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.
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.
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.
Put locks on the dormitory doors.
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.
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.
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.