STUDENT ADMITTED TO WARTBURG AFTER HOMOPHOBIC SLUR INCIDENT

SILVIA OAKLAND, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

ANNIKA WALL, MANAGING EDITOR

“The unfortunate incident I was involved in over a year ago in Modesto was very bad judgment and a mistake on my part,” Bronson Harmon, a first-year pre-law advising preference and member of the wrestling team at Wartburg College, said in reference to being captured on video yelling a homophobic slur and using an obscene gesture as a participant of the Families Belong Together March on June 30, 2018, in Modesto, California, reported by KCRA 3.

Social media posts surfaced at the beginning of the Fall Term 2019 regarding Harmon’s admission to Wartburg which alerted more students, staff, faculty and alumni to raise doubts to the college over
Harmon’s presence on campus.

“The ones [alumni] I have heard from, we have described the process and described what I believe is the heart of this issue, the college’s ability to hold two values at one time, which is the values of diversity and inclusion in one hand and redemption and forgiveness
and faith in the other,” Dr. Dan Kittle, dean of students, said.

On July 3, 2018, Harmon’s wrestling scholarship was revoked by California Polytechnic State University, however he was still admitted, in San Luis Obispo, California, according to the Modesto Bee newspaper. Harmon had signed a letter of intent in November 2017 to wrestle for California Polytechnic State.

As a faith-based institution, Wartburg is part of the Network of Colleges and Universities and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and in the Luteran tradition forgiveness along with speaking up against injustice are an important focus, according to livinglutheran.org. However, some students and alumni continue to show concern over Harmon’s presence on campus.

“That to me, the whole forgiveness part, didn’t sit well with me because if you are not a part of the marginalized community that he [Harmon] attacked, you do not have the right to forgive that action,” Todd Greer ‘19 said. “With our administration being predominantly white, male, cis-gendered and straight, they have no business in giving him forgiveness for something he did not do to their community.”

Harmon met the admission requirements to be admitted as he graduated from Oakdale High School, in Oakdale, California, according to KCRA 3, and he attended Sacramento City College in 2018 in Sacramento, California, according to a wrestling roster on sccpanthers.com.

“There are certain academic qualifications they [students] have to meet in order to be admitted and he met those,” Edith Waldstein, vice president for enrollment management, said. “When something like this comes up where it comes to our attention through other means, we do follow up on those and we have a process where we collaborate with student life with anything that might appear to be a potential issue related to being a student on a residential campus.”

Wartburg’s wrestling team, which Harmon is a member of, is preparing for the first meet of the season.

“I am a firm believer in God’s grace and second chances,” Eric Keller, Wartburg’s head wrestling coach, said. “He made a mistake. He has paid for that mistake over and over again. … I know the person Bronson is and the person he is working hard at becoming, and I think he is the kind of person who can benefit from the welcoming and inclusive Wartburg community.”

Wartburg prides itself on working on diversity and inclusion on campus and states that it is committed to creating and maintaining a respectful environment that recognizes and celebrates diversity among all students, faculty, and staff, according to wartburg.edu.

Wartburg’s community recognizes the value of diversity and fosters an environment where every student feels valued, challenged, and nurtured, according to wartburg.edu.

“I would say there were no explicit conditions of his admittance,” Kittle said. “What has happened is that there have been many conversations between Bronson and myself and Bronson and Coach Keller. We’ve taken an interest and commitment to make sure that the transition was one that was good for him and one that prepared him to be successful in the campus community.”

To view the news coverage of the original article, go to kcra.com.

“I have learned from my mistakes and have moved on,” Harmon said. “I am attending Wartburg College to better myself as a person and challenge myself academically. I am a young person, and I am asking for a second chance to prove to everyone who I really am.”

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