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.

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

  1. Local Alum

    Perhaps the reason no on asked about Grace was because they only invited die-hard supporters from the area. I live in the area and though I get letters about Bruin boosters, i didn’t know about this meeting.

  2. "Frank"

    Funny, I wasn’t invited to this……what gives BJU? Or did you want to pack the meeting with exclusively “loyalists”.
    I think we all know the answer.
    Nothing has changed.

  3. John Matzko

    I wasn’t invited either–in fact, didn’t know about it until I listened to the recording. Steve Pettit does a great job with this sort of Q&A session.

  4. Jeff Chalmers

    I thought BJU was righteously following G$d, that G&d words, and G&d values never change??. Racial segregation is in the Bible! Curse of Ham and all that! What, now BJU has decided that tax exempt status is more important than their “principled stand” against the evil federal gov’t??? Someone aught to pull out some BJU quotes from back in the day about that battle!
    So what other “principled Biblicaled stand” will they in a few years changed their mind on…. I have been personally attached for believing the world is very old by this kind of thinking, only to really investigate it deeply to find out how deceptive young earth creationist are…

  5. John Matzko

    Just a matter of historical record, Bob Jones Sr. (1883-1968) strongly defended segregation, but he never used the “curse of Ham” to make his argument.

  6. James

    I thought I heard years back that someone said that the loss of the tax-exempt status was actually good, because now the University could go into profit-making ventures. Guess that didn’t work out the way they thought it would.

  7. John Matzko

    A correction to the implication that this Q&A was intended for students or Greenville area alumni: the forum was arranged for alumni returning for their ten and twenty year reunions. (That’s why I wasn’t invited–my next reunion is my 50th.) Thanks again to BJU News for providing such fine advertising for BJU’s new president and his associates.

  8. David Lohnes

    I have to say I was impressed with how little question dodging there was. There were some hard questions asked, and they got fair and open answers.

    As a liberal arts grad, I have been as skeptical of the Pettit choice as anyone, and I think the university faces fiscal challenges that will be very difficult to overcome in the current age of distributed education.

    But credit where it’s due: that meeting wasn’t about soft-shoeing the difficulties.

  9. Jerry Crew

    Wonder why regaining the tax-exempt status has not been attempted sooner since the policy that led to its revocation has been removed for some time now.

    However, in the current social and political environment it does make you wonder if they won’t eventually run into the same issue at the Federal level with any sexual orientation policies. Or does BJU not have any written policies addressing that? Then again, that issue could potentially affect the tax-exempt status of many more organizations than just BJU so perhaps they would have safety in numbers, at least in the near term.

    Regardless, if the enrollment figures (currently approximately 2,800, down 50% in the last decade) cited in this article are accurate, it would seem that there are more immediate and pressing challenges facing the university than its tax-exempt status. I’m glad to see that is on Dr. Pettit’s radar as well. Now for the tricky part – What led to such a drastic decline? Is it a symptom of something within the university’s control? If so, should be it addressed, and if so, how? Navigating through those issues becomes particularly challenging in an organization where historically change is not only not encouraged, it almost seems to be viewed as tantamount to spiritual weakness or sin.

    http://www.thestate.com/2014/10/17/3749863_president-of-bob-jones-university.html?rh=1

  10. Carson

    In the U.S., the fundamental world view of most organizations, the bedrock for making the really hard decisions, is economic pragmatism: sustainability of the organization. There are few willing to say “here I stand, I can do no other” and let their future hang on that. When BJU was economically strong, great fanfare was attached to taking positions now quietly abandoned. Not just random positions are being abandoned but positions that have a common theme: they are roadblocks to accreditation or tax exempt status or a campus life that attracts students (e.g., sports). BYU, in their abandonment of segregation, at least referred to a divine revelation to their prophet. BJU could at least *acknowledged* the ideological past of these positions; the change would at least be more transparent. But in quietly jettisoning these and other positions, they are forfeiting teaching moments and, indeed, their very mission. Were they wrong before? How? Is there a new insight? What is it? What has changed? How should the rest of us think about these things? Why leave all this uncommented?

    Left without comment, all who view BJU as a moral compass have to fill in the blanks on these changes of direction for the university: a recruiter for president (our problem is a marketing problem), accreditation (having a lot of BJU grads as faculty, once thought to be a strength, is worth sacrificing for 28% net financial gain on an annual basis), intercollegiate sports (our problem is a marketing problem and student life is more important to the market than it was when we made this rule), etc. Bottom line: we at BJU are ultimately committed, at least at this point and on these previously bally-hooed positions, to our most fundamental belief: it is better to survive than not. Compromise at the key points of attack is better than economic death.

    When BJU was fat, the Jones drove Mercedes, flew to events in private jets, routinely excluded individuals and groups from their network of friends and associates, used their lawyers to intervene in alumni’s personal affairs with a pushiness that was offensive and without apology, and used ideology as the justification. Now that they are lean, they are reversing swaths of previous positions and the justification, loud and clear though unspoken, is not ideology but survival. In that, BJU is not unusual, not unique, and, unfortunately, exercising the same kind of decision making that has brought them to this point: they are doing it because they can and they want to.

  11. John Matzko

    I’ve taught ancient Rome for 35 years, and sometimes people trying to make casual conversation ask me why Rome fell. I can reel off some pretty good reasons for that. But then I ask them a more important question if they’re interested in using history as a guide to the future: “Why did Rome rise?”

  12. Jerry Crew

    Interesting observations by Carson, and interesting question posed by Dr. Matzko. I’ve got to admit, although I’m certain the good Dr. Panosian covered it in my History of Civ class all those years ago, I didn’t readily have an answer to Dr. Matzko’s question in order to draw any parallels to the topic at hand.

    However, through some decidedly non-academic research (i.e. Googling), I found the following, which may or may not, depending on your perspective, be relevant to the discussion of BJU’s prospects:

    Why did Rome rise?
    “In short, Rome was a state, not a tyranny.
    …empires of that time broke apart if they were attacked by a foe. The oppressed peoples under the yoke of the dominant power rose up and joined the foe. This happened when Rome attacked others, but failed to occur when others attacked Roman territory.”

    http://www.roman-empire.net/diverse/faq.html

    Things that make you go hmmm…

  13. John Matzko

    There’s certainly some truth in that internet comment about Rome. But then there’s also the description of the Fourth Beast in Daniel 7: 7: “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet.” And Tacitus’ famous line, put into the mouth of a British chieftain, “They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.”

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