Ave Maria Student Speaks Out About Homophobia, Harassment, and Death Threats

Page 2 of 2

"Mr. Hemminger clearly has an agenda, and his claims about his alleged treatment at Ave Maria University advances that agenda," the university said in a statement sent to Riptide. "Ave Maria University is proud of its warm and welcoming campus culture, and our growing enrollment is testimony to the fact that students who attend here are having an excellent experience."

Hemminger grew up in a blue-collar farming community in northwestern Ohio. He was six-foot-three and a devout Catholic. He was also openly gay.

"I had always been out of the closet, although I never really liked that term," he says. "It had never occurred to me that there were people out there who would hate me because of that."

He was in for a rude awakening at Ave Maria.

Hemminger was working at a bank in Ohio when he began receiving scholarship offers from the brand-new university. The financial aid offer was tempting enough to lure him to the middle of nowhere 1,000 miles south. "They are very aggressive about recruiting people because they have to be," he says.

He drove down with his mom and sister. The first sign that something was wrong, however, came when Hemminger was registering for classes in the library.

"The girl in front of me was seven or eight months pregnant," he recalls. "She introduced herself but then said, 'That's not my real name. I'm not telling anybody my real name because I'm giving the baby up for adoption.'

"She was in some program where, if you get pregnant, they'll give you a new identity," Hemminger says. "She told all friends she was studying in Europe for the semester. She was given a fake name and was living with a woman in the town.

"I just thought, That's insane! What that girl told me was insane!"

But that was only the beginning of Hemminger's problems.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.