Transparency BJU Bob Jones University

Thinking About Attending Bob Jones University?

Don’t.

Bibb Graves Dorm Name at Bob Jones University
Lest they try to erase their past: The actual dorm sign before it was changed to H. A. Ironside in 2011.

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.

Bibb Graves Plaque at Bob Jones University
Lest they try to erase their past: The actual dorm dedication plaque before it was removed.

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.

bju Bob Jones University
What a protest looks like at Bob Jones University

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?!]

Why?!!

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.

Transparency BJU Bob Jones UniversityOn 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:

*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!

10 thoughts on “Thinking About Attending Bob Jones University?”

  1. Thanks for posting this. It’s a comprehensive article on some of the more serious issues at BJU. To those who disregard Tim’s warnings and attend the school anyway, do not, under any circumstances, report rape or sexual abuse to the school. They will not help you. You will be blamed. You will be shamed. You will be taught that it is your own impurity that attracted the abuse. Sexual abuse victims are not treated with even the slightest bit of compassion and kindness.
    Those who are sex offenders can expect a level of protection as if they are caught, they can simply admit they were wrong and it will be forgiven and their crime hidden. It’s a bit of a haven of sorts for offenders.

    1. Good morning, Anonymous,

      Based on your second comment submitted here, I’m sending an email to the email address you used. It contains two contacts you may wish to reach out to for loving and compassionate support.

  2. I think you are being a little too harsh on Justice Black and Governor Graves (cut them a bit of slack for the place and the time) but BJU sure comes out as a narrow-minded bunch of religious zealots in the context of the 21st century! Don’t understand why Petermann stayed on unless he is also some kind of a zealot.

  3. Art, Heading to ATL for July 4th. Have to get together with you and Carole for dinner. Would love to get your thoughts on how one balances living and prospering in a place/time with being an effective catalyst for positively shaping change in that place/time. I think you make an important point: it’s easy to look at the past through the lens of the present. It’s a r.e.a.l.l.y complex issue! What burns me so about this is the university perpetuated a lie that they didn’t have the history they had. Acknowledge it. Condemn it. Move forward doing right by those wronged. Their history, their constant pattern of behavior, on so many issues is to judge and condemn others but accept their own path as divinely ordained.

  4. As the CNN correspondent in Beirut said to the terrorist with the Kalashnikov: “I believe in every thing you have ever thought!” I will buy you a dinner any time. Prob with FB is you can’t footnote/endnote or qualify quick thoughts. I have dined with Justice Black (after he was on the court) and believe me he seemed quite liberal for an Alabama politician of his time (admittedly that was a time when I and my ilk drank from a separate drinking fountain and pissed in a separate room.

  5. I personally know Chris and think he is a nice guy, but instead of attacking other Christians why don’t you spend your time attacking thinks like abortion that are sinful. Stop tearing down other Christians. There are problems with every institution, Christian or not. If you supposed goal is to ‘do right’, then maybe you should think about how Christ would think of you attacking other believers, regardless of their mistakes. You are shaming the Christian name to the world. Who would want to be a part of Christianity when they see attacks like this. So why don’t you go do right and go protest something like abortion. After all the Jesus did say that whoever was without sin can cast the first stone. No one is perfect, so stop attacking people that are at least trying. I don’t agree with a lot about Bob Jones, but I do believe there are good people there trying to do right. So back off and ‘do right.’

    1. Hi, Kim! Here are some quick thoughts about your comment:

      1. Not sure if you think that I was attacking Chris in my post… I was applauding his efforts. You state that he is a nice guy. He was doing what I have basically done here–except he also included an outdoor protest, the first ever at the university, making it singularly attention-seeking. Am I too a nice guy? The tone of your comment seems to suggest otherwise: “So, back off…”. Wow! I sense anger.
      2. Abortion has nothing to do with this post save for the fact that Ernie Willis is documented trying to pay for Tina, a 15 year old, to get an abortion. She chose, as is her legal right to do, not to get the abortion.
      3. You repeatedly use the word “attack” to describe what I have written. You know, I really didn’t think of what I wrote as an attack–just shining the light of day on some very serious issues. My goal was never to “attack” anyone but to offer people factual information and my personal opinions so they could make informed decisions for themselves. You have apparently had that opportunity. Others deserve it as well.
      4. I would argue the exact opposite: I did not “shame the Christian name” with my post. The people involved in the molestation and rape of a child, the cover up, etc. are the ones shaming, not just the Christian name, but all of humanity.
      5. Shining the light of day on criminal activity and an apparent tolerance for those who fail to file a written police report for the rape of a minor (failing to report is a criminal offense in my state) in my hopes of empowering others to make informed choices for themselves is, in my opinion, the right thing to do. The Catholic church claims to be Christian. Would you suggest that, in an effort to avoid “shaming the Christian name,” the sexual abuse and pedophilia that has been rampantly reported and prosecuted in that institution should have also been swept under the rug resulting in more innocent, trusting children being unknowingly placed at risk?
      5. One of the things I personally found very disturbing was listening to the BJU Executive Vice President report that he basically told students “God bless you” for focusing on other things, like studying for exams, rather than (as I personally surmised his remarks) being informed about those taking a stand against sexual abuse in Chris’ protest. In my opinion this appears to reward looking the other way, remaining uninformed, or not “tearing down other Christians” as you phrase it. This is exactly what the New York Times is reporting about within the Hasidic community. Doing as you suggest, in my opinion, only allows the rot to fester and spread. Silence is tacit approval. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/nyregion/ultra-orthodox-jews-shun-their-own-for-reporting-child-sexual-abuse.html)
      7. My last quick thought on your comment: I agree with you: there are, and have been, some very good people at that institution that are doing their best to do what they believe is right. I would challenge you to entertain the possibility that I too am a good person trying to do what my heart tells me is right. I do believe that you are as well. We just see these issues very, very differently. And having read the unsolicited and unpublished comments and emails I have received from other victims as a result of this post, I am even more convinced that people need to know more about sexual abuse and those who provide offenders safe haven, not less, to make their best choices. Victims need to feel empowered to report criminal behavior directly to the police for prosecution and justice. This is far less likely to happen when others just look the other way. Again, I feel compelled to say that silence about matters of victimization and subjugation is tacit approval.

      Rather than telling you to “back off,” I want to wish you only the very, very best.

  6. Bibb Graves??? that arguement doesnt get very far if you research it. To accuse BJU of being racist because of having Bibb graves on the board is a crock. True he was KKK which WAS and IS and evil organization but read up on it he was just a politician looking for votes.
    * Bibb graves was an associate and friend of FRANKLIN D ROOSEVELT does that make him a racist?

    * Bibb Graves was an ALABAMA governor and supported FDR’s “new deal’ does this fact make the “New deal” Racist
    *Bibb Graves was asupporter of the liberl FDR supreme court nomonee Hugo Black who was also a suppporter of FDR’s liberal policies and of civil rights, Hugo black was also a former clansman but like Graves his motivation was votes and the Klans strong anti catholic stance. STICK WITH FACTS NOT WITH SMEARS

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment. Quick thoughts:

      1. My position is that I did stick with facts and offered my opinions based on those facts. I do not believe, as you appear to suggest, that being a politician “just looking for votes” makes being a leader in the KKK in any way defensible. Graves wasn’t just an inactive member. He was the Grand Cyclops! I believe leadership to be a very serious endeavor, both from an organization’s standpoint (like the influence wielded by a Board of Trustees) and from the leader’s affiliations (standing with and supporting an organization with your abilities and resources). Effective leaders affect influence and change for good and/or bad.
      2. FDR, who has nothing to do with my post, did not have policies that forbid black people from being a part of the New Deal. For “biblical reasons,” BJU denied black students admission for decades. The school was whites only. (You might not have known this?) Even after they were forced to admit people of color, they had very strict policies governing “acceptable conduct.” Historical patterns of behavior are very telling.
      3. My post was already horrendously long for my blog–very atypical for me. I really was not making any effort to personally build the case for BJU having had a racist history. (I merely wrote about the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for me: Bibb Graves.) The United States Government, in Bob Jones University vs. United States, successfully made that case for me. The case was tried, won, and upheld all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, despite the efforts of BJU to court Ronald Reagan during his election in 1976 and 1980. (Reagan actually spoke to the student body, originally supported the university in their court case, and then quietly dropped his support.) Many believe that the reason the university finally ended its racist policies was because of the national fury that unfolded when the fact that George W. Bush addressed the student body came to the nation’s attention. Some suggest that the Bush administration pressured the university to do so. Having personally heard Bob Jones, Jr., and Bob Jones, III, repeatedly and vehemently declare they would never compromise on what they believed to be their scriptural policies, I personally was stunned to hear the chancellor suddenly end those policies when speaking on Larry King.
      4. The university itself recently admitted that it’s policies were in fact “racially hurtful.” They could not bring themselves to say their policies were just flat out racist. I personally think this is as close to an apology as they will ever get. I recommend you read the link in my post, Bob Jones University Apologizes for Its Racist Past.

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