I have seldom discussed the fact that I have 2 degrees from @BJU. But I do. While at the institution I was largely oblivious to its racist history. (For god’s sake: I learned recently that I even lived in a dorm named after the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan: Bibb Graves–a founding member of the Board of Trustees and personal friend of the founder, Bob Jones, Sr. When I first heard this I thought, “You have GOT to be kidding me! No??! Really?!!” I was stunned when I learned that this is actually true! The racist history runs very, very deep. The university has erased their past from their website, even removing the article about the renaming of the dorm.) Once I left the school, I never looked back until recently–after connecting with friends and classmates from the university through social media.
The university always played the “persecution” card around the issues of racism, and, as a naïve teenager and very young twenty-something consumed with trying to do well in school, when the issue did manage to surface on my radar, I just accepted their lies about “the [big, bad] government” being after them because of their “uncompromising religious stand.” (See the court case, Bob Jones University v. United States.) What a crock of horse @#&*! How did they successfully keep this quiet for so long?!
But, as onerous and evil as Bob Jones University‘s racist history is, racism is not the only thing rotten behind that pompous, self-righteous bully pulpit. Not only does sexism abound, but so does homophobia, and a strong tolerance for covering up hideous acts of sexual assault, abuse, and even rape. The university seems to have turned subjugation into an art form.*
Yes, as unbelievable as it may seem, the chancellor has publicly advocated the stoning of gay people! No, I’m not kidding. At all.** These people seem hell-bent on returning to the good ole days of roaming around in the wilderness for 40 years in sandals. But, well, that’s a different subject for a different day…
Recently, the national media reported on the trial and conviction of a 38-year-old, married “church-going, family man” in Concord, New Hampshire, Ernie Willis, who raped and impregnated 15 year-old Tina Anderson who was then forcibly bullied and publicly humiliated (they referred to it as “disciplined”) in front of her church (Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire) for becoming a teenaged, unwed mother, tucked away in Colorado until she gave birth to the child who was then put up for adoption. The pastor of the church, Chuck Phelps, who apparently arranged the public humiliation, stowing away and adoption, had reportedly been told of repeated instances of molestation by this man. He has been accused of covering up this outrageous scandal at his church*** after testifying that he did not file a written police report and, unknown to the congregation, allowed the rapist to quietly remain in the church. In mid-2010, Phelps “resigned” from the church because the scandal came to light.
But, aside from the church’s close ties to the university, what does this have to do with Bob Jones University? In late 2011, almost a year-and-a-half later, an astonishingly courageous young man, Chris Peterman, then a senior at Bob Jones University, held the first-ever protest at Bob Jones University because Chuck Phelps was still a proud member of the Bob Jones University Board of Trustees, the same Board of Trustees on which once sat the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
The way the timeline of events played out, I can see no way Bob Jones University did not know about the repeated molestations, the rape that resulted in pregnancy, the public humiliation, the cover up***, the “resignation,” the conviction and imprisonment of the offender, and yet the university continued to hold Chuck Phelps on its Board of Trustees–the same board on which once sat the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. [Important Update (12/16/13): Jones, III, states that he did know the details after a thorough personal investigation of the matter. Details at this link.]
After Chris Peterman’s protest on social media over this outrage became too public for the university to hush, Chuck Phelps “resigned” from the same Board of Trustees on which once sat the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. And while the university assured everyone that no retribution would befall Chris or anyone who participated in their courageous act of standing up for what is right, the university expelled Chris just nine days before his scheduled graduation in May of this year. Granted, they deny his expulsion had anything to do with his moral courage. [In my estimation, this is yet another example of their pattern of lies and deceit.]
In the YouTube clip below you can hear university Executive Vice President Marshall Franklin trying to laugh off the entire incident in a faculty meeting. Do these people not understand that every mic can be an open mic to the world?!
Enrollment at Bob Jones University is about one-third what it was when I was there. In other words, enrollment has dropped about 66%! With increased lay-offs of teachers and staff, reductions in degree programs, and delaying maintenance, they are apparently struggling to keep the place open. Social media and news media are exposing the evil that rots on Wade Hampton Boulevard. But, astoundingly, 1,331 girls (compared to only 981 boys****) were still attending the university at the end of this school year.
Why on god’s green earth would ANYONE allow their daughter to attend an institution that had a man that, as far as I am concerned, is all but complicit in the rape of a child, serving on its Board of Trustees–the same board on which once sat the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan?! [Can you tell I’m still not over their lies about their racist ties?!]
The university isn’t even accredited! Had I not gone back to school to get a degree from an accredited institution to make up for the 6 years I spent at Bob Jones University, I would never have been able to make a contribution to the tens of thousands of school children I worked with during my career serving the communities in which I worked. Despite the lies from the university, accreditation matters. And they now are acknowledging this fact as they are desperately seeking to gain accreditation–something I personally heard Bob Jones, Jr, and Bob Jones, III, swear they would never do.
On graduation day this year a plane flew around the campus carrying a huge banner demanding transparency. Students, teachers, graduates, and their parents were shocked. I have always believed knowledge is power. The more people know, the more they will flee the rot that festers in institutions like this. It’s time for this place to close its doors and creep back into the stone age. They have maintained their uncompromising stance for so long, they have become completely irrelevant in the 21st century.
The assault on women is wrong. It’s evil.
The assault on people of color is wrong. It’s evil.
The assault on gay people is wrong. It’s evil.
Young people are voting with their enrollments and choosing to go elsewhere. Good for them! That’s the right thing to do. As Bob Jones, Sr., always said: “Do right, because it’s right to do right.”
Young people: Go to school at a university that encourages you to think rather than embracing subjugation in the name of narrow-minded religious bigotry!
Interesting resources related to this post include:
- CNN Story on Chris Peterman’s Expulsion
- 20/20 Report on the Ernie Willis Trial for the Rape of Tina Anderson
- Wikipedia Article on Bob Jones University vs. United States
- Local News Footage on the 2012 Commencement Banner Fly-over Demanding Transparency
- Short Wikipedia article about the church and trial
- MSNBC Article About the Verdict
- Bob Jones University Press Release about Phelps’ Resignation
- Information on Bibb Grave’s Affiliation with the KKK
- More documentation on Bibb Graves’ Affiliation with the KKK and various university reactions to racist pasts
- Inside Higher Ed documents Bibb Graves’ past and his building namesakes
- Article about Bob Jones apologizing for the university’s racist past
- Unofficial and Informative Information on BJU Accreditation
- Documenting the Sexual Abuse Protest held on the Bob Jones University campus
- Another Sexual Abuse scandal involving Chuck Phelps comes to light
- South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (search for official information about BJU)
- National Center for Educational Statistic (search for official information about BJU)
*I actually had two roommates my senior year who frequently laughed about making their girlfriends walk 6 feet behind them while dating to show their submission to their male superiors! This was not an uncommon practice at the university. Both of these young men were training to become church pastors! Ironically, one of them was named Chuck!
**Bob Jones, III’s exact quotation when he spoke to a reporter for the associated press in 1980:
I’m sure this will be greatly misquoted but it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”
***The truth that the young girl was raped and by whom was never revealed during her public humiliation in front of the church. She was presented and chastised as an immoral, unwed mother. The truth did not come out until the investigation for the trial.
****The university, in its desperation to attract male students, has now started competitive sports–again, something I personally heard Bob Jones, Jr, and Bob Jones, III, swear they would never do. You know how that leads to such immorality!