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 uses 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:


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.


Pettit Says Re-Gaining Tax-Exempt Status Essential to “University’s Future” in New Leaked Audio

BJU President Steve Pettit Announced a surprise new initiative for the school during last week’s “State of the University Q&A“, held on-campus for students and alumni. Pettit told the small gathering of BJU supporters that the school is looking to regain its tax-exempt status, which it lost in 1983 after the US Supreme Court found that BJU could not claim a First Amendment right to tax exemption since the University’s policies on racial discrimination were contrary to US policy.

We have been sent audio of this private meeting which were are including below, and on our Leaked Files page as always. Other meeting topics included enrollment growth, accreditation, and dorm remolding. Notably, the GRACE investigation (now on hold until November of this year) was not mentioned.

Six Questions About the Impending GRACE Report

As the promised date of completion for the GRACE investigation of BJU nears, here are six questions we are pondering:

1. Will GRACE specifically implicate high-ranking BJU officials in its findings? We’ve heard reports over the last few weeks that GRACE will not be afraid to name names in its report, but it remains to be seen whether administrators like Jim Berg will have their dirty laundry aired. GRACE could opt instead to describe systemic abuse and mismanagement at the school without including details about individual staff. There’s been rumors that disagreement over this decision was what led to BJU’s temporary firing of GRACE earlier this year, but no confirmation.

2. What scope will the report have? For instance, will GRACE only consider on-campus incidents and reports, or will it also explore related situations such as Jim Berg’s questionable “abuse counseling ministry?”

3. Will BJU attempt to spin the report’s findings, or accept them and seek to change? Since the investigation began, BJU has repeatedly stated its only goal is to learn from the report and address any mistakes it’s made. However, those familiar with the school’s history have reason to wonder what response a damning GRACE report will elicit. A battle over the report’s findings would doubtless be damaging to BJU’s reputation, but it’s not inconceivable: the two organizations traded social media posts expressing “disappointment” in each other during the firing fiasco earlier this year. And BJU’s unfortunate descriptions of victims (see “underserved”) may indicate a lack of willingness to accept culpability. Another interesting caveat is Bob Jones III’s very public claim that the school has never mismanaged any case of abuse in its history. How will the school reconcile that claim with the report?

4. How will alumni and supporters of the school react if the report is wide-ranging and devastating? We’ve seen supporters defend BJU in dire situations before, but a report showing a long history of abuse mismanagement would likely still be a big blow. For several years now, BJU has been attempting to rehab its public image: social media efforts, a new mascot and sports program, relaxed rules, a non-Jones president, showing movies on campus–regardless of how you view these efforts, there’s no doubt the school’s intent has been to appear more welcoming. A bombshell from GRACE would set the school back years in terms of reputation, and require a massive new PR campaign. With declining enrollment and SACS watching closely, it may simply be too late even for that.

5. How and when will alumni be notified of the report’s findings? Who will do the notifying, BJU or GRACE? It would seem natural that BJU would send letters and/or email to alumni explaining what GRACE publishes, in addition to social media. However, the organization that sends out the notifications could also seek to control the spin. If BJU is allowed to exclusively notify interested parties, there’s the distinct possibility that the news will be softened, or that not everyone will be contacted.

6. Will media coverage be sufficient to force BJU to implement major change? Depending on who you believe, BJU has repeatedly been convinced to change its policies due to media scrutiny–from the miscegenation controversy to their firing/re-hiring of GRACE, BJU is always aware (if scornful) of media attention. We saw a historic amount of media coverage earlier this year when BJU fired GRACE, so it’s likely than any GRACE report (especially one critical of BJU) would be similarly well-covered. The question is whether or not the coverage reaches a critical mass that puts BJU administrators on the hot seat and requires action.