GRACE Aftermath: Docs, Tweets, Images and Media Coverage


Background

We’ve rarely seen anything like the outpouring of interest in BJU activities since the bombshell GRACE report was released yesterday morning. With so much going on, here’s our summary of the various events happening in and around this landmark event.

In order to give a sense of what the report actually contains, we’ve assembled this Storify with tweets from Kimberly Kelly, a local Greenville news personality who spent much of the day yesterday tweeting highlights from the report. We are much indebted to her for this service. The hashtag #GRACEReport on Facebook and Twitter also has a good array of posts/information.

Much of the reaction so far has been disgust with Bob Jones III, Jim Berg and Bob Wood. These three, lifetime BJU leaders and anointed “men of God” all, have been revealed by the GRACE report as key actors in a “culture of fear” at BJU that prevented sexual abuse victims from getting help. In line after line of the report, top leaders of the school appeared totally ignorant of basic legal and psychological facts:

 

Of course, readers of this blog will be well aware that BJU has had issues with reporting sexual assault for decades, and that the responsibility for these lapses goes straight to the top. Last year, we reported that in 1980 two BJU officials helped cover up a similar scandal at another Christian organization using methods already long in use at BJU at that time. And evidence of BJU’s victim-blaming counseling methods was made public last year when a video of Bob Wood’s bewildering counseling methods was leaked.

Further highlighting the contents of the report, here’s an image we assembled highlighting BJU’s prior attempts to deflect criticism on these issues–deflections which have now been proven false. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Media Coverage:

 

 

WYFF Greenville also posted a video, including an interview with Steve Pettit in which the BJU President seems evasive about the accusations.

There’s also this. Apparently, legal action against the school may be coming next:

More Alumni Come Forward

Just today, we’ve seen two more interesting posts from BJU alumni who weren’t in the GRACE report discussing their experiences. Here’s a post talking about the shame and neglect abuse victims have felt:

And further cementing Bob Jones III’s position as chief University apologist (and liar), here’s a letter an alumni received in 2011 during the Chuck Phelps scandal. The alumnus sent us the letter today.

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Here’s another image that’s been brought to light today, a description of Berg’s “Crisis Management” course at BJU. As of now this page is still live on BJU’s site despite GRACE’s recommendation to remove him from the spotlight:

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Pro-BJU Reactions

Other alumni and interested parties have responded to the news in order to support the school. Sharper Iron commenters were typically dismissive, as expected. Remember that before the report several commenters predicted “a non-event.”

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While many supporters have been fairly quiet since the devastating report was released, a few have taken to Twitter to voice their positive feelings:

Also of note are the comments on these posts, both criticizing and in support of the school:

We will continue to have more coverage of the GRACE situation here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds as news comes to light. Here are a few links from this site to keep an eye on:

Here are all our posts on the GRACE story, going back several years.

Here again is audio of Bob Jones III saying publicly that BJU has always handled abuse correctly.

 

 

 

BJU Apologizes Ahead of “Painful” 300-Page GRACE Report, Bob Wood Scrubbed From BJU Site


Here are all of our posts on the two-year GRACE investigation.

Here’s the chapel message where Bob Jones III said BJU has always handled sexual abuse situations correctly.

It’s been an eventful day for Bob Jones University and its supporters/detractors, as early this morning it was announced the full GRACE report will be released (and made available for download) tomorrow morning at 11am EST. Let’s run down today’s many developments:

At 8AM this morning Boz Tchividjian, Executive Director of GRACE, tweeted that details of the report’s release would be coming soon:

A few hours later, GRACE published this .pdf announcing the timing of the release, as well as hinting at its scope and “painful” contents:

This was followed by a flurry of media attention:

About an hour after the announcement, BJU President Steve Pettit took the stage during BJU Chapel to officially announce the report’s release to the University. BJU made the video and transcript of this sessions available afterwards:

Note: although the University has published that video publicly, we have obtained our own copy of the audio from a source who was present today. In the event that BJU decides to delete its copy of this meeting, ours is available here for listening.

Reactions to the announcement from alumni and other affected parties were as diverse as you would expect:

These responses come from the University’s Facebook page:

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Clearly, GRACE has taken nearly two years to produce this report for a reason: it appears to be exhaustive and comprehensive. At 300 pages, it promises to provide months worth of analysis for all sides. Just as clear is that the report will contain disturbing, possibly even shocking details.

In another fascinating development, it appears that BJU is scrubbing information about former Executive Vice President Bob Wood from its site. Wood’s former profile appeared here but has been deleted. Wood is now only listed as a member of the Board of Trustees. Although possibly a coincidence, it appears BJU is distancing itself from Wood in light of the GRACE report because of this embarrassing video which surfaced last year.

To sum up: The 300-page GRACE report, the culmination of two years of work on the part of GRACE and victims, will finally be released tomorrow despite BJU’s shocking attempt to derail it last winter. All that remains now is to wait.

Confirmed: Stephen Jones Is Now An “Antiques Curator”


Perhaps our earlier speculation about Stephen Jones’ burgeoning career in academia was incorrect. It’s been confirmed that the former BJU President is now the proprietor of an antiques shop in downtown Greenville.

This week, a tipster sent this picture to the watchdog Facebook group Truth-Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones:

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This interesting but unconfirmed bit of news was augmented by a separate tipster who sent us this picture today of the same location:

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All of this was mere conjecture until yet another anonymous source (lots of helpful people these days) sent us this email, from the BJU President’s office:

So, there you go. Stephen Jones is now an art curator.

 

Is Stephen Jones Preparing for a Career in Education?


Stephen Jones has kept pretty quiet since his resignation from the BJU Presidency. Apart from a few Instagram posts detailing his world travels (paid for by the BJU Board), his only public statements have come via his blog. That blog has primarily been a place for Jones to offer advice to young Christians, via posts named “Letters To a Young Friend,” though he’s also used it to denounce critics (and claim he’s not denouncing them).

But over the last week or so, three separate tipsters have sent us information that leads us to think the former BJU President might be looking to launch a career in the education industry. According to the screenshots sent our way, Jones is introducing himself to dozens of friends and even strangers on professional social network LinkedIn as an “Education Management Professional”:

Like we said above, several different anonymous sources have told us they’ve received the above email. And another screenshot of Jones’ LinkedIn profile (only visible to his LinkedIn contacts) shows he has indeed been connecting with scores of new people recently:

Would Jones be a good hire for an educational organization in South Carolina or elsewhere? It’s hard to say. Jones clearly has experience as the head of a large University, but it’s also just as clear that his education and experience really only prepare him to lead BJU. His degrees are all from the school and therefore unaccredited. There’s also the issue of nepotism; Jones didn’t attain his position as BJU President through his qualifications only. We’ll keep tabs on any further developments with Jones’ aspirations. If you have more updates on any of this, feel free to drop us a line.

 

BJU Sends Out Two New Fundraising Letters as Financial Situation Deteriorates


It looks like the dire words of warning about BJU’s financial outlook from its previous President are holding true under the current President.

BJU issued this week not one but two new fundraising letters to select graduates, the details of which have been provided to BJU News by a kind tipster. The first letter asks grads to contribute to the school’s Scholarship Fund; gifts which will, the letter says, be matched by “The Board” up to $500,000. New school President Steve Pettit employs the scare tactics and questionable logic that have been the hallmark of BJU promotional materials for nearly 100 years. Here’s the letter in five pictures:

The second letter, which we published earlier today to lengthy discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages, concerns the Museum and Gallery. It has apparently recently had the misfortune of losing one of its major donors, and BJU is asking graduates to pick up the slack–to the tune of $300,000. Read below:

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Now, there’s certainly nothing unusual about a school asking for donations from its constituency, and anyone affiliated with BJU can tell you that the school has a long history of tracking down addresses in order to send out letters like these (even if it sometimes forgets to inform the same people of its public scandals via these methods). But taken in context of recent revelations about the University’s indulgent spending on flashy events and activities, and combined with the constant undertone of worry about enrollment, these kinds of donation requests now take on a different tone. It remains to be seen how the outcome of the GRACE investigation (in just three weeks) will impact these issues.

Former BJU Faculty Member: Costly Fine Arts Productions Weigh Heavy on BJU’s Budget


A former BJU music faculty member contacted BJU News this week with information regarding the cost of the school’s lavish fine arts productions. The information is interesting in light of BJU’s continued enrollment issues and financial struggles.

According to this former music faculty member, BJU productions typically cost between $1-2 million each to stage.  Operas occupy the upper end of this spectrum, with our source estimating that the recent production of “Aida” in particular was most likely in the $2 million range.

BJU has not shied away from discussing the grandeur of its productions–in fact, the school uses its lavish fine arts style as a key selling point. Consider just these two recent quotes:

Greenville News, “BJU Stages Towering Production of Verdi Opera ‘Aida‘”:

For the university, the production is a milestone, featuring not only a well-known conductor but five guest singers, all new sets and costumes, and a student cast of 213 on the stage of Rodeheaver Auditorium.

“I’ve directed most of the big operas here, and this is the biggest cast I’ve ever worked with,” said stage director Darren Lawson.

“Sometimes it’s like herding cats because it’s so massive,” he added, with a laugh. “But it’s a great cast. We’ll also have 50 musicians in the orchestral pit and a huge crew backstage. I was planning for the cast party the other day, and I’m expecting 370 at the party. That’s a lot of cake.”

BJU Collegian: “‘Aida’ to be Grand Opera At Its Finest

This semester’s presentation of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida will be the largest opera production ever to take place at Bob Jones University, with more actors, costumes and unique set pieces than ever before…

…“this is grand opera at its finest,” Lawson said.  “I know of no other universities that can pull off a production of this magnitude.”

What’s clear from these recent examples is that BJU’s recent troubles are not causing the school’s leadership to reconsider its tradition of hosting massive, costly productions. If anything, these expenses are growing.

Relevant recent events:

A year ago this week, Stephen Jones told faculty that the school’s finances were in a desperate state.

BJU’s attempt at attaining regional accreditation, a crucial part of its attempt to remain relevant, is dependent on the school’s financial stability.

BJU News revealed only days ago that the cost of University’s sports program jumped more than 15% in the last year to nearly $1 million annually.

By the school’s own admission, enrollment has been in significant decline for years.

Relations with the public and with some alumni continue to deteriorate.

 

 

 

Bruin Expenditures Near $1 Million for 2014 Fiscal Year


BJU’s spending on its Bruins sports program has reached nearly $1 million in the past year, according to a US DOE report:

This is about a 15% increase from last year,  the first year Bruins financial data was available.

The data can be viewed by searching for Bob Jones University from this landing page on the DOE site. Also of note are the average salaries BJU pays its coaches:

One last number: the DOE puts BJU’s undergrad enrollment at 2,691.