February 11, 2004
students warned not to comment on rumors
students are told they can only respond to questions of
alleged investigations of faculty members by saying they
are not allowed to comment.
A Brite Divinity School administrator has threatened to
take disciplinary action against students who comment
on possible allegations regarding complaints against faculty
The warning came in a mass e-mail Friday to Brite students
containing a message from Bryan Feille, the associate
dean of student affairs. Feille told students that if
they are asked about alleged investigations and
the outcomes, they can only say that its Brites
policy not to comment on investigations, to protect all
parties. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by the TCU
Any student who answers differently will be subject
to disciplinary action, the e-mail states.
Feilles warning comes in the wake of a regional
church investigation of alleged sexual misconduct by Brites
director of field education Stephen Sprinkle, as detailed
in court affidavits from various Christian Church officials.
The affidavits were submitted in response to a petition
requesting depositions filed by Sprinkle in October. Among
those who submitted an affidavit is Ben Hubert, who Sprinkle
says barred him from interviewing ministerial candidates
because Sprinkle is gay.
Brite conducts its own investigations into accusations
of sexual misconduct. Ann Sewell, Brites sexual
harassment officer, said there are no ongoing investigations
against anyone. She would not comment on any other questions,
including whether Sprinkle was accused of sexually harassing
Sewell sent an e-mail to all Brite students, faculty and
staff Thursday telling students there is no ongoing investigation.
Sewells e-mail also asks that all inappropriate
rumor or innuendo stop.
Feille said Tuesday he sent the e-mail to restate Brites
policy of confidentiality for anything concerning complaints
or investigations in the school.
Anything regarding an investigation is not to be
talked about, he said. We have no investigation
going on, period.
Media law experts said that Brite has the authority to
enforce the warning.
Whatever the e-mail says goes, said Adam Goldstein,
a news media legal fellow for the Student Press Law Center.
They can make any rules they want.
Mark Goodman, SPLCs executive director, said Brite
is not limited by the First Amendment because it is a
private school. At a public institution there is no way
such a policy could be enforced, he said.
Feille said the Brite policy was to protect everyone involved
in possible investigations and the policy will be enforced
according to the procedures for student misconduct.
When asked if this e-mail might be infringing on students
First Amendment right of free speech, Feille said he wasnt
sure of the technicalities regarding the law. The e-mail
is meant to discourage students from spreading rumors,
Free speech doesnt give you the right to yell
fire in a crowded theater, Feille said.