt with internally and who is placed in external justice systems? Will students be allowed to choose? Will they be entitled to representation of their choice throughout the process? What experience does the student development have in "investigations," particularly ones of this magnitude. Will you request the filing of criminal charges or will you allow the DA to determine their appropriateness? What is your investigative process? Who are you questioning? Have witnesses come forward? Will students victimized be allowed to file their own charges with appropriate authorities? What are you doing to assure the accuseds' rights of due process will be upheld?

It is our desire that those responsible will come forward and own up to their behavior. And it is our expectation that anyone who knows who the specific individuals are that caused the most serious problems will assist in the identification of those who choose not to come forward.

Dean of Students Dr. Skip Trudeau and I called a mandatory meeting of the student body Friday evening in Rediger Auditorium to review the facts of what occurred, provide an overview of the next steps and call the community to a time of reflection, prayer, mutual accountability and higher levels of maturity. Several of our campus leaders and faculty were a part of that meeting. I could not be more pleased with the response of the vast majority of those in attendance. Following the meeting several stayed behind to pray and many joined me in a prayer walk around our campus stopping in various places to intercede, repent, and speak blessings over our residence halls, Dining Commons, classrooms and campus safety. The procession ended in a worship time in front of the nativity scene with a wonderful sense of God’s presence and promise.

Reactions, as you might expect, run the gamut of shock, embarrassment, anger and deep disappointment. Nancy and I, along with hundreds of others, grieve over the fact that a small group of immature and irresponsible students chose to try and disrupt the work of Christ in our midst.

What's the actual number of "a small group of immature and irresponsible students?" Are the reports of 200 accurate?

And finally as a follow up, will you provide access to all judiciary proceedings and all campus police reports, including witness statements, radio logs, names of students charged with any wrongdoing and the names of their accusers? How will the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings be announced, and will they commence before Christmas break?