Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Chi Alpha comes under fire for sexual assault allegations

UTSA Dean of Students urges students to report Chi Alpha concerns
Dustin Vickers
UTSA Chi Alpha hosts their first Thursday Night Live event of the semester

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries recently came under fire in the media after Texas A&M’s student newspaper, The Battalion, revealed the organization’s connection to registered sex offender Daniel Savala in May. Chi Alpha has ministries on 276 campuses nationwide, including at UTSA. 

Savala was arrested in June in Houston by the U.S. Marshal’s Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, acting on a Waco Police Department Warrant. His arrest was connected to the arrest of the former minister of the Baylor chapter of Chi Alpha, Chris Hundl, which occurred less than two weeks earlier. Both individuals were charged with the continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Following Hundl’s arrest, Baylor University suspended all Chi Alpha campus operations based on “potential violations of university event planning and registration guidelines.”

In July, William Robinson, a pastor working for the Chi Alpha chapter in Corpus Christi, was charged with a first-degree felony of the continuous sexual abuse of a child. He pleaded not guilty to the charge. 

Statement from Chi Alpha Campus Ministries

When The Paisano asked Chi Alpha Campus Ministries for a comment on the allegations, they stated that the safety of the people they serve and their ministry environments is their top priority and that they “take seriously any allegations of threats to that safety.” 

“When the allegations associated with Daniel Savala first surfaced, the South Texas District Council of the Assemblies of God (STXAG) immediately appointed a special committee from the South Texas District Executive Presbytery to investigate these serious allegations and STXAG retained the law firm, Foley & Lardner LLP, to conduct a thorough investigation,” Jerry Gibson, a local church specialist for Chi Alpha, said. “UTSA Chi Alpha has been cooperating with those efforts and participating in the investigation.” 

Gibson explained that “the UTSA Chi Alpha Director was also placed on leave and relieved of his responsibilities with UTSA Chi Alpha pending the completion of the investigation” and that they are in the process of identifying an interim director.

Reporting process at UTSA

UTSA has not yet made a public statement regarding the organization’s status on campus. When The Paisano initially contacted the university for comment, they stated that “Savala has no connection with [UTSA’s Chi Alpha chapter] and has never been on campus to [their] knowledge.”

When The Paisano brought the information mentioned in this article to UTSA’s Chief Communications Officer Joe Izbrand and LT Robinson, Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, they explained that the university was not aware of these developments, stressing the importance of students reporting what they see or experience. 

Robinson urges students who have any concerns or experiences regarding Chi Alpha at UTSA to report them at Concerns regarding abuse should be reported to the Equal Opportunity Services (EOS) and Title IX Office at The EOS and Title IX website also offers resources for victims of sexual violence.

 “It’s really important to understand that as information comes to the university, we take it very seriously and everything is investigated thoroughly,” Izbrand said.

In sharing more about the process that takes place when UTSA receives a concern about a student organization, Robinson explained “if [the complaint] is against an organization, it will go to Student Activities, and the Student Activities team will investigate.” Complaints against an individual are investigated by the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office. 

Robinson further stated that these offices “work in combination to follow up to see if there are any code violations,” looking for additional information and witnesses if necessary. “There is no wrong door approach for students to report these types of incidents,” she said. “If they reach out to Student Conduct, or if they reach out to the UTSA Police Department, we all work together as a team.” 

Former member creates public forum for victims

Ron Bloomingkemper, a member of the Chi Alpha chapter at Sam Houston State University in the mid-1990s, helped create a public forum for victims of sexual and spiritual abuse by Savala called “XA and the Lion’s Den.” 

Bloomingkemper shared several resources that connect UTSA’s Chi Alpha chapter to Savala and his teachings, including an archived website from 2013 that endorses Savala’s personal website. He also shared several screenshots showing that Savala was in communication with Chi Alpha leaders at UTSA in the early 2010s, including a photo that he believes was Savala on the UTSA campus. Bloomingkemper also connected The Paisano with individuals who were involved in the chapter around this time.

A Dallas law firm representing Savala’s alleged victims, Scheef & Stone, LLP, sent a letter in April to the Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, University of Houston System, University of Texas System and Rice University explaining Savala’s involvement with Chi Alpha and the campuses with Chi Alpha chapters. The letter demands that the recipients take immediate action to address Chi Alpha’s “ongoing formal or informal relationships with Daniel Savala before more people get hurt.”

In the letter, attorney Mitch Little asserts that “if Chi Alpha’s ongoing disregard for its students continues and requires expulsion of the organization from every single campus, so be it.”

Allegations from former members from UTSA

One of these individuals is Lindsay, a former UTSA student who requested that only her first name be used. Lindsay began attending Chi Alpha meetings in 2010, during her sophomore year at UTSA. “What drew me in was the familiarity of organized religion and the desperate need to find a place to belong,” Lindsay said. She explained that her first year as a member was great, but she began noticing changes in the behaviors of the leaders and pastors when she became a small-group leader. 

For example, Lindsay described how members were required to get “approval” from a UTSA campus pastor before they were allowed to date somebody. According to Lindsay, Chi Alpha leaders expected small-group leaders to put Chi Alpha before all other priorities, including school, work and social activities. She explained how students were discouraged from seeking other extra-curricular activities and internships, and that some students even changed their major so that they could prioritize their group. “Those who didn’t prioritize their small group or Chi Alpha were rarely acknowledged or were made to seem less spiritual and with a ‘rebellious spirit.’”

“[We] were discouraged from leaving a group gathering early in order to study, facing backlash from our leaders and staff in the form of emotional and spiritual manipulation,” Lindsay said. 

 “[Chi Alpha] caused a lot of pain, shame and lack of focus for my future,” she said. “I hit the hardest years of my life after graduating. But, I found some of my best friends there [and] spent many nights laughing, dancing, and just being a college student.”

According to Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, UTSA campus pastor Johnny Hauck was placed on leave pending the results of their investigation. On the Chi Alpha Campus Ministry website, Hauck is currently listed as the point of contact for the UTSA Chi Alpha Chapter.

Another former member of UTSA’s Chi Alpha chapter, Kieran Salgado, was introduced to Savala in 2011 by a UTSA campus missionary. Over the next few years, Salgado developed a close relationship with Savala and often consulted him for guidance, unaware that he was a registered sex offender.

In 2013, while visiting Savala’s home in Houston, Salgado confessed some of his struggles with pornography. He recounted how Savala related to his struggles and said that he does not consider them to be a sin. “In my mind [at the time], it’s like ‘wow, you can still be at the highest level, still have these struggles and still serve God,’” Salgado said.

Salgado alleges that Savala then invited the student into his backyard sauna, where he required all visitors to remove their clothing before entering. Salgado recalls not being too phased by this, as he claims the UTSA Chi Alpha chapter often promoted the phrase “nudity is unity,” and instances like this were not uncommon, he said. Salgado, who filed a police report this year, alleges that Savala spoke about and touched the student’s genitals in an attempt to “normalize” nudity and sexuality while in the sauna. 

Salgado says he brought the incident to a trusted figure within Chi Alpha, but that the outcome of this interaction caused him to not formally report the incident for a decade. He transferred from UTSA to UT Arlington, and then to Texas Christian University.

Although Salgado has since processed the assault, he recounts how distraught he was at the time. “I was all teary-eyed, thinking ‘Was this all real?’ Like, I thought I met God. I trusted the people who led me to God, and then this happens, and in my mind, there’s no way anybody would believe me.”

Salgado recalls how Savala referred to himself as a “traveling evangelist” in order to evade investigation from the churches and campuses he was working with. “He would use the excuse that he didn’t want to tie his name to an organization, but really, it’s because they would find him out,” Salgado said. “He doesn’t work, he gets money from people like me for his advice, for his wisdom, for his bible knowledge.”

In Chi Alpha’s statement to The Paisano, Gibson also said that STXAG has established an email, [email protected], for anyone to report information regarding the allegations against Savala and assist in their investigations.

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About the Contributors
Jessica McLaren
Jessica McLaren, News Editor
Jessica McLaren is a senior digital communications student. She is from Austin, Texas, and she has been working with The Paisano for several years now — first as a staff writer and now as the News Editor. Though she has loved to write for virtually her entire life, Jess only recently discovered her passion for visual design through her studies at UTSA. She values open-mindedness and compassion and believes the media is a powerful tool that can be used to strengthen the forces of humanity if used mindfully. Once she graduates, Jess plans to use her expertise in writing, editing and design to help people better understand themselves and the world around them by creating compelling and engaging communication campaigns as a self-employed writer and designer. When she’s not writing an article or researching for one, you can usually find her reading a book about philosophy with a good cup of coffee.
Dustin Vickers
Dustin Vickers, Photo Editor
Dustin (He/Him) is a third-year medical humanities major with a concentration in health careers. After graduation, he plans on attending medical school in hopes of becoming an emergency radiologist. When he’s out of the classroom, he is helping run the swim club with his co-president, blasting some sick beats, or looking for a good spot to grub.

Comments (2)

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  • S

    S.SSep 13, 2023 at 11:08 pm

    To the Paisano,
    Thank you for bringing this issue to light. People have been hurt and it seems they have been silent because they felt like maybe no one would believe them just like what was mentioned from the personal story in the article. Hopefully this article allows others to also share their story and start their healing journey.

  • J

    J.L.Sep 13, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    Several statements by the university are outright false. There are photos of Savala on campus at UTSA. At least one of these was already forwarded to the university. Several small groups held XA meetings with him and actively advertised him as a mentor to the organization.