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.





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

  1. C Bennett

    Like major management consulting companies a decade ago, huge overhead-cost indulgences that were not noticed when cash flows were healthy slowly brought the organization down when economics tightened.

    I think it is broadly accepted, even by strong supporters of the school, that the structure and investments of the university reflected the personal tastes and preferences of the Jones: expensive art collections, vanity productions with Junior himself in iconic roles, special rules and liberties for key fine arts faculty, and more. These indulgences were always euphemized under a variety of labels: ministry, means of grace, glorifying God through the arts, showing off the world’s most unique university.

    This was in fact a personal tax or fee on every student’s and every family’s investment in higher ed that was motivated not by a desire to enhance the value of that education but by a personal taste for attention, reputation, praise, even notoriety. Others may disagree, but I think those who have had conversations on this topic with school administrators recognize that decades of excess in some areas driven by one or two individuals taxed the school’s ability to invest in change when it would have mattered.

  2. Pingback: BJU Sends Out Two New Fundraising Letters as Financial Situation Deteriorates | BJU News

  3. James Tollison

    Money to spend on lavish productions? Check. Money to spend on big sports programs? Check. Money to constantly build bigger, fancier buildings? CHECK CHECK CHECK!!! Money to pay faculty and staff what they’re worth and provide for their later years? “Oh, umm, we’re really in a bad way, we need all you can send us!” (and then it doesn’t happen anyway.) Everything I get from BJU asking for money (hardly anything else ever hits my mailbox) gets circular filed. Not expecting that to change, either.

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