Bob Jones University regards all forms of abuse and neglect as abhorrent. In 2011, BJU embarked on a program to review and improve our response to students who report past abuse. In subsequent months we have updated policies, implemented unprecedented awareness training, appointed a full-time abuse counselor, and appointed an ombudsman to review our policies and past responses to abuse. In the near future, we will release an ombudsman’s report, provide a comprehensive Child Safety Workshop for local church leaders, and continue to improve our care for the hurting and abused.
Below you’ll find answers to many of the questions we have received regarding our efforts in these areas.
In the fall of 2011, following a number of high profile national news reports regarding child sexual abuse, especially on college campuses, BJU took a leadership role in its part in exercising best practices in the handling of matters regarding sexual abuse. BJU leadership wanted to make certain that BJU’s policies and procedures for handling reports of sexual abuse both comply with every aspect of the law and ensure a loving, scripturally based response to those involved. To accomplish those tasks, the president with the board’s approval appointed an external committee to review policies and procedures and recommend appropriate changes or enhancements.
In addition to recommending additions to and clarifications of the University’s abuse and neglect policy, the committee recommended the University engage an independent ombudsman to reassess the support we offer to students who had been abused at some point in their past and strengthen our overall capabilities to help prevent and respond to abuse.
An ombudsman is a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency and represents the broad scope of constituent interests. Usually appointed by an organization, an ombudsman may, for example, investigate constituent complaints relating to the organization and attempt to resolve them.
In initiating the project with GRACE, BJU’s president outlined two purposes to the Board of Trustees and the university family for initiating the project with GRACE. They were:
- To ensure BJU’s policies and procedures for handling reports of sexual abuse comply with every aspect of the law and demonstrate a loving, scriptural based response to those involved
- To provide BJU an opportunity to communicate with and be reconciled with any former students or other individuals who believe they received inadequate help when they reported to a BJU representative that they had been abused at some point in their past
The agreement with GRACE was not prompted by any specific event, nor was there any evidence of a systemic problem of sexual abuse on or off campus involving BJU students or employees.
GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an organization based in Lynchburg, Va., was retained to perform an independent review and fulfill BJU’s objectives as outlined by BJU leadership.
On January 10, 2013, GRACE and BJU posted a link to a survey hosted on GRACE’s website. Both GRACE and BJU explained that anyone who wanted to communicate information to GRACE could go to this link and complete the survey. GRACE then reviewed the surveys and then determined individuals they would interview or contact for a further statement.
In addition to posting the link on the BJU website, BJU included an article about GRACE in the Winter/Spring 2013 issue of BJU Magazine with a circulation of over 90,000. The article announced GRACE as our ombudsman and pointed readers to the website for specific information. In addition, to former students, faculty, staff and alumni who did not receive the magazine and for whom BJU had contact information, BJU sent emails and/or letters informing them of the survey. BJU announced the GRACE survey in chapel to current students, faculty and staff and the same day sent each of them an email link to the survey.
BJU’s abuse and neglect policy, updated in 2012, makes every BJU faculty, staff and volunteer a mandatory reporter if they learn of, or suspect, any type of abuse. The policy delineates the reporting process including who is to be notified and the time frame for notification. It also provides telephone numbers for the state, county and city agencies to which reports are to be made. View the policy..
Beginning January 10, 2013, GRACE collected surveys on their website from individuals who wanted to submit information to them. Following receipt of the surveys, GRACE reviewed all survey inputs and identified individuals they wanted to interview. GRACE has also told BJU they asked some others for written statements. In subsequent months, they conducted the interviews and scheduled interviews with some BJU current and former faculty and staff mentioned by the original interviewees as well as other people they thought could provide relevant information.
BJU and GRACE had monthly calls in which GRACE updated BJU on the general progress of the project. Because of the independent nature of the project, GRACE shared only general information rather than any specific information about individuals or findings.
To date, BJU has received no report that GRACE has discovered any BJU or BJA abuse reporting obligations.
It is our desire to increase awareness and understanding of abuse among the university family and in the Christian community. To date, BJU—through MinistrySafe and Abuse Prevention Systems—has proactively provided nineteen training sessions for 3,950 faculty, staff and students, and will continue to provide sexual abuse awareness training to all students and employees in subsequent semesters. As part of this process, we are preparing specific guidelines for those who work with minors in a variety of capacities both on and off campus. In addition, we are committed to hosting a comprehensive Child Safety Workshop for local church leaders this spring.
No. This was an independent review and thus, GRACE has provided no information to BJU.
Yes. From the start, BJU has been committed to public report by a third party.
Every employee and volunteer at BJU and BJA is a mandatory reporter and has been trained to recognize and report sexual abuse of a minor directly to appropriate local law enforcement agencies. BJU actively encourages current and former students eighteen years of age and older to report abuse directly to appropriate local law enforcement agencies and we will provide them with assistance if they desire.
On January 27, 2014, BJU provided GRACE a letter terminating the contract. At that time, BJU immediately renewed discussions to address areas of concern. This culminated in face-to-face meetings February 18 – 19 in Lynchburg, Va. to jointly determine if there was a way to resolve differences and move forward with GRACE to complete the project. Following discussions about BJU’s concerns, GRACE is now moving forward to complete the project.
No. Because of the independent nature of the investigation, BJU was not privy to any details concerning the GRACE findings.
Absolutely not! Because of the independent nature of the investigation, BJU was not privy to any details concerning the GRACE findings. We are neither aware of any instances of wrongdoing that have not been reported nor has GRACE advised us of any instances in which we have failed to report.
As an institution of higher learning, BJU values the privacy of student records and complies with all privacy and confidentiality laws pertaining to student records.
Therefore, we are unable to comment on many facts related to former or current students. We are also unable to disseminate any law enforcement reports or the resolution of any complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education which exonerate the University or its faculty, staff or students.
It is for the sake of these individuals that BJU went to great lengths to resolve our differences with GRACE. We are deeply grieved by the pain and disappointment these individuals have experienced.
GRACE served these individuals well by gaining their trust to the point they were willing to share deeply personal and painful experiences from their past.
We assure them we look forward to finishing the project with GRACE and remain resolute in our desire to reach out to them in a loving and scripturally based manner.
Yes. Following the termination letter, BJU immediately renewed discussions to address areas of concern and met face-to-face with GRACE February 18 – 19 in Lynchburg, Va. to jointly determine if there was a way to resolve differences and move forward with GRACE to complete the project.
When we originally announced our intention to hire GRACE, we made it clear we were committed to a third party ombudsman and public report. We remain committed to achieving our original objectives by having GRACE complete the process as quickly as possible and issue a public report.
Yes. BJU takes the responsibility of safety on our campus very seriously. During GRACE’s investigation, the misperception has arisen that GRACE has been reviewing only reports of sexual abuse that occurred on the BJU campus. This is not the case. While there have been instances of abuse involving people on campus as reported to law enforcement and on the University’s annual Clery Report, the vast majority of counseling results from students reporting abuse they suffered while they were children living at home.
The campus, including individual facilities, is secured relative to events and time of day and personal safety instruction is available to the student body.
Public Safety employs full-time and part-time officers who are trained and registered through the S.C. Law Enforcement Regulatory Division (SLED). Each officer is registered as a private security officer and has the same authority and arrest powers as a deputy sheriff when they are on campus. BJU’s Department of Public Safety also has several full-time employees who are trained through the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy and are certified Class 1 law enforcement officers and commissioned as State Constables by the Governor’s office.
One of the keys to BJU’s excellent record of safety is the personal integrity of the University community and our code of conduct. For example, because alcohol is not permitted at BJU, we generally do not have any problems with alcohol-related incidents. In addition, we have taken a number of proactive steps to ensure that our students are safe and that we are prepared in case of any emergency. Some of these steps include electronic entry system on all residence halls and most other campus buildings, routine 24/7 public safety patrols on campus, electronic emergency notification system, and excellent relationships with local law enforcement.
Each year, BJU publishes an annual campus security report in compliance with the Clery Act. The security report includes crime statistics; reporting crimes; coordination between law enforcement agencies; fire and medical emergencies; emergency notification, response and evaluation; crime prevention; victim support services; the BJU Policy on Sexual Harassment; other BJU policies and more.
One student inappropriately touched nine fellow students in the campus library during regular library hours. The nine students reported the incidents to campus authorities the same day. BJU has a no tolerance policy and immediately facilitated the reporting of the incidents to the Greenville Police Department and offered counseling to the students. The student was dismissed. Representatives of the solicitor’s office interviewed the nine students and over the next months resolved the matter through the legal system.
This does not diminish the gravity of the situation as we are grieved over any kind of sexual misconduct. However, the category under which BJU had to report the offenses—forcible sexual offense—includes a wide range of offenses.