Update: After we leaked the audio from today, BJU has uploaded a video from this meeting to its website. It’s available here, along with an expanded statement.
A tipster has sent us audio from this morning’s private meeting at BJU, where Stephen Jones spoke to faculty, staff and students about the school’s termination of the G.R.A.C.E. investigation. We’ve prepared a transcript also. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
...and the knowledge of best practices for how to handle abuse once it becomes known and how to help abuse victims. So as a result of those best practices and the understanding that had grown, at the board's urging, we wrote, we did the research and then we rewrote our policies about sexual abuse, making them more easily understood and printed them in both the student and faculty and staff handbooks. So that was to deal with from that point forward, helping us deal with it in the best way possible. And then we initiated a project, and it is a project that we are going to complete whether it's with GRACE or with another organization. So I want you to understand that. This is a project that we're still committed to. We initiated a project to look back - the policies and all were looking forward -but to look back at any instances in which it was alleged that the university may have underserved the student who reported abuse at some point in their lives. Now I want to be clear, the review was initiated completely on our own. It was not spurred because of any existing smoking gun or allegation of abuse that we were responding to. And the vast majority of those instances of which we were aware, and have been aware of as an institution, involved abuse from sometime in the student's life before they arrived at BJU. But the committee, the same one - the board that did the review of best practices, helped us revise the handbooks- they also recommended that we engage an independent ombudsman to do this for us, to do this kind of investigation looking back at any allegations of abuse that might exist. So now let me give you the background, what led us to GRACE. It was the only Christian organization of which we were aware that engaged in things like this. So in 2012, we contracted with them engaging GRACE as an independent ombudsman. Our objectives, which we outlined from the start, were to evaluate how we have handled or counseled students who reported they had been abused at some point in their lives and to adjust our policies and procedures if necessary. So to look back at how those had been handled and counseled previously and to make any adjustments necessary, again, moving forward. And then the second outlined objective was to appropriately reach out to those from the past who may have been underserved, that in the past we didn't counsel them correctly or we could have taken better care of them in their situation and in dealing with it. But over just the past months, the last several months, we grew concerned that in the process GRACE had begun going beyond the originally outlined intentions. And so we wanted to sit down and talk about them, because they had gone askew. And so we terminated our agreement with GRACE, so that we can sit down and get it back on track. And that was the entire intention of terminating the agreement and if you look on it, instead of on GRACE's web site or ours, that's clear in my letter of termination. Now since the termination, we have intended to immediately negotiate a new contract with GRACE that would enable them to complete the review to achieve our objectives. And we've been involved in a number of good faith conversations with GRACE since delivering the termination letter and we were working with them, have been working with them, are still working with them on setting a date to sit down with them up in Lychburg where they're based. And it's disappointing that we were not able to have that conversation and reach agreement and continue the process before GRACE went public with it. We have not shared the reasons for our termination at this point, from a distance. We have not done them point by point with GRACE or with anybody else because that needs to happen at the table so that we can fully explain it and can have the opportunity to hear it there for the first time. And that's the reason that we haven't shared the, the reasons, the specific reasons for the termination, because we've asked to meet with GRACE - they're our partner in this - and it would be unfair to share it with others before we share it with them. And so those are the reasons, just because it's between GRACE and BJU and the contract that we have, and it's not for airing to the public. But we have to and we're committed to sitting down and talking collaboratively through what we see have been growing differences. Now let me share something. It's our assumption, that if in this process, since 2012, that if GRACE had become aware of any information that could potentially give rise to reporting obligations, so if they had come upon anything new that required reporting, they would have immediately reported such facts to BJU but GRACE has not made us aware of any such matter. Now going forward, as I said, we are committed to achieving our original objectives and if we have underserved students in the past through counseling or the handling of the situation to be able to go to them and to make that right. So we remain committed to achieving those original objectives, and we are committed to moving forward with an independent third party, whether we're able to reach agreement with GRACE or someone else, to finish the project and publish a public report. That has always been the understanding and the intent and that remains so today. And we're concerned, and I'm most greatly concerned today for the people who've been interviewed in the process, which is one of the reasons we wanted to deal with GRACE, be able to have this conversation and move forward, because there are people who shared horrific personal stories of abuse with GRACE. In doing so many went back to their childhood and related extremely painful memories, and GRACE has done a great job of making those people feel at home, and secure, and free to share those stories. We're grateful that they have. And I just want to reiterate that we are committed, remain committed to identifying and reaching out to those individuals. We didn't serve them as best we could, to ask their forgiveness and to make it right with them. So in closing, let me reiterate, there is nothing being covered up. If we wanted to cover up we wouldn't have initiated an investigation with an ombudsman. We initiated this process. We are committed to see it to completion and I want to also emphasize once again that we care deeply about the individuals and about the families involved. And we are committed to honoring the Lord in the way that we deal with this as we continue to move forward to achieve the objectives that we started out. So I hope that helps your understanding and I hope that helps you know that our commitment has not changed. But we just need to sit down with our partner and be allowed to share there the ways in which we think that this has diverged from our original agreement and understanding so that we can move forward again. Right, and I'll ask Mr. Franklin to come..