Bob Jones University halts investigation

Sexual Abuse | The South Carolina school terminates its agreement with an independent group investigating responses to sexual abuse
by Jamie Dean
Posted 2/06/14, 09:09 pm

The Christian organization GRACE announced that Bob Jones University (BJU) has terminated an agreement with the group to investigate the way the school has responded to victims of adult or childhood sexual abuse.

GRACE (an acronym for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) announced late Thursday that officials from the Greenville, S.C., school sent a notice of termination to the organization on Jan. 27. The announcement said BJU officials had not informed the group based in Lynchburg, Va., why they terminated the agreement.

BJU asked GRACE in November 2012 to conduct an independent investigation into any complaints concerning BJU’s response to students who reported they had been sexually abused at some point in their lives.

Shortly after GRACE announced the termination, BJU released a statement, saying, “Over the last several months, we grew concerned about how GRACE was pursuing our objectives.”

The statement also said it is “BJU’s intention to resolve its differences with GRACE, and we are disappointed a resolution could not be reached before our differences were made public.”

In an email response to WORLD on Thursday evening, BJU public relations director Randy Page said the school’s concerns about the investigation are “for discussion between BJU and GRACE, not for a public forum.”

Over the past year, GRACE has collected information in the investigation through a confidential, online survey, and conducted in-person interviews. The GRACE announcement said the team was set to conduct its final set of interviews and begin drafting a final report (scheduled for publication in March) when BJU terminated the agreement.

GRACE posted a copy of the termination letter from BJU President Stephen Jones (and also signed by Board of Trustees chairman Larry Jackson). In the letter, Jones thanked GRACE for its service, but said the school was terminating the agreement and asked for the group to halt its work. He also asked that all documents, information, and interviews be kept confidential.

The letter did not provide a reason for the termination, but Jones noted he recently announced his resignation as university president, effective in early May. (Jones has cited ongoing health problems as the reason for his stepping down.)

In the letter, Jones said the leadership change has “redirected a significant amount of our focus and energy,” and “in view of the ongoing challenges in leadership change” the school was terminating the agreement. Jones also said BJU officials wanted to meet with GRACE and “reach a new agreement that will enable us to accomplish our objectives. …”

It’s unclear what a new agreement would entail, or whether the two organizations can reach a new arrangement. GRACE’s statement on Thursday said the group still didn’t know why BJU had ended the agreement. (The GRACE statement also said the group had no prior indication from BJU that the school was considering terminating the agreement.)

In his email to WORLD, BJU spokesman Randy Page said the school still intended to complete the project: “We remain committed to having a third party—whether GRACE or another entity—complete the process and issue a public report at that time.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie is WORLD’s national editor based in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

Read more from this writer