Hesston College Leaders Still Ignoring Student Safety
On January 9, 2023, a member of the Hesston College administration, Vice President of Student Life Deb Roth, sent out an email to the entire campus community, announcing that Athletic Director Bryan Kehr would be serving as Interim Dean of Students. In the email, Roth wrote the following: “Bryan Kehr will be giving on-campus oversight and leadership to the Student Life team in addition to his Athletic Director responsibilities…We are grateful to all members of the Student Life Team for their flexibility and initiative-taking during this time of transition!”
Concerned constituents of Hesston College may already be aware that the “time of transition” in question is the removal of Deb Roth from her responsibilities working directly with students or on student disciplinary issues, pending the results of a third-party review currently being conducted by the Institutional Response Team of the firm Cozen O’Connor. To quote President Manickam in a September 30 email mistakenly sent to all employees, though intended only for Student Life, “This decision has been made to protect Deb and the college.”
Into Account has received numerous firsthand reports about Bryan Kehr’s explosive temper and abusive behavior on campus. These reports include many accounts of verbal abuse and bullying, some of it extreme and demeaning. All of these reports come from women and people of color. We received our first report about Kehr in spring 2022. After our September 26, 2022 call for reports from Hesston College, we received multiple new reports about Kehr, all from people we had never heard from before. After Roth’s January 9 email, we received yet more reports, again including from people who had not previously reached out to us.
We are aware, based on these reports, that at least some of these behaviors by Kehr have been reported to Deb Roth in her capacity as VP of Student Life. We do not believe that this behavior is a secret on Hesston’s campus or to Hesston College Administration. There is no excuse here for ignorance.
From our vantage point as experts in sexual violence in religious institutions, and having received the number of concerning reports that we have, we share the critical alarm expressed by multiple Hesston College students and multiple Hesston College employees about the appointment of Bryan Kehr to the position of Interim Dean of Students.
In a September 30 email to the student body, President Manickam wrote, “Please know that our first and most important goal remains your safety and success.” The decision to put Kehr in the Interim Dean of Students position is entirely inconsistent with this goal. It is, however, consistent with a pattern–established by Roth, Kehr, and others–of minimizing or ignoring concerns about racist and gender-based harassment and violence on the Hesston College campus.
We wish to remind Hesston College administration of the nature of the accusations that are being investigated. Members of your student body, faculty, and staff, as well as numerous alumni, are alleging systemic coverup of sexual violence reports and repeated misconduct in response to those reports from at least one senior member of your administration. Appointing an Interim Dean of Students with Kehr’s demonstrated behavioral issues communicates a serious lack of care for the concerns they have raised.
Parents, constituents, community members, if you are alarmed, you are not alone. If you are not yet, you should be. Students, we understand how painful and ridiculous this situation is. Your very real hurts have not been heard or taken seriously. We will keep working to ensure that they are.
Please share this among current students and recent graduates of Hesston College so that people who have been affected can feel seen and seek accountability if they choose to do so.