An alleged victim of sexual harassment by fired Wheaton College chaplain, Tim Blackmon, says she’s not a victim, and that an allegation published by the college earlier this month is false.
In addition, Blackmon’s former administrative assistant, Aaron Hann, has resigned from his position in protest over the college’s handling of Blackmon’s case. Hann says the investigation into the allegations against Blackmon was poorly conducted, unfair, and inconsistent with Wheaton’s Community Covenant.
Allegation “Factually Incorrect”
The alleged victim, Leslie Weinzettell, was a witness in the Title IX investigation that led to Blackmon’s dismissal by the college, which was announced July 3. On July 9, Wheaton detailed the allegations against Blackmon. But according to Weinzettell, one of the allegations involved her and was “factually incorrect.”
In a letter on Monday to Wheaton College President Philip Ryken and Board of Trustees Chairman James Goetz, Weinzettell, who worked as Blackmon’s administrative assistant from 2015—2017, writes:
In the public statement sent out on July 9, 2020, Dr. Ryken asserts Rev. Blackmon “suggested in a staff meeting that a female employee sit on his lap and complete a sexual harassment online training for him as a way of mocking the training.”
Your description of this event is not factually correct. I am the female employee referenced in this allegation and you must know Rev. Blackmon never invited me to sit on his lap. He made an ironic comment that you have misconstrued. Throughout my employment at Wheaton College, Rev. Blackmon only treated me with utmost respect.
Weinzettel ends her letter by asking Ryken and Goetz to share her information “publicly to immediately rectify this error.”
I emailed Ryken and Wheaton Director of Marketing Communications Joseph Moore for comment, but neither one responded.
Blackmon’s Assistant Resigns in Protest
From the beginning, Blackmon has maintained that the allegations against him were taken out of context and that his case was not “fairly adjudicated.”
Aaron Hann, who served as Blackmon’s administrative assistant and observed much of the investigative process, told me he agrees with Blackmon’s assessment. Hann resigned on June 17 after his letters to both President Ryken and the board of trustees, complaining about the investigation, failed to produce any result.
Hann, who previously worked as a paralegal for a law firm, said Wheaton’s investigation in to Blackmon’s alleged “inappropriate comments and actions of a racial and sexual nature” lacked proper accountability and due process.
According to Hann, interviews for investigations normally are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. In addition, there are usually two attorneys present for interviews—both the attorney for the defendant and the plaintiff.
Hann said he had talked to Blackmon, Weinzettel, and another witness who was involved in Wheaton’s investigation and all of them indicated that their interviews were not recorded or transcribed. Hann added that witnesses also were not given an opportunity to read and correct their testimony before their testimony went into the investigator’s report.
Hann said he specifically asked Weinzettel if she was allowed to read the portion of her testimony that went into the report and she told him no. Hann said both Weinzettel and another witness told him they didn’t even know what the allegations against Blackmon were.
I reached out to Weinzettel for confirmation of Hann’s account, but she did not respond.
However, Blackmon confirmed in an email that none of his interviews were recorded.
“The investigator indicated several times that recording was not his modus operandi,” Blackmon wrote in an email. “He took notes on a laptop.”
Blackmon added that the investigator’s report did not include transcripts from any of the interviews with witnesses but had “random quotes from unnamed witnesses sprinkled throughout.”
Blackmon said the only person, other than the investigator, who was present for his interviews was Wheaton’s Title IX coordinator. He said the coordinator was present for the majority of his first “intake meeting but only a few moments for each of the subsequent meetings which were the actual investigative interviews.”
The investigator hired by Wheaton to conduct the Blackmon investigation was Bruce Melton of Aequitask, a company that specializes in “conducting workplace and campus investigations at a predictable cost.”
I spoke with Melton, who confirmed that he had conducted the Blackmon investigation for Wheaton College. However, Melton declined to answer any questions about how the investigation was conducted.
I also reached out to Ryken and Moore to comment specifically on the allegations concerning Wheaton’s investigation process, but neither responded.
Hann Says Investigation Violated Community Covenant
Hann, who described Blackmon as “the best boss I ever had,” said what especially concerns him about Wheaton’s investigation is how it violated the college’s Community Covenant. This is a commitment to biblical principles to which all students, faculty, and administrators at Wheaton must adhere.
According to the covenant, Christians are supposed to hold each other accountable by “confronting one another in love.” The covenant further states, “Such loving acts of confrontation are at times difficult, but when performed in the right spirit (Gal. 6:1), they serve to build godly character for both the individuals involved and the community as a whole (Matt. 18:15-17).”
Hann said it “disgusts” him that the allegations against Blackmon were from 2015-2016*, but neither the complainant nor administrators confronted Blackmon until recently. And even then, Hann says the college didn’t try to resolve the issues with the parties involved, but instead hired an investigator.
Hann said he believes Wheaton overreacted because the college knew it had mishandled earlier allegations of sexual misconduct by former New Testament Professor Emeritus Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian.
Wheaton rescinded Bilezikian’s emeritus title in February. But this came weeks after I published an article in which two alleged victims claimed that Wheaton had ignored their earlier reports of misconduct.
“I think so many people in leadership are implicated and they don’t want to take any responsibility,” Hann said. “They just let (Blackmon) take the fall. And I just can’t stand that kind of duplicity at an institution whose stated mission is for Christ’s Kingdom. I don’t see any of that in Tim’s investigation and termination.”
*Correction: An earlier version said the allegations were from 2017. Though some allegations were first addressed in 2017, Hann said they actually stemmed from incidents in 2015-2016.