published Friday, September 28th, 2012

President of Bryan College apologizes for suppressing child molestation story

The entrance to Bryan College from Highway 127 in Dayton, Tenn.
The entrance to Bryan College from Highway 127 in Dayton, Tenn.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Statement from Stephen Livesay

Our goal at Bryan College is to teach our students to put Christ above all so that we can make a difference in today's world.  It means doing the right thing.

This is why we requested that our student paper not publish information regarding the resignation of a faculty member, Dr  David Morgan, this past July.  Dr. Morgan is not related to a staff member here at the college of the same name.

Here was our thinking at the time, which we communicated to the editorial staff at the Triangle.  My cabinet and I agreed that since the faculty member resigned on his own initiative, that the events surrounding the resignation occurred during the summer when students were not on campus, and that the resignation involved charges being filed, but no proof of guilt (legal matters are not the expertise of the college administration), the wisest course of action for the college and our students would be to not issue a statement beyond the fact of the resignation.

However, this week the student editor of the Triangle elected to write and distribute such a story.

As the Triangle is produced as part of a class and students receive academic credit for their participation, the Triangle falls under the supervision and authority of the administration. This being the case, we did not believe the college should put itself or its publications in the position of commenting on pending criminal or judicial matters.

In hindsight, this may have been a mistake.  We believed we were doing the right thing to protect the privacy of a man charged, but not convicted, of a crime.  We have had no reports of any inappropriate behavior involving Dr. Morgan and our students, faculty or staff during his two years at Bryan.  A thorough background check before he was hired showed a clean record.

If we have upset or offended anyone relating to this situation, we apologize.  It was not our intent.  Our intent was to look at the situation as Christians and do what was right.  As humans, we are fallible.  What we can do is learn from our mistakes.  Ultimately, we want all involved to know that we tried to do what we believed was right. Going forward, we have learned from this incident as we continue to carry

out our mission to put Christ above all and make a difference in today's world.

The president of Bryan College now admits he may have made a mistake by suppressing a student newspaper story about a professor who resigned after being arrested on charges of attempted child molestation.

"If we have upset or offended anyone relating to this situation, we apologize. It was not our intent," President Stephen Livesay said in a statement. "Our intent was to look at the situation as Christians and do what was right. As humans, we are fallible."

Alex Green, editor of the student paper, the Bryan College Triangle, wrote a story about the resignation of Biblical studies professor David Morgan, who was arrested during an FBI child molestation sting. Authorities say he was trying to meet underage girls for sex at a Fort Oglethorpe gas station.

Livesay nixed the newspaper story, saying he couldn't confirm the details of Morgan's arrest, though the article was based on public records. Green decided to distribute the story himself on Monday, placing fliers across campus with the original story.

The news quickly traveled far beyond the Dayton, Tenn., conservative Christian college and into the national spotlight.

Now the college president says that, in hindsight, his decision "may have been a mistake," though he and others tried to do the right thing.

Livesay said he originally didn't want to comment on Morgan's case because it occurred during the summer when students were not on campus, and the professor resigned on his own. He also said he wanted to protect Morgan's privacy.

Morgan passed a pre-employment background check, and no students, faculty or staff members ever accused the professor of inappropriate behavior in his two-year tenure at Bryan, Livesay said.

Though the president called a campus-wide meeting to discuss the issue on Tuesday, Green said Thursday that no punitive action has been taken against him and he has not been expelled or threatened with suspension.

Green said he feels supported by his professors, advisors and newspaper colleagues.

"I have been treated gracefully," he said.

Staff writer Joan Garrett contributed to this story.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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