Tag Archives: Leaks

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:

 

 

 

PSA: We Have Archived Every Sermon by Jim Berg and Bob Jones III

 

Some commenters here felt it was unethical to save these sermons when GRACE has recommended their deletion. In our opinion, it’s worth having the real, “uncensored” words of these men saved for several reasons:

1. BJU might go beyond the GRACE recommendation and delete ALL sermons by these speakers, thus removing any permanent record of important public statements made therein (including ones related and unrelated to abuse).

2. Even in the event that only “offending” sermons are removed, GRACE left the definition of what constitutes “offensive” to BJU itself (“any sermons it determines to be offensive…”). Also, there’s the possibility that BJU might ask SermonAudio to edit and re-upload certain sermons minus offensive content, thus saving face.

Even if no one ever contacts us for a copy of these sermons, or even if BJU never deletes them, we felt it important that BJU be notified that its publicly-spoken words can’t be permanently erased.

One of the recommendations in the GRACE report was for BJU to remove from its archives any sermons “insensitive or hurtful to sexual abuse victims” (pg. 230). This directive, combined with BJU’s habit for disappearing any information detrimental to its image, makes it important that sermons from Jim Berg and Bob Jones III, in particular, are preserved in some way. We took it upon ourselves to download each of Berg’s sermons (about 150) and each of Bob Jones III’s sermons (over 500) from SermonAudio while they still exist there. This vital audio record could prove essential for further investigation.

Although we unfortunately don’t have the resources to upload all of these sermons here for easy downloading, we have compiled a sermon guide for both speakers listing all of the sermon titles along with date, location and other information. Simply drop us an email if you’d like to listen to any of them.

Click here to download the Jim Berg sermon guide.

Click here to download the Bob Jones III sermon guide.

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.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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:

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 4.33.47 PM

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.”

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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:

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.21.29 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.20.03 PM  Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.21.23 PM

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.

Is Stephen Jones Preparing for a Career in Education?

Stephen Jones has kept pretty quiet since his resignation from the BJU Presidency. Apart from a few Instagram posts detailing his world travels (paid for by the BJU Board), his only public statements have come via his blog. That blog has primarily been a place for Jones to offer advice to young Christians, via posts named “Letters To a Young Friend,” though he’s also used it to denounce critics (and claim he’s not denouncing them).

But over the last week or so, three separate tipsters have sent us information that leads us to think the former BJU President might be looking to launch a career in the education industry. According to the screenshots sent our way, Jones is introducing himself to dozens of friends and even strangers on professional social network LinkedIn as an “Education Management Professional”:

Like we said above, several different anonymous sources have told us they’ve received the above email. And another screenshot of Jones’ LinkedIn profile (only visible to his LinkedIn contacts) shows he has indeed been connecting with scores of new people recently:

Would Jones be a good hire for an educational organization in South Carolina or elsewhere? It’s hard to say. Jones clearly has experience as the head of a large University, but it’s also just as clear that his education and experience really only prepare him to lead BJU. His degrees are all from the school and therefore unaccredited. There’s also the issue of nepotism; Jones didn’t attain his position as BJU President through his qualifications only. We’ll keep tabs on any further developments with Jones’ aspirations. If you have more updates on any of this, feel free to drop us a line.

 

BJU Sends Out Two New Fundraising Letters as Financial Situation Deteriorates

It looks like the dire words of warning about BJU’s financial outlook from its previous President are holding true under the current President.

BJU issued this week not one but two new fundraising letters to select graduates, the details of which have been provided to BJU News by a kind tipster. The first letter asks grads to contribute to the school’s Scholarship Fund; gifts which will, the letter says, be matched by “The Board” up to $500,000. New school President Steve Pettit employs the scare tactics and questionable logic that have been the hallmark of BJU promotional materials for nearly 100 years. Here’s the letter in five pictures:

The second letter, which we published earlier today to lengthy discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages, concerns the Museum and Gallery. It has apparently recently had the misfortune of losing one of its major donors, and BJU is asking graduates to pick up the slack–to the tune of $300,000. Read below:

10410146_797280173644167_4142837605949471107_n

Now, there’s certainly nothing unusual about a school asking for donations from its constituency, and anyone affiliated with BJU can tell you that the school has a long history of tracking down addresses in order to send out letters like these (even if it sometimes forgets to inform the same people of its public scandals via these methods). But taken in context of recent revelations about the University’s indulgent spending on flashy events and activities, and combined with the constant undertone of worry about enrollment, these kinds of donation requests now take on a different tone. It remains to be seen how the outcome of the GRACE investigation (in just three weeks) will impact these issues.