What began as a simple announcement last night from G.R.A.C.E. quickly escalated into another social media firestorm for BJU, as supporters and detractors of the University took to various online platforms to discuss its decision to prematurely end the independent investigation of its sexual abuse policies and history.
To summarize, here is a timeline of yesterday’s events:
At 3:38PM, G.R.A.C.E. published this post on its Facebook page. The .pdf the link contains announces that BJU has asked that G.R.A.C.E.’s investigation be terminated immediately, and describes BJU’s decision as a “complete surprise” to G.R.A.C.E. According to this announcement, G.R.A.C.E. is shocked and dismayed by the news. This post by G.R.A.C.E broke the news; neither BJU nor any other outlet had even hinted at the incident. Comments began to pour in immediately debating the decision (See links below for the comments).
At 6:27PM, as the comments began to pour in and alumni expressed frustration with the decision, current BJU President Stephen Jones began speaking out on social media to defend the school. He sent this tweet to an alumnus, accusing him/her of seekingtso “twist” the news into bad press for BJU:
Jones quickly deleted the above tweet, but also took to Facebook to attempt to quell the rising anger of supporters, see here:
Clearly, BJU wants to present this termination as merely a delay, not an ending point in its commitment to honoring the claims of victims.
At 6:56PM, BJU published this post on its Facebook page, linking to a PR blog post attempting to explain the situation. Two minutes later, the BJU Alumni Facebook page published a similar post linking to the same blog post. Comments exploded on both of these posts, especially on the main BJU page; it’s currently at well over 200 comments. BJU does not allow comments on its website, so it’s possible that the lack of ability to comment on the PR post itself is causing interested parties to be more vocal on Facebook. BJU has not made any attempt that we know of to delete any of these comments, although we have heard of people being banned from the page.
At 7:27PM, Fox Carolina picked up the story, publishing this. There are several comments on that link.
At 8:32PM, Greenville local affiliate WYFF published an article, and it’s been one of the most popular on its website since. A number of comments on that page, and many more over on WYFF’s Facebook page.
Several minutes later, NBC News picked up WYFF’s story.
A few other popular news outlets have written on the incident, including the conservative Sharper Iron (many comments there) and the more liberal-leaning Patheos (a dozen or so comment there, as of now).
Here is a .PDF file of many of the comments posted on BJU’s page. Unfortunately this only contains past comments so hit this link to see the post on FB for updated comments.
So, how do things stand now? Clearly, there’s a significant disagreement between G.R.A.C.E. and BJU as to the nature of the investigation and/or the manner in which G.R.A.C.E.’s findings should be released to the public. The disagreement seems to be on BJU’s side, primarily, considering the “complete surprise” that the termination constituted for G.R.A.C.E. and considering that their investigation was abruptly halted in the final stages of its work.
What would cause BJU to balk at G.R.A.C.E.’s methods? We can only speculate at this point, but it seems likely that G.R.A.C.E. uncovered some details of BJU’s past that the school would prefer not be made public. It’s very important to remember that according to Bob Jones III, BJU has never mishandled any case of abuse on-campus, in its entire history. Therefore, it’s possible that the tolerance the school has for actually releasing any incriminating information is very, very low. If the Chancellor’s public position is that BJU is blameless in this area, it seems logical that the school would seek to discredit any organization that tried to unearth evidence to the contrary. This despite the fact that in this case the organization in question was hired by BJU to do exactly that.
There’s a difference in the way the two organizations are reporting the news, as well. Stephen Jones and BJU are portraying the termination as a “delay,” and as part of a long series of continued negotiations. They’re also anxious to point out the other efforts they’ve made to improve the school’s policies on abuse and reporting, although those too have been tainted by controversy.
G.R.A.C.E., on the other hand, appears stunned at the halt to the investigation and claims they have been the ones trying to continue the process despite BJU’s objections. Clearly, there’s a disagreement between G.R.A.C.E. and BJU not just on the methods and scope of the investigation, but on the nature of the disagreement, particularly about whether BJU is truly willing to have the information G.R.A.C.E. has gathered be made public.
BJU just announced that it is holding a private meeting for students, faculty and staff today to explain this situation further. The University has said publicly several times that they will seek out a way to release G.R.A.C.E’s findings at some point, whether through them or with another third-party organization. Only time will tell.