BJU Grad Pens Lengthy Letter to Steve Pettit, Gets a Terse Non-Answer

A BJU grad critical of the school sent us this letter, which the grad sent to new BJU President Steve Pettit early this month:

Dear Mr. Pettit,

I watched the town hall meeting on the web last night and came away with the distinct feeling that I needed to write to you and share my thoughts. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am an outspoken “disaffected” graduate of BJU. That said, I love our Lord, Jesus Christ, and sense that you do as well. I also have nieces and a nephew currently attending. While I would not choose to send my own children to BJU, I do want the best for my extended family members.

So, here goes…thoughts, constructive criticism, ideas…

1. BJU has a massive image problem.

To my knowledge, BJU has never apologized once in its 87 year history. That racism one doesn’t count. BJU came across as a petulant child being dragged kicking and screaming (by its own alumni) and mumbling something about “cultural ethos”…IOW, everybody was doing it. Sorry, that doesn’t cut it. At my church we regularly ask for forgiveness for many a thing that I didn’t directly take part in…slavery being one of them. You know why? Because had I been around back in those times, I would have probably taken part in it. I hope I would have stood up to it, but few did. Confession allows us to clear the air with our neighbor and realize that but for the grace of God, it would have been me.
Many a non Christ-like word has been spoken from the chapel pulpit over the years…Al Haag, Betty Ford, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell…the list is long, but distinguished.
BJU says they are conservative yet they took a bailout offer for the their art gallery downtown. I also hear (yet to confirm) that BJU’s downtown gallery receives money somehow from the sales of wristbands for alcohol at downtown events. I’m not a conservative but if there is one thing you have to do as an organization, it’s be consistent.
In all of these cases, confession is not only good for the soul, it’s good for business.

2. Accreditation

We need a better explanation of why accreditation and government money are OK now but were verboten when we were students. The explanation that SACS is the one who has changed was weak at best. Better yet, just apologize again for being wrong about accreditation and government money, ask for forgiveness and move on. Side note…government money was bad but the GI Bill essentially built the Greenville campus.
TRACS was an easy way to get the money flowing but without SACS, the school should close. A non-regionally accredited liberal arts school is just a government investigation waiting to happen.

3. Enrollment

By all means, be a distinctively Christian school; however, in order to attract enough students to survive you need to…
Dump the crazy rules and handbooks. If the Ten Commandments was good enough for Moses, it should be good enough for us.
You’re a Citadel grad…institute an honor code, make the golden rule and the Sermon on the Mount your ideals.
Let students go to church at a much broader array of churches and make it voluntary…encourage, yes. But, they need to learn to make the decision for themselves.
Treat students like the adults they are…I agree with most of what you said about extended adolescence but we get the behavior we expect.
Students having authority over students…this needs to be re-visited in earnest. Prayer time is great. APCs and PCs…not so much.
Hold a press conference with all the local stations when you do this. Make a big deal about it. Slide a stack of handbooks into a trash can…sell it!
Be self-aware enough to realize that when Mr Jackson’s grand-kids are not going to BJU, when Mr. Franklin’s son left home to avoid BJU, and many an influential local alumni (read Dr Stratton) are not sending their children to BJU that the problem lies not with the alumni. It lies directly with the owners.
Which leads me to this. You are going to need to “pick a fight” with the owners of the company and win it. Your’re a smart guy so you probably already know this. Make your alliances. Assert your leadership. The Board is old. You’ve got this.

4. Safety

Put locks on the dormitory doors.

5. GRACE
Now, there’s a conundrum! Your only bet…follow their recommendations to the letter.
I would ask Boz to recommend someone not currently affiliated with BJU who would be willing to shepherd the school through their list of recommendations so that you personally can rise above the fray as much as possible. And, every knows it wasn’t the Penn State situation that made BJU hire GRACE. It’s a good story except that it is not true. BJU has had incidents on campus that have been swept under the rug.
Stop counseling on site. Refer students who need help to licensed, Christian counselors in the local area.
You come across as an honorable man. Do the honorable thing when the report is made public and you’ll have the support of all your alumni.
Lastly, I want to wish you and your wife the best. I hear she is not well and for that I am truly sorry. Nobody should have to watch the one they love suffer, I promise you that before I go to sleep tonight, I will say a prayer for both of you. Should you ever like to meet or get outside the BJU circle of churches for a weekend, let me know. You would be welcome to worship with my family at ——– United Methodist Church any Sunday. You might be surprised to know that among some of the older congregants that I hear things like “BJU is a good school” and “BJU has a fine music program”. The Greenville community has much going for it. I would like to see BJU be a positive part of it instead of reminder of unhappier days gone by.

Sincerely,

———-

To this lengthy letter, the grad received this reply today:

Dear Brother ——-:

Thank you for your candid email in follow-up to the Town Hall meeting last week. I apologize for the delay in my response; however, since my correspondence has increased exponentially in these last few months.

I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and suggestions. It’s helpful to know other perspectives and to look for ways to improve. That being said, I’m not going to take the time to respond to every point you listed. I simply want to say that some of the things you suggest are simply not what Bob Jones University is or what we are called to be–in the context of our mission here at the University, there are certain things that we will not do (e.g. completely rid ourselves of the handbook).

We are thankful for you and thankful that you love our Lord Jesus Christ. We appreciate your prayers, and I personally thank you for your prayers for my wife and for her health.

Although we most probably will agree to disagree on many of your points, there are some helpful perspectives that you shared that we will keep in mind.

May you grow in our Lord’s grace and experience a closer walk with Him every day.

Sincerely,

Steve Pettit
President
Bob Jones University

This reply from Pettit should end any question of whether the new BJU administration is willing to truly entertain pointed questions from graduates about the future of the University. Despite Pettit’s repeated requests for feedback and accountability, it seems the same old playbook is still used for the difficult topics: defend, deny, and dismiss.

If you’ve written a similar letter or gotten a similar response from BJU, feel free to let us know in the comments.

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103 thoughts on “BJU Grad Pens Lengthy Letter to Steve Pettit, Gets a Terse Non-Answer

  1. I Dodged the Alumni Bullet

    TL;DR versions:

    ———-
    Dear New President Pettit,

    BJU faces some serious issues, including image, accreditation, enrollment, safety, and the GRACE investigation. Here are some possible ways forward.

    Sincerely,

    An Alumnus

    ———-

    Dear Brother Alumnus,

    BJU wouldn’t be BJU without the rulebook, now would it?

    Sincerely,

    New President Pettit

  2. Mark Smith

    I actually thought Steve Pettit gave a reasonable and polite reply to a “please change everything you are doing” request.

  3. Mark Smith

    Pick ANY university, ANY ONE, and send a letter like this. How many would even get a response from the President of the school let alone cause them to act in any way?

    1. Dan

      Pick ANY university, ANY ONE, and send them a letter asking them to discard antiquated rules, put locks on the doors, treat students as adults, and respond to a third party investigation positively, and their response would be “Why are you writing this to us? We’re not Bob Jones. We do all of these things already.”

  4. A. James

    Dear Mr. Pettit,

    Concerning the handbook. I have firsthand knowledge that the current handbook and policies are rarely even enforced. New faculty receive NO instruction as to how to help enforce policies. They aren’t informed as to how to even give demerits. Faculty/staff meeting no longer include ways for employees to help maintain the policies. When there is a demeritable offense, the DOM/DOW brushes them off and makes excuses about it being a new age…that we can’t expect so much out of students these days. The response they continue to get is, “Mentor”. And most faculty seem happy at the more relaxed atmosphere on campus because of it.

    So, I add that to a very good reason to at least update to a much simpler BJU Handbook so that your constituents are aware of a more centrist, kinder and gentler BJU. The transparency and consistency is only to your benefit. You are quickly losing a faithful base. Those of us who want enforced policies don’t trust BJU. Those of us who don’t want so many rules also don’t trust BJU. If mentoring is your motto, then let us all know. If students are not expected to obey the stated dress guidelines, then why have them? There are many people that would be pleased at the loosening of the standards. If students are indeed allowed to listen to rock music in their dorm rooms depending on whom their hall leader is, then, again, there is a majority that would be pleased with this change. It is to your benefit to be transparent rather than the stagnating incrementalism that has been going on the last few years.

    BJU has been moving towards a new image. It is time to own it.

  5. veritytruth

    I think Pettit lost a great opportunity to meet and talk with this alumnus. Even if he disagreed with everything he was saying, the fact that he was willing to talk to someone admittedly “disaffected” would have given him some insight into how they perceive the university and why they don’t support it.

  6. One Weird Trick for Dismissing Critics

    Find the most specific, most ludicrous (to you) point and rebut it: “Well, we can’t get rid of the handbook, you silly graduate!”

    Ignore everything else.

  7. John Matzko

    I’ve been turning over in my mind the adjectives that might have been used in a (certainly much briefer) reply to that letter by Bob Jones Jr.

    1. Dan Keller

      @Matzko
      I have to. Looks like Mr. Pettit is a little nicer but no less militant than Jr. Although who knows? If Hillary is president maybe he’ll call her a slut.

    2. 86 Grad

      @Matzko
      So what you’re saying is that in 85 years, BJU has learned only to silence and ignore those who disagree with them in more flowery language. Progress!

    3. R.W.Whisman

      Brevity IS the soul of wit and Jr. had a rapier wit. I remember washing his Mercedes one day and soon afterwards, during Vespers, he referred to himself as being, “poor as a church mouse.” I then thought about how horrible a person I was for seeing the obvious inconsistency. The Emperor was fully clothed and I had better not say or even THINK otherwise.

  8. John Matzko

    “Although we most probably will agree to disagree on many of your points, there are some helpful perspectives that you shared that we will keep in mind.” Can’t remember anyone at this site ever saying something like that to me.

  9. Dan Keller

    Seriously, how hard is it to lock dorm room doors? That would reduce thefts on campus dramatically.

  10. Dan R. Marvin

    Jr’s colorful, arrogant, and disrespectful responses to customers is one reason the University is in the position it is in now – without students and without much hope of turning things around

    1. A. James

      Well, to be transparent, my initial thought after reading Pettit’s response was Jr.’s colorful, “That’s a bunch of bullstuff” comment from chapel during my time at BJU 🙂

    2. Dan Keller

      Dan Marvin is correct. Things have drastically changed. Until BJU realizes the students are their customers, they have no hope of turning things around. These are the days of social media – a chapel message can be posted an hour after chapel – without the help of sermon audio. What will happen when some of Triplestyx’s “sermons after the sermon” get posted? It’s just a matter of time.

    3. Darren templeton

      Are you kidding me?? Where would you ever come up with something like that. My parents graduated there and I graduated there. He is one of the most outstanding respectful and honorable men ever!!! You are a complete idiot! 93 grad. Darren TEMPLETON.

  11. John Matzko

    For what it’s worth, I think Steve Pettit’s response was excellent: courteous (“It’s helpful to know other perspectives and to look for ways to improve”) but clear that BJU has a different mission to fulfill than the one suggested by the letter writer. In the past two months, I’ve been impressed with the new president’s responses, and his reply to this “outspoken ‘disaffected’ graduate” has only increased my respect. (If the fellow’s an “outspoken ‘disaffected’ graduate,” he shouldn’t have anything to hide. Why not publish his name?)

    1. A. James

      Courteous or curt? Actually, Pettit said, “I simply want to say that some of the things you suggest are simply not what Bob Jones University is or what we are called to be–in the context of our mission here at the University, there are certain things that we will not do.” Emphasis on SOME things were not missional for BJU. And he listed one example of the handbook. The BJU grad’s letter mentioned a wide range of concerns. Pettit could have at least addressed some specific issues that could be corrected or answered or considered He could have then sought more input on at least some area of agreed concern. It’s the way of open communication, diplomacy, dialogue. The grad’s letter was heartfelt and outreaching. Pettit’s was a pat answer and a shut door. Shame he couldn’t have been more of a centrist in his response by finding some common ground. To have a disaffected grad actually take one more effort to reach out only to have the University to brush them off with generalities? I don’t know how they expect to regain or maintain alumni support by not seriously engaging at least some of our concerns that are more widely agreed upon. Excellent? Only if they wanted us to stop asking questions and remove one more student from their enrollment. “For what it’s worth” 😉

  12. John Matzko

    I thought it an excellent response. Hey, the fellow’s only been president for a few months, hasn’t even addressed an incoming class yet, and Disaffected Anonymous want him to drop everything and try find common ground with them when most wouldn”t find satisfying anything less than a 200-acre crater at 1700 Wade Hampton Boulevard. Steve Pettit made an courteous and appropriate response. I’m pleased.

    1. A. James

      Your opinion…fine, fine…just a bit more of mine…the most serious and telling words out of his mouth are what he tells faculty/staff (who choose to serve with him), alumni (who choose to support him financially and verbally), and THEN to students (who for the most part have not much voluntary choice in the matter). I am glad he made the effort of the town hall meetings. I was hopeful. Yet even there, many questions were brushed off with a joke or a lighthearted-talk-about-it-later response. BJU is at a crossroads…at a new beginning…we need to be learning to trust him for clear, solid responses to critical issues. He needs to be building our confidence in him NOW before the GRACE report and before student finalize whether they return or not.

      Surely you can tell by now that BJU is trying to reach a broader constituency. They would do well to revisit the concerns of those who formerly would have dropped a crater, and those who are close to doing so. It’s just good business sense to create confidence in a support base. His first efforts in responding to alumni are far more important than addressing the incoming class. We SEND the incoming class. I’m simply suggesting he set the course for the future by establishing a better pattern for gracious and open dialogue rather than flicking a dismissive wrist. Surely even you could see one or two valid concerns in the letter…even if it were simply common sense locks on the dorms. Let’s talk locks…electronic card access system perhaps…keep the dialogue going…show a a genuine interest.

      Of course, yes, I am still waiting to see how he more importantly handles the GRACE report as well as the first semester. But don’t discount first impressions. You’re pleased, and I’m disheartened. Next up is GRACE, and THEN we can talk about minor details such as addressing the incoming class.

      1. Darren templeton

        Who cares about grace. No one cares about that. If there was any issues at the university it was handled properly. All you leftist stupid liberals concocted all the stupid comments. Gays are homos. Lesbians are vile. If they are at BJ then they don’t deserve to be there. Need to be outed!!!!

  13. Dan Keller

    Wow. It doesn’t take much for you to be pleased, does it? This is an alumnus, who, based on Mr. Pettit’s own words at the town hall meeting, sent Mr. Pettit an email, and got blown off in a response. Folks, nothing has changed at BJU. Do not send your children there. It isn’t safe.

  14. James Tollison

    Indeed, nothing has changed. Keep iron fist control, manage the public image assiduously, and blame the victims and those who disagree. There are other schools, ones in which students will get degrees that matter outside BJU’s bubble world, and until the University realizes that and acts on it, it will continue to go down. If one day there is a crater on Wade Hampton Boulevard, the work of God will go on without a hitch, as much as some would like to make us think otherwise.

  15. John Matzko

    The responses of Dan Keller and James Tollison well illustrate my assertion that Steve Pettit made a proper, courteous response to folks who are intolerant of any point of view but their own. With his willingness to learn from “other perspectives and to look for ways to improve,” Pettit is more open-minded than the Disaffected.

    But I also agree with Tollison that BJU is the Lord’s school, and He can do with it as He chooses. If students no longer want to attend BJU, and the University “continues to go down,” that’s fine, so long as the University is faithful to the commands of God’s word. Better extinction than bowing the knee to spiritual error.

    1. A. James

      I understand your point. I used to be more of that mindset. I’ve just learned more and more that we can and should consider criticism and dialogue on things that we can even with those that might seriously disagree with us. None of us are perfect, and truth can be found in unusual places. All truth is God’s truth. We need not pass it by due to the source. That’s what I learned at BJU, and I believe it’s a very healthy way to go through life in relation to others.

      What if by talking locks on dorms…which is a VERY REAL ISSUE…just look up Virginia Tech’s efforts after the shooting…what if by talking locks on dorms, there is then an easier camaraderie…more back and forth…more progress on things we can agree on…I see every benefit in engaging where we can.

      I don’t expect us to agree, but I do hope as I see your point (and disagree) that you will see mine as well.

    2. A. James

      “Better extinction than bowing the knee to spiritual error.”
      Not everything in that letter deserves the label of even a spiritual issue. Perhaps BJU could be more persuasive with their spiritual views if they showed more Christian love and reasonableness on non-spiritual issues. BJU has talked often this last year of building bridges…and in this sense, I am heartily in agreement of this new philosophy.

      “Better extinction than bowing the knee to spiritual error.” And Dr. Matzko, you are pushing my conservative buttons, but I’m not going to go there except to say…that if words like “centrism” and “platform for ministry” (at supposedly fundamentalist BJU) don’t cause YOU MORE CONCERN in this area more so than a letter of concern over the future of BJU…wow. Just. Wow.

    3. James Tollison

      To clarify my position, I have great respect for the faculty and staff of BJU, working MORE than sacrificially to minister to students. The administration, on the other hand, is more concerned with covering their “fourth point of contact” and maintaining their position than anything else. They will lie, if necessary (like BJ III on the interracial dating/marriage issue).

  16. Dan Keller

    <>

    This is more than an enrollment or an image problem. If BJU can’t get its golden boy graduates to send their sons and daughters or manage to get a grandchild or two to matriculate to BJU,, then BJU is doomed. BJU needs to learn their customer is their student. Those student loans the students get – they’re the student’s problem after college, not the parent’s problem. If BJU graduates students who are $20,000+ in debt, and unable to secure a teaching job in half the states in this country, their problem because BJU’s problem.

    While BJU wants to tout their graduates who got into medical school or business graduates who have a job before graduation, they’re less than honest about their graduates whose teaching applications are rejected out of hand simply because of the BJU degree. Mr. Pettit likes to say, “BJU is fully accredited.” That is a lie. Unless they obtain SACS, they are less than fully accredited, and education majors will continue to find themselves unable to teach in public schools in over half of the country.

    There is a much bigger problem at BJU than even the original author of the email acknowledges – BJU is corrupt at the core. No beautiful campus or impressive buildings or charming president will change that.

  17. John Matzko

    Locks on doors aren’t a spiritual issue. What is, is the letter writer’s pride in announcing that he’s a religious liberal and a member of Ichabod United Methodist Church.

    The Disaffected are Sanballats, ridiculing the rebuilding of the wall, attempting to halt its progress, asking Nehemiah to dialog, lying about motives, and trying to scare ordinary folks with rumors. Nehemiah listened up when Sanballat and Tobiah spoke, but he ignored their threats and challenges to dialog. He just kept building. Steve Pettit should do likewise.

    1. 86 grad

      I think a much better metaphor would be Pettit as the leader of deckchair-movers on the Titanic. By the way, shouldn’t a law prof know better than to commit the fallacy of employing a metaphor that magically casts your side as holy saints and the other side as pagans? That’s just poor, John.

      1. John Matzko

        I’m not a lawyer or even a law prof, but lawyers would be the first to use a good metaphor when preparing their brief. Even better, this one’s an illustration from Scripture that no one here seems willing to challenge.

    2. Dan Keller

      Ichabod United Methodist Church? The UMC has had a “Safe Sanctuary” policy for quite some time. You can read about it here: http://www.gbod.org/leadership-resources/safe-sanctuaries

      So, while BJU is undergoing a self-started investigation, the UMC has policies in place that protect children and vulnerable adults from predators. What does BJU have? Jim and Pat Berg who encourage victims of sexual crimes to discover how their sin caused their abuse, and telling them to “forgive” their abusers and not grow “bitter.”

      I’ll take what Matzko calls an “Ichabod” church any day over the rabble of sinfulness and self-righteousness that is BJU.

      1. Darren templeton

        You are a freaking idiot!!! They never say anything like that. I have all his books. The bergs are upstanding and outstanding people. Get a clue typical leftist liberal!!! From 93 grad Darren Templeton

    3. A. James

      There is no more for me to say then. The Disaffecteds have primarily accused BJU of arrogance. Many traditional, conservative BJU supporters (such as myself) also have concerns that point primarily to the overriding problem of arrogance. If your words here are indicative of the board’s and the administration’s own arrogance, then I readily declare that BJU’s worst enemies are WITHIN AND NOT FROM WITHOUT. Time will tell God’s opinion. I pray sooner than later.

    4. BJU Alumnus

      A more appropriate metaphor would be that the Disaffected are the OT prophets declaring to recalcitrant Israel (read Bob Jones) that God wants them to ‘do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with their God’ and that if they refuse to listen then judgment will finally come, the school will close and the Diaspora of the faculty, staff and administration will commence.

      1. John Matzko

        I’m perfectly happy to let God judge between the University and its detractors. It’s His school; He can do with it as He wills. As I said above, better extinction than bowing the knee to spiritual error.

        Of course, my posts here are my opinions alone and do not necessarily represent those of the BJU administration or board.

      2. Jon Owen

        I’m sure glad BJU didn’t bow the knee to spiritual error in the way they handled sexual abuse cases. Will the full GRACE report be released to the public? I’m waiting.

        Seriously Mr. Matzko. Your response typifies the arrogance that has always pervaded the BJU culture. We always said that Petimus Credimus means “We’re right. You’re wrong.”

    5. veritytruth

      Really Dr. Matzko?? Really? Have you ever attended a UMC service? Your first paragraph reeks of the brainwashing done by fundamentalists in order to keep people in their denomination and under their control.

      I really hope that a gracious disaffected offers you a job when you find yourself unemployed.

      1. John Matzko

        Yes, I have. The United Methodist Church is a thoroughly apostate denomination; no born-again Christian should give a dime to such an organization (which is not to say there aren’t untaught Christians who remain members).

  18. carson

    I’m a bit late to this thread but I also thought it was a very reasonable response given the timing and the extensiveness of the alum’s letter: the new president has been in his role for a matter of weeks, he has not been at BJU prior to this position, he is finally figuring out the email system and admin structure, he is on a hyper-active program to address getting ready for the new school year starting in a few weeks (enrollment, accred submission, etc.) and in the midst of all that, this letter asks him to address five or six very fundamental aspects of the character of BJU — state positions and do so in a public forum.

    I can’t imagine he has a clear, firm, considered and reviewed opinion on a number of these issues. Give the guy some time — he probably doesn’t have his family fully moved yet. I haven’t known a president of anything who hasn’t had to say it is necessary to agree to disagree on some items — it is just the nature of be responsive to a very wide range of opinions.

    We won’t know what he thinks on a number of items in the letter for a year or two — he likely doesn’t know fully what he thinks. I’m definitely not a defender of tradition (as posted before), but, to be honest, to expect a detailed and public response, given the amazing timing, and the response, given the exigencies of the timing and the range of responsibilities the president has leading to a new academic year …. anyway, given all that, I was surprised at the length and thoughtfulness of a personal note. Presidents of universities do not very typically send personal responses to alums telling them how to run their university, let alone polite ones. Actually, it’s unheard of — alums are viewed as a source of donations and irritation, and presidents delegate dealing with them. If the writer feels that this response is inadequate at this point in the new president’s term, that is unfortunate (and, I believe, naive).

    1. A. James

      Carson, You almost persuaded me. Almost. I was getting most sentimental about Mr. Pettit’s needs. Had my hands over my mouth in sympathy. Had the Kleenex out. Bless his heart. Just about to issue an apology…when…

      This one condemning sentence stood out all over again.
      “I simply want to say that some of the things you suggest are simply not what Bob Jones University is or what we are called to be–in the context of our mission here at the University, there are certain things that we will not do (e.g. completely rid ourselves of the handbook).”

      You say you “can’t imagine he has a clear, firm, considered and reviewed opinion on the issues.” If not, then why did he have to choose a line of division at this time before he is settled on the issues with that one divisive dismissive sentence?

      Rather than choosing something they could agree on to build towards future dialogue once he was settled (if he is not), Pettit chose to focus on something negative. Whether we agree or not with the tone or details of the original letter, surely we can agree that there were plenty of details where Pettit could have chosen a neutral or positive ground.

      If he had left that one sentence out, you just might have persuaded me. But try it for yourself. Read the letter with and without that one sentence. What a difference. What arrogance unnecessarily inserted if it was just to be a kind and gentle response.

      I just had a serious ROFL thought. Imagine Pettit writing the entire gracious letter when III walks in, inspects the letter, and orders that one “reminiscent of the old BJU” sentence to be added. Oh, what a comic THAT would make. But it’s not too laughable at this important time as BJU needs to prove their new brand.

      Again, so everyone knows where the death knell is:
      “I simply want to say that some of the things you suggest are simply not what Bob Jones University is or what we are called to be–in the context of our mission here at the University, there are certain things that we will not do (e.g. completely rid ourselves of the handbook).”

      You ask us to give him time? GRACE is approaching in six weeks. He has time, but certainly not 1-2 years. Would that he have been more of a convincing centrist by putting offering an olive branch while he settles into his presidency…he’ll need as many friends as he can get when GRACE hits.

    2. Alumnonymous

      You are kidding, right, Carson? Tell me you’re kidding.

      Pettit was on the frickin’ Board of Trustees. He’s SUPPOSED to know the system and structure of the admin. He SUPPOSED to be up-to-date on enrollment, accreditation, and other important issues…like GRACE.

      It’s reasonable to expect that he needed time to catch up on the day to day OPERATIONAL aspects of university leadership. But these are all STRATEGIC questions that he should already be up to speed on as a member of the governing frickin’ board.

      And…uhm…it’s the board that’s charged with overseeing the “fundamental aspects of the character of BJU.”

      So, no. No passes for being new. That’s just stupid.

      Just like his punting on multiple questions at the town halls.

      1. carson

        I’m serious. The Trustees of a university are informed about and have input on large-scale decisions ultimately made by the university administration. At BJU they would have had input on whether to go for accreditation or whether to engage in inter-collegiate sports, I would guess. The input of the board is rarely unanimous, rarely comes in the form of a firm recommendation, and is typically focused on discussing options and the potential outcomes of pursuing different of those options.

        This is really different from the authority structure (whatever that is now at BJU) that the president has access to. If a president is going to make changes — for example, actions taken on any of the items in the letter — then his first step would be to develop a support base within the university authority structure and bureaucracy. There are likely key people that have to be persuaded to make any desired moves go smoothly. No one knows for certain what level of authority has been retained by the Jones family, for example. This is the first “non-Jones” president in the history of a very closely-held university authority structure — no one knows for certain, probably not even Pettit, just how much sway has been delegated to this office. It is possible this is primarily conceived of as, and not much more than, a very visible recruiting job — that has been my worry from the start.

        The old rule that the power structure of an organization never aligns with the org chart is especially true of universities.

        So, my only point was that *this* new president is in essentially a new role (by not inheriting the throne but merely an appointee). Trying to figure out the actual power structure and how to build a base of support for himself so that he has hopes of seeing some of his decisions actually implemented can’t start by using a public response to an alum to let his fellow administrators, his faculty and the staff know where he stands on contentious issues. Not if he hopes to have any influence on how things are actually done.

        His first real communication on his thoughts about strategic and even some tactical issues will be the formal meeting of faculty and administrators and staff before the Fall semester starts. That content will likely be reported here. That is content people can start to evaluate.

        I’m not a supporter of BJU’s current structure or approach and I’ve said that a lot here — but as part of a university system myself, I know it is not realistic to expect a new president (a position nothing like a Trustee) to start off his tenure in office by revealing his intentions to faculty and key financial supporters via the internet through detailed letters written to alums.

        If big changes are desired, there has to be realism about how hard those might be. I’m proposing that it is too early to bring out the heavy ammo in criticism — using it now has the unfortunate effect of diminishing the impact of serious and informed criticism later when it might be fully warranted.

      2. A. James

        Too early? After 87 years?

        When you have long-time financial supporters, life-time alumni members (such as myself) ready to call it quits when the U needs as many friends as it can get…it is NOT TOO EARLY to see a full list of grievances and seriously consider where amends should and can be made, and to start assuring ANYONE of anything you can. Not everything on that list was a big change. More complete explanations on big changes already made, a simple “yes, we plan to do this”…something to give people confidence that Pettit will indeed be a different sort of president.

        Heavy ammo?
        “using it now has the unfortunate effect of diminishing the impact of serious and informed criticism later when it might be fully warranted.””

        No. Not after this long. Using it now has the fortunate effect of warning BJU that that there is a sleeping giant that will not be appeased by imitating the nonsense of the past. With GRACE approaching, criticism on their behavior now is fully warranted.

  19. Dan Keller

    And, Matzko and I agree. I will be quite happy for God to judge BJU. Maybe they’ll hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you?”

  20. A. James

    Dr. Matzko,

    No retraction on your arrogant words?
    “What is, is the letter writer’s pride in announcing that he’s a religious liberal and a member of Ichabod United Methodist Church.”
    “The United Methodist Church is a thoroughly apostate denomination; no born-again Christian should give a dime to such an organization (which is not to say there aren’t untaught Christians who remain members).”

    Methinks I should reconsider giving Faith Free a dime…

    1. John Matzko

      Absolutely no retraction. The United Methodist Church is a thoroughly apostate denomination; no born-again Christian should join such a United Methodist church or give a dime to support the organization. The letter writer identifies himself as a religious liberal, so joining United Methodist church is certainly appropriate in his case.

  21. Dan Keller

    Reality: Pettit did not send his daughters to BJU. Larry Jackson’s grandchildren did not go to BJU. Those are facts nobody can argue. BJU isn’t safe for students – especially female students.

  22. Waldo

    I don’t know if it helps or hurts anybody’s side here, but Larry Jackson’s nephew goes to BJU. He was in my prayer group one year and told me his “rich uncle is paying for me to go here. Why would I turn down a free degree?”

    1. A. James

      I don’t know if whose side this helps, either, Waldo. But I sure liked seeing a familiar username 🙂

  23. John Matzko

    Not a single one of my grandchildren have attended BJU either. Of course, not too many college student backpacks include three boxes of crayons and a dozen jumbo glue sticks.

  24. Bill

    John Matzko,

    Surely there is a reward for the righteous. Are you claiming that you or BJU is the righteous? Please explain. BTW, I’m an 85 grad, my name is William A House and my student ID was 402297, look me up.

    1. Jon Owen

      John, I’m using my real name as well. I am a 1980 graduate of BJU school of religion and my unaccredited degree is a worthless piece of paper. My greatest regret in life is having attended BJU. I truly wasted 4 good years of my youth. BJU is creating more agnostics, and yes, atheists, than it is growning Christians. I hope you’re well pleased with your university. Oh, and before you say it, yes, I’m bitter. Bitter against BJU which fabricates a false Christianity and teaches people to hate.

      1. Rockey Whisman

        BJU is the whirlwind, earthquake and the fire. They arenot the still small voice. Never have been- never will be.

  25. John Matzko

    I’m a ’68 grad in history, and I do feel blessed to have been associated with BJU for so many years. My own unaccredited degree got me assistantships at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Virginia (where I got my PhD).

    I’m truly sorry for you, Jon, and grateful the Lord has been so gracious to me. The state motto of South Carolina is dum spiro spero, “while I breathe, I hope.” We, the living, have opportunity to change and be changed. If I can be of any personal help, feel free to write.

    1. Jon Owen

      Thanks John, but really I need no sympathy.

      I went on to get an accredited masters which gave me a bit of credibility as I went into civil service. I’m about to retire by year’s end, and am well prepared financially for retirement. My frustration is that BJU didn’t help at all. I remember applying for a civil service job that required an accredited education. They (of course) couldn’t find BJU on their list. Thankfully my accredited masters was accepted and I was able to embark on what turned out to be a successful career in which I’ve received some national recognition.

  26. John Matzko

    Glad to hear that. It appears your unaccredited BJU degree in religion was good enough to gain you admittance into a graduate school program in a totally different field.

    One reason why BJU decided for TRACS accreditation was to take care of the problem you mention: exclusion from governmental lists of approved schools. Previously, it had been no problem for my advisees to get into the best law schools in the country but often a real hassle for a BJ graduate to get a job as a nurse in the Navy or as a cop in some backwater southern town.

    1. Jon Owen

      I was admitted to grad school on academic probation because I’d graduated from BJU (unaccredited). I had to prove myself there. I recall paying about $2,000 per year for room/board/tuition back in the mid to late 70s. I was a work scholarship student, and poor. I looked at the BJU website and it looks like what cost me $2,000 per year is now about $22,000. I recognize inflation’s work, but $88,000 for an unaccredited degree is beyond the pale. Unbelievable.

  27. John Matzko

    Ideally, fitness for any position–including grad school admission–should be based as much as possible on competence rather than on credentials. In Capitalism & Freedom (1962), Milton Friedman makes the case (not terribly persuasive to me) that even doctors could be uncredentialed. Nevertheless, in many areas, emphasizing competence over paper credentials is the way everyone does business: we don’t hire symphony orchestra violinists based on their degrees–we want them to be spectacular violin players. Even in my own field, precious few profs with PhDs write books about history that anyone wants to read. (Writing books is necessary; writing good books is not.)

    My first year at BJU (1964) cost $1000: room, board, and books. The big increase in the price of a college education stems from a number of factors, but the most important is that technology hasn’t yet been able to fully replace human beings as teachers. And because formal credentials are now more prized than ever at brick-and-mortar schools, we teachers are getting more and more expensive to maintain. To a considerable degree academic accreditation creates economic problems that weren’t there before–but then, that’s a societal choice.

    1. Jon Owen

      A 22 year old just graduating from college can’t usually tout his/her competence, as separate from the shiny new degree. In my capacity I’ve had to review hundreds of resumes to vet them for employment interviews. For those lacking job experience, I look at where they went to college.

  28. John Matzko

    We don’t live in an ideal world. If one has to review hundreds of entry-level resumes for a field where competence can’t easily be demonstrated (say, software development), it’s sensible to at least initially prefer someone with a Harvard degree over say, someone from Furman. But we both understand we skate on thin ice when doing this; the Furman graduate may not only be better for the job but better educated as well. Only a hardy soul would argue that I’m a better history teacher than Dr. Panosian because my PhD is in history from the University of Virginia while his is in religion from unaccredited BJU.

      1. R.W.Whisman

        WHAT CHRISTIAN SCHOOL IS THE GREATEST?
        Jesus asked the disciples what they had been discussing on their way to meeting Him. They did not want to say because they had been discussing who among them was the greatest. BJU is that disciple, arguing vociferously of its grandeur, advocating that other schools have no right to exist, for they were not unique.
        I remember BJ3 saying, “If a school is not unique, it has no right to exist.” As if HE is the final arbiter of what rises and falls in the kingdom!
        The kingdom is not about what disciple, school, preacher, or church is the greatest. God is no respecter of persons, parsons or purses.

  29. Jerry Crew

    Just now getting into this conversation, admittedly a little late. I find the logic and arguments fascinating, and I mean that.

    It would seem that Mr. Matzo fairly accurately states the position that many of us who grew up in the fundamentalist environment were taught, i.e., once the bath water is spoiled (“The United Methodist Church is a thoroughly apostate denomination”), it and its entire contents must be discarded immediately (“no born-again Christian should give a dime to such an organization”). This is, indeed, a life-or-death battle in their minds (“Better extinction than bowing the knee to spiritual error”).

    However, I’m not so sure where that absolutism leave us when the institutions that many of us were raised in start showing signs of soiling. If we have tossed everyone and everything else for lack of purity, must we not also discard our own “bastions of truth” or condemn them to extinction when their systemic shortcoming are exposed like so many whitewashed sepulchers?

    I mean, if you are going to condemn an entire denomination and its followers to a status of apostasy for, I assume, among other things, not standing strongly enough, “without apology”, against homosexuality, alcohol, “worldly” music, etc., what to do then with organizations whose leaders may have enabled or committed abuse, adultery, etc., and then lied and covered it up over a long term period? The phrase straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel comes to my mind.

    So please tell me Mr. Matzo, how does one reconcile the absolutism of fundamentalism with the fact that no organization, or leader of such organization, is without faults and shortcomings? To me it would seem that fundamentalists have painted themselves into somewhat of a moral corner, which then leads to all sorts of problematic reasoning on their parts (“we can’t expose this because it may harm the Lord’s work”, “the accusers are merely distractors”, etc.) . However, I am still sorting through the issue in my mind. Perhaps Paul’s letters to the Church at Corinth, which surely had at least as many, if not more issues than our current denominations and independents/non-denominations have, should serve as a guide.

  30. John Matzko

    I condemned the spiritual apostasy of the United Methodist Church in which the letter writer took pride. But I also condemn sins of the flesh, especially immoral acts committed by those who claim to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” I Cor. 5. 13

  31. Jerry Crew

    Thank you, Mr. Matzko, and my apologies for my previous typo on your name. It appears there is no way to edit a comment once posted or I would have corrected it sooner.

    While we most likely do not have the time or the space to get into a detailed laundry list of what constitutes spiritual apostasy, perhaps we can agree that the short answer is that it is the abandonment or renunciation, whether in word or in deed, of the teachings of the Bible? If so, I would suggest that proponents of both sides of this argument may have more in common than they realize, with the primary difference lying with whose ox is being gored with the accusation of abandonment of Biblical principles. Which abandonment, surely we can all agree, is a bad thing and should be corrected within an organization. And, I suspect that we all further agree that absent such correction, conscientious Christians should remove themselves and/or disassociate themselves from such an organization.

    Any differences aside, thank you for your time to discuss and thank you for your years of Christian service.

  32. John Matzko

    You’re very welcome. (And thanks for differentiating me from a piece of unleavened bread–such a frequent misspelling that I’ve gotten used to it.)

  33. loi duflot

    Good way of telling, and pleasant piece of writing to take facts on the topic
    of my presentation focus, which i am going to convey in university.

  34. Pingback: Former BJU Faculty Member: Costly Fine Arts Productions Weigh Heavy on BJU’s Budget | BJU News

  35. Darren templeton

    Ok. Everyone on here bashing bob jones is an idiot! What is your problem. I’m a 93 grad and I never had any problem with anything. Rules need to be there. On fact if the rules have slacked off then they need to be reinforced. No rock music or stupid centrist beliefs need to be present. It’s not what you think should be there it’s what God wants. If any of you on here think that BJ needs to conform to the world you are dead wrong and a bunch of idiots. Please I hope someone replies. Darren TEMPLETON. 93 grad.

  36. R.W. Whisman

    Darren, despite your insulting diatribe, I think you are a good, sincere and well-meaning person. Furthermore, you do agree, don’t you that good people can disagree on issues? I am just trying to understand.

    1. Darren templeton

      Hmm. Where did you come up with a diatribe. My reply is nothing like a diatribe. It’s simply speaking the truth. I have been out in the world. I’m currently in the military and have been for 20 years. BJ needs rules like it always has. Are you kidding me. If there aren’t rules then an organization will falter. And all those who feel like BJ needs to ease up standards are you kidding me. Absolutely dead wrong. That’s why I went there for standards. Have you seen the world. There are no standards. The world needs excellence. And that is what BJ aims to teach. As far as all the stupid comments about apologizing??? For what??? What is the big thing that BJ has done thats so wrong?? Christians are not to mingle with homosexuals and lesbians. Christians hold the standards. After reading all these stupid typical leftist comments it’s clear to me that all these former BJ grads have no backbone and are getting sucked in like all the other liberals thinking that it’s new times and that BJ should change. Gods word never changes so we should not change according to the winds of change that our retarded leftist grads try to do. Get a clue. Darren Templeton

      1. Mister Zizzy

        Reminder: Jesus dined with publicans and sinners. He let a whore wash his feet. Sure sounds like mingling to me.

        “Gods word never changes”? Oh really? BJ Sr preached that segregation was scriptural. I wrote papers as a student about the Biblical basis for the interracial dating ban. Blacks have been attending the school for decades now, and the interracial dating rule is gone. BJIII excoriated federal money and accreditation as comprise and a tool of Satan. The GI Bill practically paid for the campus after WWII, the school is nationally accredited (and seeking regional accreditation), and accepts federal student loans. Perhaps God’s Word doesn’t change, but BJU’s application/interpretation of it sure has. How much will it change again in the future?

        Pettit has publicly apologized — for actions that are lies? Berg has admitted his counseling methods were flawed at best and he didn’t really know what he was doing. These are in the footnotes of the report. Which you obviously haven’t read.

        I think you’d find that the “liberals” and folks “with no backbone” would enjoy debating with you here and elsewhere online, but you’ve got to do more than call names and parrot tired platitudes.

        Regards,

        Bill Ballantyne
        Director of Greenville Outreach for BJUnity

  37. Rick Mattish

    @Bill Ballantyne
    Could you clarify what you mean when you say Pettit apologized “for actions that are lies”? To my knowledge, the GRACE report that you referenced regarding Jim Berg’s counselling does not mention any lies. What is mentioned in the report is Dr. Berg’s failure to anticipate that some people receiving counselling might interpret the counselling methods used as hurtful. I believe Pettit apologized for inadvertently hurting anyone as a result of the counselling given.

  38. Mr Zizzy

    Apologies. I am my own worst proofreader. My meaning was, if BJU did nothing wrong, or the victims’ stories are not to be believed, then the apologies serve no purpose. Why even bother? What was he apologizing for?

  39. Rick Mattish

    I believe he was apologizing for any accidental hurt caused. Sometimes we can hurt others even when we haven’t done anything wrong. The writers of the GRACE report admit that sexual abuse victims may have a negative interpretation of certain statements and actions from counselling sessions, teaching, preaching, etc. whereas others who have not endured such abuse would consider the same statements and actions as innocuous. Although no harm was intended, it seems appropriate to apologize for the accidental hurt caused.

    BTW, thanks for the clarification you gave on your previous comment.

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