New Leaked Audio: Pettit Contradicts GRACE, Reassures “BJU is Safe”

In today’s Chapel message, which BJU declined to release publicly but which a tipster sent to us, BJU President Steve Pettit had a message for the University family: BJU “is a safe place,” and “most” of the abuse issues the GRACE report identified “happened to people before you were even born.”

Contradicting the findings of the GRACE report on several points, Pettit claimed that the University has “a solid approach toward counseling people.”

You can listen to the audio here.

You can read highlighted quotes from the 300-page GRACE report via our Storify and also via the #GRACEreport hashtag on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a link to the full GRACE report.

And here is a full transcript of Pettit’s remarks from today:

I do want to highlight our own BJU.edu website that actually really gives some very clear statements in a really good timeline. The timeline’s very helpful to understand why we initiated the GRACE report and how things have gone along up to the present day. 

What I want to do this morning if I could is at least help you gain a perspective about the GRACE report that I think is helpful for you as Bob Jones University students. I think you realize last week when I spoke, I spoke not only to you, but because it was videoed, I was speaking to people in public, I was speaking to Greenville, in some cases to our alumni, and in some cases to the United States. And so I’d like to speak to you this morning more specifically. And I’d like to help you with this perspective. 
The issues in the GRACE report are dealing primarily with events that took place in the past, not things that are happening today. And I would never — and I think it’s been very clear — minimize what people have experienced in the past, but in proper perspective, I want you to realize that most of those cases were things that happened to people before you were even born or when you were a child. And so in many ways, they’re not things that are happening today. You know, it’s like, “Is Bob Jones University safe?” And of course, it’s as safe as we can make it. If somebody is bent on doing wrong, it’s hard to stop them. But we do believe, obviously, it is very safe.

At this present hour we’ve been making many improvements since we obtained GRACE over two years ago. We have very strong policies and procedures in place right now. All of you understand that we have a training program here called called “The Sexual Abuse Awareness Program” for students and faculty and staff. We have a solid approach toward counseling people where we are helping those who have been… who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. We actually have it in place. And it doesn’t mean that things can’t happen, but I just want you to know that the picture that is presented in [the] GRACE report, I think, it really looks a little different than things do today in what we’re doing here. And I do want you to know the answers that I’ve given to people or reporters or anybody who wants to talk to me about the GRACE report. And really, I try to give a very consistent message. Now, I’m saying these following things, and when you go home at Christmas and people ask you these things, I would encourage you to follow along, you know, if this is what you’re willing to do, this line of thinking, you can think about it yourself. 

First of all, that we were the ones that initiated this report — not because of a current problem, but because of the fact that we wanted to make sure that we were in compliance to legal reporting and then secondly to address some of the issues of the past that had come to us, and we wanted to deal with those things.

Secondly, we are very saddened for anybody who has suffered the horrors of any kind of sexual abuse or sexual assault. To help you understand terminology, sexual abuse primarily refers to those who are under the age of 18 old. So a teenager or a child. Sexual assault has to do with those who are over the age of 18 years old. So here on campus if something happens, it’s not really an abuse if you’re over 18. It’s an assault. And of course, those people, when that is reported, those people end up being prosecuted, which we have had happen here.

Let me also say that we appreciate those who are willing to show courage and come forward and tell their story because we can only imagine how difficult that is. And we are grateful because by their willingness to come forward and showing courage is only helping us. And not because it’s about us, but it does help us. It is helping us to become better at what needs to be done. And really, we want to, as Christians, we want to be a leader in this area. 

I do want you to know that we sincerely apologize to those who have not been helped in the past. And we don’t know who those individuals are. I can’t know them personally. But we do feel for them, and we do take what has been said very seriously.

And then I want you know that we are very committed to learning from the report and going forward through this journey of change. We don’t think it’s gonna take, you know, two quick decisions. We realize that we want to become effective and helpful and serve. 

Now one other thing is that, when I speak with people, especially when they ask us questions, I try to help people have a proper perspective that the things that are in the GRACE report took place over a period of four decades. So that’s a long time. And there are things that are in the report that we don’t know about. For example, we don’t know the timeline. We don’t know when this took place. Did this take place twenty years ago? Did this take place ten years ago? We’re not sure. We don’t know who the people are. So there are some things about it that are unclear. But the one thing we do want people to know is that whether it was one person or or a hundred people, it doesn’t matter because abuse is terrible for the one. You know, I think about it: if it was my daughter, well, you know, one is bad. So we want to be very, very clear. And we are going to, as a university, use the GRACE report for the purpose in which we initiated it. And that is to learn from our past and to move forward in the future. We are forming a committee who is going to look at the recommendations before any major decisions are made. They will come, they will make recommendations. On the recommendations, and then ultimately the decision will have to be made by the president myself. 

We do want to be a better university. We do want to be a better leader in this area, and GRACE commended us for being proactive in initiating the report. The fact is, we have already decided that we are going beyond GRACE on our own to improve in other areas that are not even suggested in this report. And so it is something that we have made as a priority. It is very important. And so hopefully… I hope that this will help clear up anything in your mind. If you want to ask questions, please feel free to. If you’d like to write me a personal email, I’ll be more than happy to respond to that.

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28 thoughts on “New Leaked Audio: Pettit Contradicts GRACE, Reassures “BJU is Safe”

  1. Concerned alumni

    “We have a solid approach toward counseling people where we are helping those who have been… who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. We actually have it in place.”

    This statement absolutely horrifies me and makes it clear that the school truly does not understand the GRACE report. I feel sick reading this.

  2. Interested Observer

    “I do want you to know that we sincerely apologize to those who have not been helped in the past.” The most troubling sentence…”to those who have not been helped.” Notice how it doesn’t say: “To those WE failed to help.”

  3. Andy Glarmphy

    It looks like GRACE is letting the school off easy. I expected to see some hard numbers showing the incidents of abuse that occurred on or off campus by students/faculty/staff while at BJU. I may have missed it, but there is very little in the report about the actual abuse committed by BJU people, which obviously took place in large numbers. GRACE should be ashamed of themselves for not reporting the whole truth.

    Instead, the report is mostly about BJU’s really bad response to reported cases of abuse and their really bad (sometimes illegal?) advice and counselling given to abuse victims. That’s bad enough.

    They don’t have to name names, but out of the 116 people interviewed, they should have listed the number of rapes or sexual assaults that occurred. They failed to do that. It sounds GRACE was guilty of negligence and abuse of the facts.

    Does anyone have any hard numbers they can share?

      1. Andy Glarmphy

        Thanks A. James. Interesting articles there.

        “The only thing I can think of is that doing so is a means to an end, and that the alternative routes, like the Alaska Highway, are less desirable, more expensive, or way too long.”
        I see a lot of speculation (reverse declining enrollment?) but not a lot of answers.

        I want numbers of actual sexual crimes. They have to be out there. If rape and abuse is rampant on campus, especially if it is covered up, it’s not safe. But if this whole scandal is about the kind of counselling they give, it’s not that much of a scandal.

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  5. A. James

    “It looks like GRACE is letting the school off easy…GRACE should be ashamed of themselves for not reporting the whole truth.”

    And here we go…

    But yes, BJU, ALL eyes are on those pages, courses, and personnel that need to disappear asap.

    1. A. James

      Andy G., I wasn’t being snarky to you…it’s just that Boz is pretty close to Jesus in many people’s minds and GRACE beyond critiquing…so for you to be critiquing perfection…well, I’ve been waiting for someone to be daring enough 🙂

    2. Andy Glarmphy

      But where are the numbers of rapes and sexual assaults? I’m sure that there were a lot of them. At least that’s what I’ve been hearing based on the months of buildup. But when the report comes out, all it has is criticism of the way BJU has handled reports of incidents. Big Deal. I want someone to go to jail. And there’s very little in this report that could send someone to jail (except possibly advising a student not to go to the police for an assault that occurred years ago). It’s obvious that GRACE is not revealing everything they know, or there would be more fire than smoke.

      1. A. James

        It has been…rather anti-climactic after all the, yes, “months of buildup”. Interesting to see much of that public build up DISAPPEAR from display. Maybe the build up was the smoke, or maybe it is as you said, there should be some concern directed towards GRACE. But GRACE has been beyond critiquing. Also, interviewees have reassured us of their great trust and respect for GRACE, so I was hoping and rest in that for the report to be truly useful as a springboard for the future.

        I guess the newest mantra is that now that the GRACE report is out, MORE people will be brave enough to come forward or take legal action.

        “I want someone to go to jail.” ROFL. Actually, after all the National Enquirer type hoopla, I, again, too, felt it was anti-climactic. But let’s keep watching, maybe we aren’t at the end of it all just yet.

        I’m truly interested to see how people will react to your thoughts. You seem more knowledgeable and courageous than I was when I dared to ask my simple, earnest questions on matters of GRACE.

    1. Andy Glarmphy

      I checked the Hawkins Law firm Facebook page and they link to a NY Times article with the headline, “Bob Jones University Blamed Victims of Sexual Assaults, Not Abusers, Report Says.” That’s hardly suit-worthy. Instead, someone needs to be punished for the actual sexual crimes that are missing from the GRACE report.

  6. A. James

    Hmmm…http://www.fitsnews.com/2012/04/30/the-john-hawkins-rape-case/

    Anyway, to whom it may concern at BJU, I don’t have a list of complaints so far on your responses to the GRACE report. I’m more pleased than not.

    But this. But this.

    “You know, it’s like, “Is Bob Jones University safe?” And of course, it’s as safe as we can make it. If somebody is bent on doing wrong, it’s hard to stop them. But we do believe, obviously, it is very safe.”

    For this to be fully credible, BJU should be safe ALSO from the counseling and disciplinary wrongs (as delineated in the report) from LEADERS on campus that were NAMED in the report.
    Until the books are gone and out of the store and off the website (look how fast Faith emptied their website…”go thou and do likewise”), till the courses are off the website, till III, Berg, and Mazak specifically named are specifically GONE from the site and campus…it doesn’t matter what BJU believes…no one else will fully believe this.

    Their being gone is the clearest path to the future for the sake of the U’s credibility and thus survival.

    “We don’t think it’s gonna take, you know, two quick decisions.”
    No, three. III, Berg, Mazak, gone. ASAP. I would hope if they cared about the University they would do this of their own humble accord. That really would be most of what it would take.

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  8. Dan Philgreen

    “…the decision will have to be made by the president myself. ”
    Mmmm… Along with all the other things on his plate, it seems the president needs to spend a little time sitting in on freshman English class.

  9. A. James

    “The BJU Alumni Association is encouraging our alumni to pray for the leadership of BJU. We urge prayer that the leadership and those who serve here will be humble in the receiving of the information. We seek God’s face asking for these leaders to have wisdom to make the most God-honoring decisions. We ask our alumni to pray for the people affected by this process — especially those who have carried a heavy burden for many years.”

    http://view.enews-bjupress.com/?j=fe5a1578756d077b7217&m=fe651570766304757412&ls=fdbd1572736c037c741d797667&l=fe8d17787462027c7c&s=fe0915717464057975127774&jb=ffca11&ju=fe3016717164027f711c74

    1. R.W.Whisman

      That should be a matter of public record. I am not sure a website or websearch will do the job and, unfortunately, I don’t how else to dig up this info.

      1. Andy Glarmphy

        I’m beginning to think we’ve been deceived. Apparently, there were no actual crimes. I’m disappointed — not because no crimes were committed, of course, but because we we’ve been led to believe over many months that BJU is a place rife with sexual abuse. And, if it is, I want someone to go to jail. But instead, all we get is 300 pages describing a bunch of lousy counselling. So much for Penn State light.

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  12. R.W.Whisman

    Good point, but BJU demands that all others avoid the APPEARANCE of evil. So, the question is- have THEY met this standard themselves? Furthermore, they have asserted that BJU is safe. What else is a puritanical institution going to say about itself? Are they going to admit their own shortcomings in this area?
    . Who says they are safe?
    . What makes anyone think that they are safe?
    . Why would anyone say they are safe?
    . Where are they getting this information?
    . When did BJU safety become an issue and why?
    . How do the shills of BJU define safety?
    . Wow! Who is that man behind that curtain?

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