Weimar University’s accreditation body WASC last had a special visit to the campus on March 2-4, 2022. During this time, the accreditation team spoke with the university leadership, professors, and staff. They set up meetings with individuals one on one and in groups. And as is their protocol, they set up an anonymous email so that anyone from the university could contact them without the university administration knowing that they had reached out to the accreditation team and without the accreditation team knowing who had contacted them. The email system would strip away any identifying characteristics from the message and leave only the content of the message for the team to read.
This communication is essential for a university to function as an institution of learning. Professors, staff, and even students should be able to express themselves without fear of being targeted by the tenure committee, their boss, or even their peers. Academic freedom is necessary for new ideas to develop and for space to be given for those ideas to mature and be tested. Even in faith-based Adventist institutions, we respect the principle of academic freedom and tolerate dissent. This openness to new ideas and respect for dissenting opinions is the hallmark of universities worldwide. Agreeing to these critical standards, among other things, makes Weimar an institution of higher learning and worthy of accreditation.
Intelligent Adventist received information from sources within the administration that during this visit, an “inquiry” from the president’s office was made through an intermediary regarding the technical feasibility of finding out who was writing to the accreditation team. We have been left with no doubt from the sources that the inquiry came directly from the president’s office. “No one else could dare make such a request or even think of it,” according to one source who spoke with us on condition of anonymity.
We believe this is a betrayal of the values of an academic institution and a breach of trust. We also believe that the request possibly constitutes an attempt at an illegal search and a violation of several privacy laws of the State of California and possibly of Federal law.
It is conduct unbecoming of a Seventh-day Adventist University president.
IA knows there is no way that the university IT team could have seen who was writing to the accreditation team for several reasons: 1) Despite the fact the accreditation board email/contact link could be accessed through private data networks like Gmail or Yahoo on staff phones. 2) It would take a state or federal judge warrant to access the metadata from someone’s phone or through commercial data networks like Verizon or email networks like Google. 3) Even if the IT staff tried to see who accessed the staff-email system on campus to send their emails, the end user (staff member) would know it because their password, which is uniquely their creation, would have changed. Thus, “if you can’t sin, you won’t.” The request failed for reasons of technical feasibility.
Regardless, this breach of confidence shows the depth the university president is willing to sink to get back at his perceived detractors and political enemies. He is known to have asked staff point-blank if they had written to the accreditation team, and if the staff refused or were reluctant to reply, he would take their fear or reluctance as an affirmative answer.
Conservative Adventism has always prioritized economic realities over moral considerations. For example, I noted in an article a few months ago that every institution from Hartland to Weimar jettisoned the “blueprint” of Adventist education and embraced accreditation and degrees when threatened with financial bankruptcy.
There’s no reason to believe that anything more than that is present in this case. Regardless of the few members on the board who would vote him out today [they have since resigned,] the board will eventually show Dr. Nedley the door when the financial pain of keeping him is greater than the perceived economic pain of losing him. Given everything that has happened over the last few years and was revealed over the previous few months, the pain will keep growing through lawsuits and loss in admissions/enrollments.
All the while, over this last year and now into this new year, students at the university are getting a masterclass in economic expediency over moral values. Every teacher and professor at this institution should remember that one day their students will follow their example, not their advice.
Intelligent Adventist has contacted the accreditation team that visited Weimar University for comment.
The university board has a choice to make. It can continue to view the president as an indispensable man, or it can lead a new path towards openness, a culture of mutual forbearance and trust, and rejoin the ranks of world-class Seventh-day Adventist faith-based accredited institutions. Otherwise, it will go back to the golden days of hydrotherapy and financial insolvency.
One way or the other, the choices made here will reverberate into eternity.
The allegation presented in the above article is serious. We, the Weimar IT Team do not take such things lightly. Upon reading the allegation that we had been requested to access users’ office email in order to discover the identities of anyone who had written anonymously to the Western Association accreditation team we undertook a careful review of all requests for service from administration over the relevant time period. We found none that could be remotely interpreted as a request for access to email content of any kind. The story author is correct in stating that we would not likely have been able to access user email accounts in the manner alleged without leaving telltale footprints. In addition both the law and our professional ethics would require us to refuse such a request. We therefore do not believe that any member of administration has either attempted or actually succeeded in accessing faculty, staff, or student emails.
Weimar IT Team
What you have failed to mention is that Neil Nedley did in fact request his IT team to “track and trace” the origin of the letter, and was denied by Mr. Swensen, who brought up the legal and ethical implications. I’m glad your lawyers have already begun writing cliched statements, as I imagine that the opportunity to do that will make itself available more often in the near future.
The “telltale footprints” is a telltale expression.
Probably the anonymus e-mail system set up by the WASC gives the possibily the users to hide their identity, if certain conditions are met. ( if they use their mobile, on their own mobile internet access, if they not using the campus Wifi, if they not synchronise e-mails etc…)
From other hands if the campus provide IT service for the students and staff, they have certain data at their hand to look after user activity. ( logs, visited websites, equipments used, location)
I am not familiar, how the IT system is set up on the campus, and also not familiar the e-mail system set up by the WASC, but from the IT point of view, yes, the IT departments usually has access such data, which may lead to identify certain user activity which can be telltale in a given case.
I am the executive administrative secretary at Weimar University and nobody from the president’s office, including Dr. Nedley, asked me to inquire about tracing any emails or complaints to our accreditor WSCUC.
What, if it was not a request, only a technical question for the IT experts, whether it is possible or not to trace back those e-mails? ( in this case, everyone’s statements are true: “no request was made from the administration” ) and who knows, if the answare was yes, whether the technical question would became a request.
We stand by our sources and maintain that Dr. Nedley made the request.
I highly doubt the request would have gone through proper channels which would have created a paper trail. The nature of such a request would most likely be verbal deliberately to avoid such damning evidence. So claiming that such a request was never made through official documented channels is a poor denial.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” This is an example of one of the core issues at Weimar University. The statements by Dora Hunter, and the Weimar IT team are, in and of themselves, correct. That is where the problems occur. An apparent “off the books” meeting occurred. Mrs. Hunter, that is why you do not have a record of the meeting. A meeting did occur with three individuals at which Dr. Nedley requested the IT department to discover who was writing negative comments to WASC. The fact that the IT team told Dr. Nedley it was not possible is interesting. It is possible (especially if they were using Weimar’s server and ISP) but even the best hacker will leave a digital footprint. I am guessing the IT department realized it was unethical and probably illegal, so they told Dr. Nedley it was not possible (good for them). So no search was conducted and therefore the IT department statement is technically correct. But the statement would suggest that the IA story is a fabrication—it is fact completely true and I would suggest that Dr. Nedley sue IA for libel and then under deposition the truth will be known by all and then Dr. Nedley, you can finally pack your bags—UNLESS the board can finally find some moxie and “get er done.”
They micromanage everything else their students do, why wouldn’t they try and figure out who is exercising their right to free speech? If they believed in reading fiction, the plot of 1984 would probably seem a little familiar to many on campus.
Yesterday in Town Hall, Dr. Nedley told us that nothing written about Weimar by IA is true. Not sure how this clown became president.
Also had a bit of a Freudian slip?? When he called all of it a “FACTitious story”.
If Weimar had any idea what was good for them they’d cut their losses and shut it down already.