Tag Archives: GRACE

Al-Jazeera Notes BJU’s Hypocrisy in Audio We Leaked

You can read all our coverage of the GRACE report here.

You can read the full report of BJU’s failure to properly address abuse here, and via our copy/paste-ready shortlink: tiny.cc/GRACEREPORT.

This afternoon, Al-Jazeera America posted a new article specifically noting discrepancies between the GRACE report and Steve Pettit’s response to it in the audio we leaked earlier this week:

BJU President Steve Pettit is appointing a committee to review the report over the next 90 days and he publicly apologized to those who “felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault.” But in a chapel service Monday, leaked to the website BJU News, he told students that the report wasn’t an accurate representation of the school today.

The piece also has quotes from several recent graduates angered by Pettit’s comments, which were intended only for BJU students and faculty but have provoked strong reactions from onlookers after a source sent them to us for publishing:

“Honestly, I’m just really saddened. It comes across like they haven’t even read the report, because the report very clearly states that this has happened recently.”

“I am a decade removed, from a chronological-time point, but from a pain point of view, that counseling still affects me today,” she said. “It was the first counseling I received. It was the only counseling I received for over seven years. For over seven years, all I thought was that I’d done something that caused my rape.”

Al-Jazeera also spoke to Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE and head of its BJU investigation, asking him about Pettit’s claim in our leaked audio that BJU is “very safe”:

In response to Pettit’s remarks, Boz Tchividjian, the founder of GRACE, said: “Our report speaks for itself relating to those issues.”

BJU’s PR team had no response when  Al-Jazeera reached out for comment on the story, continuing their habit of ignoring developments on the GRACE story:

 

 

 

Bob Jones University Doesn’t Want You to Read the GRACE Report

You can read the 300-page GRACE report here.

Furthermore, we created an easier-to-remember shortlink: tiny.cc/GRACEREPORT

After spending two years waiting for a report on its response to sexual abuse, and after spending untold sums paying GRACE for the service (including paying for room, board and travel for victims), you would think BJU would be invested in having the report widely read. However, if anything can be gleaned from BJU’s webpage on the report and from its social media accounts, the school would much prefer you read its own account of events rather than the report itself.

This morning, a reader alerted us to the fact that he hadn’t seen BJU publish a link to the report itself at any time:

After some research, we found that this person is correct. While BJU was happy to announce the release of the report and took pains to trumpet its response, nowhere in any of its social media feeds did it include a link to the report itself. Clearly, the BJU PR team has been focused on pointing readers to its own carefully-constructed response and on taking advantage of the report’s intimidating length–300 pages–to further encourage ignorance of its actual contents.

A link to the GRACE website–but not the report–is indeed included on BJU’s GRACE webpage–but it’s buried so deeply, one wonders whether the school is merely fulfilling a requirement by posting it (which, as another astute reader pointed out, may very well be the case). The steps to finding the GRACE site on BJU’s page are as follows (via our helpful tipster):

1) Scroll to the very bottom on the page

2) Click on “Grace Report”

3) Scroll halfway through the page with all of BJU’s timelines, etc.

4) Select Process in the FAQ’s

5) Select will Grace report of its findings be released to the public,

6) Select the link to GRACE

Note that even this link, buried many steps under BJU’s own account and response to the report, doesn’t lead directly to the report itself. It merely points to GRACE’s main website, which contains no link we could find to the report. In short, BJU only included one nearly impossible to find external link to GRACE in the entirety of its online presence, and that link doesn’t even easily lead to the report itself.

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Also note that news of the report, surely one of the most significant events in the past decade for the school, is barely visible on the school’s homepage. Despite containing evidence of decades of systemic failure on BJU’s part and despite coverage from dozens of major media outlets, BJU just isn’t interested in anyone reading the actual words of the GRACE report.

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.

GRACE Aftermath: Docs, Tweets, Images and Media Coverage

Background

We’ve rarely seen anything like the outpouring of interest in BJU activities since the bombshell GRACE report was released yesterday morning. With so much going on, here’s our summary of the various events happening in and around this landmark event.

In order to give a sense of what the report actually contains, we’ve assembled this Storify with tweets from Kimberly Kelly, a local Greenville news personality who spent much of the day yesterday tweeting highlights from the report. We are much indebted to her for this service. The hashtag #GRACEReport on Facebook and Twitter also has a good array of posts/information.

Much of the reaction so far has been disgust with Bob Jones III, Jim Berg and Bob Wood. These three, lifetime BJU leaders and anointed “men of God” all, have been revealed by the GRACE report as key actors in a “culture of fear” at BJU that prevented sexual abuse victims from getting help. In line after line of the report, top leaders of the school appeared totally ignorant of basic legal and psychological facts:

 

Of course, readers of this blog will be well aware that BJU has had issues with reporting sexual assault for decades, and that the responsibility for these lapses goes straight to the top. Last year, we reported that in 1980 two BJU officials helped cover up a similar scandal at another Christian organization using methods already long in use at BJU at that time. And evidence of BJU’s victim-blaming counseling methods was made public last year when a video of Bob Wood’s bewildering counseling methods was leaked.

Further highlighting the contents of the report, here’s an image we assembled highlighting BJU’s prior attempts to deflect criticism on these issues–deflections which have now been proven false. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Media Coverage:

 

 

WYFF Greenville also posted a video, including an interview with Steve Pettit in which the BJU President seems evasive about the accusations.

There’s also this. Apparently, legal action against the school may be coming next:

More Alumni Come Forward

Just today, we’ve seen two more interesting posts from BJU alumni who weren’t in the GRACE report discussing their experiences. Here’s a post talking about the shame and neglect abuse victims have felt:

And further cementing Bob Jones III’s position as chief University apologist (and liar), here’s a letter an alumni received in 2011 during the Chuck Phelps scandal. The alumnus sent us the letter today.

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Here’s another image that’s been brought to light today, a description of Berg’s “Crisis Management” course at BJU. As of now this page is still live on BJU’s site despite GRACE’s recommendation to remove him from the spotlight:

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Pro-BJU Reactions

Other alumni and interested parties have responded to the news in order to support the school. Sharper Iron commenters were typically dismissive, as expected. Remember that before the report several commenters predicted “a non-event.”

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While many supporters have been fairly quiet since the devastating report was released, a few have taken to Twitter to voice their positive feelings:

Also of note are the comments on these posts, both criticizing and in support of the school:

We will continue to have more coverage of the GRACE situation here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds as news comes to light. Here are a few links from this site to keep an eye on:

Here are all our posts on the GRACE story, going back several years.

Here again is audio of Bob Jones III saying publicly that BJU has always handled abuse correctly.

 

 

 

BJU Apologizes Ahead of “Painful” 300-Page GRACE Report, Bob Wood Scrubbed From BJU Site

Here are all of our posts on the two-year GRACE investigation.

Here’s the chapel message where Bob Jones III said BJU has always handled sexual abuse situations correctly.

It’s been an eventful day for Bob Jones University and its supporters/detractors, as early this morning it was announced the full GRACE report will be released (and made available for download) tomorrow morning at 11am EST. Let’s run down today’s many developments:

At 8AM this morning Boz Tchividjian, Executive Director of GRACE, tweeted that details of the report’s release would be coming soon:

A few hours later, GRACE published this .pdf announcing the timing of the release, as well as hinting at its scope and “painful” contents:

This was followed by a flurry of media attention:

About an hour after the announcement, BJU President Steve Pettit took the stage during BJU Chapel to officially announce the report’s release to the University. BJU made the video and transcript of this sessions available afterwards:

Note: although the University has published that video publicly, we have obtained our own copy of the audio from a source who was present today. In the event that BJU decides to delete its copy of this meeting, ours is available here for listening.

Reactions to the announcement from alumni and other affected parties were as diverse as you would expect:

These responses come from the University’s Facebook page:

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Clearly, GRACE has taken nearly two years to produce this report for a reason: it appears to be exhaustive and comprehensive. At 300 pages, it promises to provide months worth of analysis for all sides. Just as clear is that the report will contain disturbing, possibly even shocking details.

In another fascinating development, it appears that BJU is scrubbing information about former Executive Vice President Bob Wood from its site. Wood’s former profile appeared here but has been deleted. Wood is now only listed as a member of the Board of Trustees. Although possibly a coincidence, it appears BJU is distancing itself from Wood in light of the GRACE report because of this embarrassing video which surfaced last year.

To sum up: The 300-page GRACE report, the culmination of two years of work on the part of GRACE and victims, will finally be released tomorrow despite BJU’s shocking attempt to derail it last winter. All that remains now is to wait.

Six Questions About the Impending GRACE Report

As the promised date of completion for the GRACE investigation of BJU nears, here are six questions we are pondering:

1. Will GRACE specifically implicate high-ranking BJU officials in its findings? We’ve heard reports over the last few weeks that GRACE will not be afraid to name names in its report, but it remains to be seen whether administrators like Jim Berg will have their dirty laundry aired. GRACE could opt instead to describe systemic abuse and mismanagement at the school without including details about individual staff. There’s been rumors that disagreement over this decision was what led to BJU’s temporary firing of GRACE earlier this year, but no confirmation.

2. What scope will the report have? For instance, will GRACE only consider on-campus incidents and reports, or will it also explore related situations such as Jim Berg’s questionable “abuse counseling ministry?”

3. Will BJU attempt to spin the report’s findings, or accept them and seek to change? Since the investigation began, BJU has repeatedly stated its only goal is to learn from the report and address any mistakes it’s made. However, those familiar with the school’s history have reason to wonder what response a damning GRACE report will elicit. A battle over the report’s findings would doubtless be damaging to BJU’s reputation, but it’s not inconceivable: the two organizations traded social media posts expressing “disappointment” in each other during the firing fiasco earlier this year. And BJU’s unfortunate descriptions of victims (see “underserved”) may indicate a lack of willingness to accept culpability. Another interesting caveat is Bob Jones III’s very public claim that the school has never mismanaged any case of abuse in its history. How will the school reconcile that claim with the report?

4. How will alumni and supporters of the school react if the report is wide-ranging and devastating? We’ve seen supporters defend BJU in dire situations before, but a report showing a long history of abuse mismanagement would likely still be a big blow. For several years now, BJU has been attempting to rehab its public image: social media efforts, a new mascot and sports program, relaxed rules, a non-Jones president, showing movies on campus–regardless of how you view these efforts, there’s no doubt the school’s intent has been to appear more welcoming. A bombshell from GRACE would set the school back years in terms of reputation, and require a massive new PR campaign. With declining enrollment and SACS watching closely, it may simply be too late even for that.

5. How and when will alumni be notified of the report’s findings? Who will do the notifying, BJU or GRACE? It would seem natural that BJU would send letters and/or email to alumni explaining what GRACE publishes, in addition to social media. However, the organization that sends out the notifications could also seek to control the spin. If BJU is allowed to exclusively notify interested parties, there’s the distinct possibility that the news will be softened, or that not everyone will be contacted.

6. Will media coverage be sufficient to force BJU to implement major change? Depending on who you believe, BJU has repeatedly been convinced to change its policies due to media scrutiny–from the miscegenation controversy to their firing/re-hiring of GRACE, BJU is always aware (if scornful) of media attention. We saw a historic amount of media coverage earlier this year when BJU fired GRACE, so it’s likely than any GRACE report (especially one critical of BJU) would be similarly well-covered. The question is whether or not the coverage reaches a critical mass that puts BJU administrators on the hot seat and requires action.

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.