Editorial Note: I received the following letter from a former student at Cedarville University (CU) after publishing a podcast with Kiara, a rape victim who also was a former CU student. The author of the letter is Alisha Blosser. And like Kiara, Alisha said Cedarville’s administration treated her with callous indifference when she was suicidal and in crisis. I am reprinting Alisha’s letter here in hopes it will spark reform at the university.
My name is Alisha and I wanted to reach out and share my story at CU. After following your posts, I’ve had a great pull of conviction of speaking out, but had not gotten the courage. After listening to Kiara’s story, I knew I needed to at least speak my truth. Let me start by saying my experience was nothing compared to Kiara’s, but there are some similarities.
I started attending CU full-time my senior year of high school. I took a full course load and only went to high school 45 minutes a day. Being from the town of Cedarville, I felt the pressure to attend the college. Along with the fact that my father has now worked there 20+ years. How could I let all that tuition go to waste? I didn’t necessarily feel I fit in at CU, but I knew I wanted to be a nurse and knew I could push through to do so.
CU prides themselves on being a close-knit and very involved community. That might seem true, until people find out you have a parent working there. I didn’t live on campus, I worked hard to get involved, but it was hard. I knew many professors on a personal level, but remained professional with them as I didn’t want special treatment. I struggled starting at CU and did not earn the best grades, but I still continued to push toward my degree.
In November of 2015, I went on a trip for my birthday. During this trip my best friend and I both ended up being drugged with Rohypnol. I woke up in a strange hotel, vomit on my dress, with no memory of the last 8 hours. My parents had no idea where I was and my best friend was nowhere to be found. Once I was able to find my friend, she informed me she had been to the ER that night and we had been drugged. I called my parents and headed to the hospital. There, I filed a police report and underwent a rape exam and kit collection. It was one of the worst moments in my life.
During this trip my best friend and I both ended up being drugged with Rohypnol. I woke up in a strange hotel, vomit on my dress, with no memory of the last 8 hours.
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Upon returning to CU I was very broken. I was currently in my junior year of nursing school and working to finish finals strong and hide the torment going on inside myself. It was hard. I was in denial that this was affecting me. I started drinking more and wanting nothing to do with my friends. The Spring semester of 2016 was where my time at CU went from enjoyable to broken.
I was struggling with depression. I completely hid it to the best of my ability. I had no desire to be alive. I was having suicidal thoughts, but not acting upon them. I was still managing to pass my classes, but not as well as I should have been. In the beginning of April 2016 I admitted to my mom I was suicidal. I was taken to the ER multiple times and missed class due to this. I had doctor’s notes stating why I had missed my classes. I remember being in my CU scrubs when I showed up to the ER and being so ashamed I was representing them like this.
I was struggling with depression. I completely hid it to the best of my ability. I had no desire to be alive.
Upon returning to class, I was pulled aside and asked why I had missed. I handed over my excuses from the hospital and asked if I could make up the exam I had missed. I remember being pulled aside by a professor I knew on a deeply personal level and being told, “It was a stupid decision to go to the ER for being suicidal.” Exactly the opposite they had been teaching us in class. I was informed I could not make up the exam, even though I had documentation on being in the ER. I was devastated. I remember informing my parents at the time and my mom and I set up a meeting with my advisor.
My mom and I attended this meeting with my advisor and my mom was pleading that they give me an incomplete for the semester until they could get me the help I needed. At this meeting was the same professor* (see note at end) who had just told me I made a stupid decision reaching out for help. I remember this professor sitting behind my advisor, arms crossed, very cold and stating “we do not take incompletes lightly”. The meeting was no help. I was failed out of the program and left to pick up the pieces.
I remember being pulled aside by a professor I knew on a deeply personal level and being told, “It was a stupid decision to go to the ER for being suicidal.”
My mom and I have talked through that response so many times, and my mother keeps making the statement, “They should have known I didn’t take my daughter wanting to die lightly.” Through the next few months, I went to a private counselor and received drug therapy as a combination treatment. During my time at CU, I had reached out to their counseling services multiple times and was either never responded to, or told my application was never received. They were no help.
After spending the summer deciding what to do, I decided to switch my major to psych and try to get my undergrad and bridge the program with nursing at a different school. At this time the professor who called my actions “stupid” was promoted to the assistant dean of the nursing program. That hurt. I never pursued any other help from higher ups in the university because it was all hearsay. I did not think they would believe me over their own professor. My parents were hurt. My dad worked for this place, they were friends with this professor, but their hands were tied. They could not pursue anything more as my father could not risk losing his job, and I would not have asked him to.
During my time at CU, I had reached out to their counseling services multiple times and was either never responded to, or told my application was never received. They were no help.
My time in the psych program was mostly uneventful. I didn’t attend my classes. I would drive to campus and sit in my car and cry. I didn’t attend chapel. I wanted nothing to do with the place that hurt me. I finally decided to take a break from CU. I had to wait a year anyway to reapply for the nursing program (rules state you must be dismissed one year before reapplying for reinstatement.) I wrote a letter explaining my situation with my mental health struggles, and I was denied re-entry. I knew this would most likely happen, but I needed to do this for my own healing.
A semester later I started at a community college. I was working full-time on nights at a local hospital, and attending this community college full-time. I was off of my psych meds and using the tools from counseling to succeed. I remember coming home one week into my new school and telling my mom how thankful I was being after one week at this secular institution, I already felt more supported than I did my 4 years at CU. I earned my LPN at this college, and am now working in continuing to earn my RN. I’m getting married to the most wonderful guy who saw my hurt and encouraged every decision I made regarding my schooling.
I did want to add my younger brother attended CU for a year. During this time he applied for counseling through the school twice. Each time he was met with silence in the same way that I was.
I write this to say that CU does not care for their students. They care about their image. They do not care about the inner thoughts and feelings no matter who you are. My dad still works at CU, and encouraged me to finally speak my truth. My time at Cedarville was filled with hurt, and it saddens me that there are so many similar stories to mine. I pray for each of these people who have experienced anything remotely close to what I have and I pray they can heal. I healed in quiet to respect my dad, but I think it’s time CU takes responsibility and the hidden stories are shown. I’m thankful for my experiences as I am so much stronger now than I ever was. This is my truth. This is their truth.
*Alisha told me that the professor mentioned is Suzanne Lefever, Assistant Dean, Director of Undergraduate Programs, and Associate Professor of Nursing at Cedarville. I reached out to Lefever for comment but she did not respond.
*Featured picture is a stock photo, not a picture of Alisha.
18 thoughts on “Former Cedarville Student: I was told, “It was a stupid decision to go to the ER for being suicidal””
As a follower of Jesus Christ, this is sickening and disgusting. I am mortified at the number of so-called “Christians” in various leadership roles that resemble no form of true Christianity. These folks/institutions are exactly why people are leaving the church in droves.
Im grateful she shared her painful truth. This situation shows the underbelly of, I’m betting, alot of religious based formal education. Keep shining the light, it’s past high time.
Alisha, thank you for sharing your story. You are a strong and very impressive young lady and I am saddened to hear that Cedarville University, once again, did not live up to their mission statements – both hurting you and not offering you support. Your story will hopefully inspire others to tell theirs, as well.
It is NEVER a stupid decision to report suicidal thoughts or intentions. People who are clinically depressed will attempt suicide at least 15% of the time.
Suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously and the family should immediately seek professional help and support from competent psychological and spiritual sources. I would bet that the ER people took it seriously!
How awful. Each of these stories are heartbreaking.
Alisha — If you’re reading this, thank you for being vulnerable & for being courageous ❤️
First of all, thank you to Alisha for your courage to step out. Thank you to Alisha’s Dad for supporting her in sharing her truth. I am praying for you both.
This is despicable behavior by Cedarville. A young student has a horrendous experience and suffers greatly from it to the point of considering suicide and Cedarville can’t be supportive, kind or patient in any way. Instead they decide to inflict further injury and discourage her from seeking the care that she needed.
I am a parent of a Cedarville student. My daughter has struggled with depression and anxiety. Thankfully she is in a good place today, but no thanks to Cedarville. Early in her time at CU she applied for counseling there. She also was wait-listed. When she finally received counseling, she was made to feel “weak” for taking antidepressant medication and was discouraged from continuing it. I am in the medical field therefore I was was able to counter that thought process and promptly had her seek counseling external to Cedarville which was supportive of medication and my daughter.
Cedarville should be ashamed of their treatment of these young girls (and I am sure that there are men as well). If knew all of this a few years ago, I would have never have sent my daughter to Cedarville.
I pray that the Board of Trustees of Cedarville is seeing all of this and takes action to correct the terrible direction that Cedarville has taken.
I have 2 things. First is that a coworker has a daughter at Cedarville now. Should I share these reports with her? Second is that it looks like Cedarville denies mental illness. I attended a church where this was a belief, and know others who think mental illnesses are sin issues. How common is this? I wouldn’t send my kid to a college that does not take mental illness especially suicidal thoughts seriously.
I am not invalidating this article at all, but I can share my experience, which was much better. I just graduated from Cedarville last month. I have a mental illness and I received proper support all 4 years. In the gen psych class that’s required for all students, we are taught that mental illnesses are real and should be taken seriously as a medical condition. I have had many other professors in my major and in the Bible department who have affirmed therapy/counseling and medication as a proper response to mental illness (not just biblical/nouthetic counseling).
My junior year, I applied for counseling services at Cedarville,
was on the wait list for a few months, then got in and got counseling, where I was diagnosed with my mental illness and treated appropriately. My counselor told me that if necessary, she would refer me to a psychiatrist to get medication, but luckily coping skills helped me enough that medication wasn’t needed. I talked to my women’s ministry professor about it, and she told me that going to counseling was one of the best things she’s ever done for herself, and she recommends it highly for anyone considering it.
I know that everyone’s experience is different. I have a lot of friends who have gone to Cedarville’s counseling and had a great experience, and some that didn’t love it and ended up looking for help elsewhere. I know the wait list is long, and have often lamented that there’s always a long wait. But I know that it is often the same at other counseling offices, because there is so much need.
If you decide to share this article with others, I hope it is balanced with the truth that a lot of students do receive tremendous support. As with any place, some will have 5-star reviews and some 1-star reviews, and likely, both are accurate to their experiences.
First, gen psych is NOT required for all students, it is only required for those who have a Psychology minor or major.
While I am happy to hear that you received proper treatment while at Cedarville, myself and least 15 other people I know have been on the waiting list to see a counselor for over 2 semesters. They only have 4 counselors for 4,000 students.
Two of these 15 students have had to drop out because their depression/anxiety worsened from lack of treatment, which honestly if they had seen someone in the first month they probably would have been able to still attend school. In addition my RA and RD both did the very minimal to help me and my friend who were both suffering. I was told to “back off” when I took my friend to the ER because she was suicidal. The lack of professional counselors as well as the unresponsive staff are a sign that the university has not taken enough measures to properly care for the students mental health. I love my professors and my fellow students, but grows ever more apparent that the Student Life, as well as the Upper Administration are more focused with making the school look good than they are with helping their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
We can address both your questions, CROSBYCAT, because we’re composed of CU alumni, former employees, and present faculty and staff.
First, however, thank you, Alisha, for having the courage to speak up. And thank you to Alisha’s father for supporting her in writing this letter and allowing it to be published. We pray your job at CU will remain safe. We’ll be watching to see if you experience any mistreatment and will speak on your behalf if you do.
Second, yes, CROSBYCAT, you should share all these reports from Julie Roys (and others) with any parents who have children presently attending or considering enrolling at CU, especially ones planning to be there this fall. Change, if it happens at all, will happen slowly, and it will take a long time to rebuild trust, reform counseling services, and rebuild a healthy, safe learning environment once again at CU. Some of us work at CU, so we have every reason to root for CU’s continued financial success; however, we cannot stand to watch as students continue to be abused and mistreated like Kiara and Alisha were. We have raised challenges and questions about these serious problems but have been ignored.
Second, CU historically always believed in and offered a program with an integrated approach to psychology. In other words, under Presidents Dixon and Brown, CU’s psychology department integrated biblical truth with the research and scholarship as well as best practices of psychology. A couple of veteran professors at CU still hold to this approach (if you’re alumni, you know who they are!). However, Dr. White and people he filled the Bible Department with (not to mention Mindy May, Director of Counseling and Dean of Women) do not hold to that approach, despite the lip service Dr. White has paid to it.
So several newer professors have either left CU after discovering Dr. White’s bias or share that bias and thus now teach in the department. Now, depending on the professor, students in psychology classes may or may not be taught by someone who actually affirms psychological and psychiatric approaches to mental health. It’s a mixed bag. In short, Dr. White, Mindy May, Jon Wood, and many others do not support anything but “biblical counseling” and do view the root of all mental health problems as sin.
This past semester, in fact, Dr. White chastised students in one chapel service for seeking so much counseling and overwhelming the counseling office. He told them to get into their Bibles, quipping, “No Bible! No Breakfast!” So that sums up well what the President of CU thinks about psychology. This also explains why there’s only one CU counselor who’s licensed in the state of Ohio. Not even May is licensed, and she’s the director!
Sadly, therefore, we know of many students who’ve had experiences similar to Alisha’s and Kiara’s. If your child fits the mold, they may be oblivious to the problems. But if your child cannot perfectly fit the CU-imposed mold, they will feel the judgment and condemnation against them and just will never feel like they fit in. We minister to too many students in such pain because of this environment. The great irony? Because CU requires sequential classes in a Bible minor, by the time CU students figure out what’s going on, they are hesitant to transfer elsewhere because they have Bible credits that may not transfer with them. So although some long-time veterans did survive White’s purge, the majority of the department now employs the very White-hired, SBC profs spreading the indoctrination Dr. White wants, so they hold students hostage in more than one way.
Justicecollective, I greatly appreciate your efforts and insight. I support what you are doing. Please continue to keep Julie Roys informed about CU. I lived in Ohio and considered attending it with some HS classmates when we graduated. I joined the Army and they went to CU and I lost track of them. God bless your work and keep shining the light.
Yes, definitely share this with your coworker. Most Cedarville parents have absolutely no idea of what’s REALLY going on at Cedarville. We unfortunately didn’t know anything corrupt either until this April when our daughter was finishing up her degree. The sudden firing of Anthony Moore, friend of White and admitted sexual predator, was the beginning of Unveiling of much corruption at CU…..thanks to Julie Roy’s excellent investigative journalism. We’ve learned so much by reading her many enlightening articles. I’ve tried to post concerns on CU Facebook groups and it either gets deleted or no one wants to hear the truth. So your friend most likely needs to be made aware. There is such a sickening facade and hypocrisy at CU.
Before leaving Cedarville, I was chosen by my colleagues to serve on the Faculty Committee to the President (FCP). I believe it was the fall of 2016 when I heard with my own ears Dr. White’s response to depression. The year before he had asked faculty and staff to complete a health survey, as he wanted to see if we could address some of those issues on campus, thus lowering healthcare costs and, I assume, create a healthier work environment. Unfortunately, depression was the number one healthcare concern identified by faculty and staff. As the FCP members met to set the agenda, I was the one who suggested we show our thanks for the health survey by starting there. After we stated that depression was a major problem among faculty and staff on campus, Dr. White responded, “I was shocked to learn that. Aren’t these people in their Bibles?” That is a direct quote that I have never forgotten, given how telling and disheartening it was.
That was for sure a direct quote.
Remember who we serve!
My daughter was enrolled in a nursing program at a public university. She was five minutes late for a clinical and was told that she would be kicked out of the program if she was late a second time. Nursing is a demanding program and a demanding career, it is not for everyone.
Your letter seems to gloss over the birthday celebration event, likely you participated in activities that you pledged to not engage in as a CU student. Not blaming the victim for rape, but challenging you to look at your commitment to being a successful student at CU. There are other options than CU for counseling, with a large backlog and the seriousness of you condition your parents would have been better served taking you elsewhere rather than wait for the situation to become a crisis and a trip to the ER.
I’m sorry but I want to point out that your comment is a bit insensitive. Personally, mental health is more important than some school/work commitment. I had a friend commit suicide over a year ago over sometime like this. To this day, I wish my friend would of went to the ER when she was suicidal. I’m glad that Alisha reached out for help by going to the ER instead of choosing to take her own life. God wants us to take care of ourselves spiritually and mentally first before doing any “commitments” or “works.” Lets show compassion and love instead of forcing works on people and judging them instead. God’s priority for us is to love and care for others instead of focusing on things in the world.
Let me take a moment by saying, there were other options than the ER. But unless you’ve been in the situation, you do not understand what is and what is not going through your brain at the time. Nursing is a demanding profession, I’m a nurse now. I never neglected my schoolwork and continued to try to keep my professors updated about the issues. Your comment is insensitive, and is in fact victim shaming. My story was not to gain sympathy, but to shed light on real issues. As I continue to work full time, attend school full time to CONTINUE my demanding nursing career and manage a household, I’ll ALWAYS continue to support anyone who has struggled in these problems whether it’s my current patients, future patients, family, friends or strangers.
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