ORU holds woman’s education hostage
by Sara Ritsch
Sabrina Bradford owes over $14,000 in student debt because of her open and active sexual orientation. To this day, she wonders whether she will obtain her last nine hours of schooling from anti-LGBT Oral Roberts University in order to transfer to the University of Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, she will never know the result of her trials – unless she divorces her wife, who suffers from a chronic illness.
After years of attendance at ORU while maintaining her relationship with Ophelia, they were legally wed in 2015.
“The fact is, [gay marriage] is finally legal,” Bradford tells The Gayly. “I am legally married to my wife. It’s not shacking up with somebody, it’s not random. It’s more than breaking honor code. I was in this relationship before attending ORU.”
The ORU student honor code states, “I will not engage in or attempt to engage in any illicit, unscriptural sexual acts, which include any homosexual activity and sexual intercourse with one who is not my spouse through traditional marriage of one man and one woman.”
The honor code is offered every semester as a renewed “personal commitment,” but Bradford signed this honor code once in 2011 and then never again.
She was already deep in her enrollment as a student at ORU and in a relationship with her now wife, Ophelia, when it was given to her. ORU makes no mention of this pledge or its legalities in the exchange with Bradford.
“They [ORU] make every student sign the honor code,” said Randy Roberts Potts, openly gay grandson of founder Oral Roberts. “I don't know if the honor code is a legal document.”
According to Potts, ORU is no longer operated by the Roberts family. It is now controlled by the biblical billionaire Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel Corp. Mart Green, son of David Green, is Chair of the ORU Board of Trustees.
In the Fall of 2011, Bradford first enrolled at ORU.
According to a transcript given by Bradford’s attorney, Alyssa Bryant, “[On Aug. 25, 2015] The ORU financial aid advisor asked for information about Ms. Bradford’s spouse. In this discussion, Ms. Bradford referred to her wife using feminine pronouns.”
The day after that meeting, Bradford received an email from the Vice President for Student Life, Dr. Daniel Guajardo. It reads, in part, that new information “necessitates that you meet with Student Life before continuing to pursue the registration process.”
In a meeting with both Guajardo and Lori Cook, Dean of Women, Bradford was asked about the nature of her relationship with Ophelia Bradford. According to the transcript, “When Sabrina confirmed that Ophelia is her wife, Sabrina was told that she could not enroll at ORU. Guajardo stated that she was not expelled or suspended but could not return to classes until further notice.”
The meeting entirely consisted of questions about her lesbian relationship.
Bradford contacted the University of Oklahoma. She immediately told Guajardo that OU requested documentation to explain the suspension or expulsion.
This documentation never came, despite her requirements. Guajardo responded, “To clarify...You were neither suspended nor expelled...”
She demanded, “No it does not [clarify] because I need to complete my degree and I need written clarification as to why ORU will not be allowing the completion of my degree so that I can complete the transfer to OU.”
Guajardo requested to reschedule their meeting and to send her back to the Dean of Women. However, according to the transcript given by attorney Bryant, “Dean Cook’s secretary called Ms. Bradford and declined the meeting.”
The grievance process never ensued.
Devastated and defeated after a semester-long process, Bradford moved to Connecticut.
“The pressure of the loss of her degree and the job which was awaiting her [from the Social Work program] had, by now, placed a strain on her marriage,” the transcript reads.
Dr. Lanny Endicott, a professor with whom Bradford had significant friendly contact, attempted to work with her on a solution. He informed Bradford that Guajardo needed documentation that she would get a divorce.
Sabrina texted Endicott, “I made my decision, I will not be returning to Oklahoma to continue my relationship with Ophelia and if possible I would like to take the online options for classes so I can complete my degree in May with ORU.”
A “sample letter” was produced. Bradford rewrote and sent the letter to Dr. Kenneth Weed, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, which stated that she would file for divorce, and which requested her reinstatement at ORU.
Unfortunately, she found out the divorce must first be finalized. Guajardo wrote:
“Please know that we are in prayer concerning your relocation and situation. We are trusting God that He will work everything out on your behalf including the termination of the marital relationship as mentioned in your email. Please let us know when this proceeding is complete so we can continue the dialogue.”
Months of silence ensued, as ORU declined all dialogue until she completed her divorce.
As of December 1, 2015, the last conversation Bradford had with her school was that no dialogue would continue until her marriage was terminated. Because they never suspended nor expelled her, Bradford was unable to complete the grievance process at ORU.
“This isn’t even guaranteeing her reenrollment,” Bryant says. “It’s, ‘we’ll discuss this at that time.’”
Bradford remained in Connecticut to raise her child. Ophelia remained in Oklahoma, where she is being treated for cancer. The strain on their marriage is close to defeating.
In a shocking turn of events, Bradford received a letter from the OU School of Social Work.
Bradford was going to be a student worker for OU’s Child Welfare Professional Enhancement Program (CWPEP). Since she was neither suspended nor expelled from ORU but banned from reenrolling, Bradford had been resigned from the CWPEP program. The letter reads:
“I have been advised that you have left the ORU BSW program prior to graduating and, therefore, you cannot fulfill your employment obligation to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. CWPEP has paid a total of $14,256 on your behalf for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years.
“...you must pay this back within 12 months from the time you leave the BSW program. You can pay in one lump sum or you can pay $1188/month for 12 months beginning April 1, 2016 and ending March 1, 2017...”
As of today, Bradford’s grievance process has yet to be completed by ORU. She has not been informed of an official suspension or expulsion. But her inability to reenroll has barred her from her job at the CWPEP, resulting in an unpayable debt. She is unable to fulfill her post-graduate plans. She has not yet filed for divorce.
She is instead left in limbo, with a monthly debt, a sick wife and a struggling marriage. ORU would rather she get an unscriptural divorce rather than keep her relationship alive.
Although this appears to be a violation of Title IX, The Gayly is still awaiting documentation of ORU’s federal funding.
“Some Christians believe you can love anyone and that we are all made in God’s image, and that who you love is who you love. Others say no, strictly man and woman. That’s it,” Bradford says. “But I believe you love who you love.
“The rug has been ripped from under my feet completely. Everything was surrounding my graduation. All of my plans changed. My son, my wife, my family all revolved around graduating. It’s just unfair, completely. I just want my degree.”
The Gayly - 5/2/2016 @ 4:18 p.m. CDT