Thoughts from a BJU-related abuse survivor about education at Bob Jones University
An abuse survivor whose story is told in the GRACE report has written this for us to publish. Since she’s the first survivor to post with us, we’re giving her the A name “Anna.”
I have read the entire GRACE report, all 301 pages with all the footnotes. Most of what I read was pretty much what I expected, and am very thankful that the issues are being exposed.
I lived through many of the experiences documented in the report. I endured the counseling, the shame, and the humiliation of so much of what was described. However, there is one thing in the report that stood out to me.
Bob Jones University has always prided itself as being the best of the best in academics, having a well-rounded liberal arts approach, and in their focus on Christian character. One would assume that the school administrators and faculty would continue to receive ongoing training to provide the best education possible and not become outdated in their teaching. Among their programs of study, BJU includes Biblical Counseling, Education – including Early Childhood and Development, Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Special Education and other more specialized education majors. They offer Pre-Med, Nursing, Pastoral Studies and Criminal Justice. They offer many other programs of study, but those listed above would all require training specifically in the areas of the laws that would apply to those fields.
Those who are studying at BJU are expecting to get a top-notch education that will prepare them for their fields of work. I can’t imagine the consequences that could come about for these graduates not having any preparation regarding the laws that apply to their fields. In chapter 6 of the GRACE report, one section outlines the timeline of the enactment of various laws that directly affected these specific areas of study and directly impacted Bob Jones University and Bob Jones Academy.
Through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, many laws have been established that should have directly impacted BJU and BJA’s responses regarding mandatory reporting laws, but they should have also impacted the teaching in each of these areas of study. How can BJU adequate train their students to be prepared to work in their fields if they are not even aware of long established legal regulations that these students will need to adhere to? Failure to comply with these regulations in South Carolina is punishable as a misdemeanor (a fine of not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both for each offense).
Within the GRACE report, beginning on p. 178, there are reasons listed for BJU and BJA’s failures in these areas. In the report, Jim Berg, one of the primary people who was aware of any accusations of abuse, states that he was unaware of mandatory reporting laws until 1992 (p. 179). He further states that failure to report crimes was “pure ignorance” of what to do (p. 182).
Jones III stated that he learned of the laws regarding these issues only about 10 to 12 years ago. However, in his chapel service in 2011, he mentioned the scandal at Penn State and stated, “physical molestation, sexual molestations, it will not be swept under the rug. It never has been. It’s not the way we operate. It’s always reported to the authorities… Nothing is swept under the rug. Nobody would be kept here who did despicable deeds like that. Nobody would be kept on the board or on the faculty or on the staff who did such things as that, swept things like that under the rug. It’s just not the way we do it.” (This sermon was titled “Clothing Worth Bragging About” and was given by Dr. Bob Jones III on November 15, 2011 and is referenced in the GRACE report on p. 184.)
In talking with GRACE, Jim Berg reportedly stated that when abuse or assault was disclosed, “It never crossed my mind that it was a crime – it was not just that it was not clear; it never crossed my mind.” He further reportedly stated, “We are not required as an educational institution to be attending seminars on things as a public institution might. And we probably should have been aware of that, but weren’t” (p. 185). The report indicates that when certain crimes were reported, “the actions were considered to be highly immoral, but he admitted that he did not interpret the reports in light of criminal laws” (p.186).
On p. 209 of the report, The Dean of Undergraduate School of Religion [Royce Short] reportedly “explained that they “try to caution the students” to be “sure” that the abuse has occurred before reporting it to “unsaved government employees.”
Dr. Jones III is quoted on p. 193 of the report as saying, “You are always going to handle something short of the law if you can in good conscience and there is no demand of the law for something to be handled by the law.”
These statements of failures are significant. If the school did not know about these laws, then what has been taught to criminal justice majors? To education majors, etc.? These students are now spread around the world with inadequate training.
I was one of those students. I graduated from BJU with a degree in a field that counted me as a mandated reporter. Fortunately for me, I had a supervisor who was very hands-on in assisting and explaining all of this. Without her, I could easily have been charged for not reporting as a mandated reporter. I was fortunate in that, but wonder about the many others who graduated with no concept of these laws. I wonder especially about those who graduated with teaching degrees and went directly to work for BJA, those with nursing degrees who went to work at Barge and those who studied criminal justice and ended up working at BJU’s public safety department.
For a school that has prided itself on being the best, BJU has woefully failed.