Oral Roberts University
During the second semester of Andrew Hartzler’s junior year at Oral Roberts University in January 2020, he received a phone call from the Dean of Students, requesting an urgent meeting.
Andrew arrived at the meeting, with two deans informing him that someone had reported him for “homosexual activity.”
A few weeks before, Andrew had brought his partner, who did not attend ORU to his dorm room. He registered him properly and he did not spend the night.
But even still, the Dean told Andrew that this was his warning. He was no longer allowed to have non-university visitors and would be forced to meet weekly with a dean for the rest of the semester to “hold him accountable.”
“I remember a Dean asking, ‘Why did you want to come to ORU?’ as if she was trying to
figure out why a gay person would go to ORU,” he recalls. “I explained that I did not have a choice in which university I attended.”
Like many LGBTQ students who grow up in religious, conservative households, Andrew’s choice for college was dictated by his parents’ religious beliefs.
As he went to leave the Dean’s office, she asked him to sign a form – which, upon reading it, would have granted the university the right to call his parents to report this so-called incident. Andrew refused to sign.
At his first mandatory weekly meeting with the Dean, Andrew felt like he was back in the conversion therapy program he had been forced into as a child.
“The Dean instructed me to read several verses from the Bible which he referenced while condemning me for my suspected romantic encounters with other men. The Dean pressured me for names and information about other students at ORU who were, as he said, ‘struggling with their identity,’ saying that I was ‘allowing them to suffer in Hell’ if I did not reveal their names so that such students could receive ‘help.’”
Andrew ultimately confided in his parents and was hurt that they took ORU’s side.
“I felt alone. My mind began unconsciously finding itself trapped in dark corners that hadn’t been visited for years.
“It was during this time at ORU that I entered one of the darkest seasons of my life where suicidal ideations clouded my ability to find joy in life. I lost a significant amount of weight, becoming the lightest I have ever been. I couldn’t fall asleep at night and had difficulty finding a reason to get out of bed.
“I think that this experience was even more significant than my time at a conversion
therapy camp because college is highly anticipated, at least for gay youth, as a place
where one can finally be true to themselves and explore one’s sexuality.”
Thankfully, Andrew was able to push through and graduate with his degree in Psychology in May 2021. He now works as a Case Manager at a psychiatric facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He joined REAP’s lawsuit because he is determined to fight for a world where no LGBTQ student suffers the same discrimination, abuse and depression he endured while at ORU.
“I am thankful to be a survivor of Oral Roberts University’s discrimination and harassment on the basis of my sexual orientation.”