January 27, 2015

Solicitor deciding whether to file charges after Bob Jones report

13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins (File)

13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins (File)

A state solicitor says his office will look into how Bob Jones University handled sexual abuse reports from students to determine if any state laws were broken.

The investigation announced by Solicitor Walt Wilkins last week stems from a report issued by an independent group that looked into how the Evangelical Christian college handled alleged cases of rape, assault, or abuse. The report theorized that strict teachings on sexual purity by school leaders and probing questions by counselors led many victims to feel ostracized and guilty when they sought help. The report also noted that school leaders more often than not discouraged victims from going to law enforcement.

The Greenville News reports Wilkins was looking into the report to see if Bob Jones violated state reporting laws or obstructed justice through its actions. Wilkins said he will meet with the Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller on Monday to determine how to proceed.

Wilkins also hopes anyone who wants to prosecute abuse will contact his office.

Old Gaffney quarry recognized for role in building of Washington Monument

A view of the lake and new marker (Image: Limestone College)

A view of the lake and new marker (Image: Limestone College)

Limestone College has a feature on its campus unique to any other school in the state, if not the country — a former quarry which dates back to before the American Revolution.

The site, also known as Nesbitt’s Quarry, is now a 30-acre lake that takes up about 20 percent of the small private campus in Gaffney. But it was once of the most important mines in South Carolina at one point, even contributing the state’s official stone when the Washington Monument was built in the nation’s capitol.

“Folks look at the (quarry) and think, ‘oh it’s just a lake on the edge on the edge of campus,'” Limestone President Walt Griffin told South Carolina Radio Network. “It really was important back to the period of the American Revolution.”

That history was recognized Thursday with the dedication of a new state historical marker. The plaque on the edge of the lake was funded largely with the help of Limestone alum Virginia Skinner. The 86-year-old senior member on the school’s board of trustees has been an instrumental part of chronicling the history of the 169-year-old institution. She received an honorary doctorate from the school during Thursday’s dedication.

According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Limestone Quarry is the most extensive and best preserved quarry of its kind in the northwestern Piedmont of South Carolina. It’s also the only remaining limestone quarry in South Carolina that has its outline intact.

Deposits from the quarry were used in the production of iron during the American Revolution and throughout the 19th century. By the 1820s, the open pit was a quarry owned by U.S. Congressman Wilson Nesbitt. Eventually, the fledgling Limestone Female High School was founded nearby in 1845. It later became all-female Cooper-Limestone Institute and finally Limestone College in 1898.

The school eventually acquired the quarry, before selling it to pay off debts in 1883. The site continued operating until World War I, when it was closed and filled with water. In 1933, the water was pumped out again and the mine reopened. The quarry operated on its second life for another 20 years until its limestone deposits were eventually exhausted. The quarry was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Griffin said stone from the site was transported to the District of Columbia before the Civil War to represent South Carolina on the new Washington Monument. “In 1848, the request went out from the federal government for each state of the Union to submit a native stone to incorporate in the design of the Washington Monument,” he said. “The president of Limestone College at the time Dr. Thomas Curtis answered the call pretty quickly.” He said the stone was transported to Columbia, where then-Gov. Whitemarsh Seabrook reported it was cut down into a four feet by two feet block and adorned with the state arms and sent to Washington.

The present-day water is considered off-limits to swimmers. Griffin said the lake (which he said is more than 300 feet deep in some places) has strong currents and jagged rocks along its edges.

‘Disbelieved until it was proven:’ Report criticizes handling of sex assaults at Bob Jones

Bob Jones University President Steve Pettit apologizes to both current and former students on Wednesday. Pettit took office as the report was being finalized earlier this year (Image: BJU)

Bob Jones University President Steve Pettit apologizes to both current and former students on Wednesday. Pettit took office as the report was being finalized earlier this year (Image: BJU)

An independent group on Thursday released a 300-page report that outlines a culture which both disparaged and covered up sexual abuse victims at Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville.

The small evangelical Christian college had requested the investigation in 2012 by the organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) after school leaders were criticized over a former board member’s handling of rape allegations in his own church. Former President Stephen Jones ordered the review shortly after announcing a new “abuse and neglect” policy earlier that year. The group interviewed hundreds of students, alumni, and faculty, including 66 who reported abuse while students at the school over the last 50 years.

The report released Thursday is highly critical of Bob Jones counselors and other school leaders for creating an atmosphere that emphasized the ideas of sexual purity and positive Christian values, often at the expense of not reporting alleged abuse to law enforcement. This emphasis often led victims of sexual assault to describe feeling like “second-class citizens” and to blame themselves for what happened.

“Because victims often struggled with symptoms associated with their trauma, victims of abuse reported that they did not ‘measure up’ to BJU’s expectations,” the GRACE report noted. “This sense of inadequacy led to further struggles, instead of healing.”

[Read more…]

Fraternity kicked off USC campus

A view of the "Greek Village" fraternity and sorority houses at USC (Image: University of South Carolina)

A view of the “Greek Village” fraternity and sorority houses at USC (Image: University of South Carolina)

A fraternity has withdrawn the charter of its University of South Carolina chapter in Columbia after more than 80 members faced alcohol, hazing, and drug violations.

The State newspaper reported Tuesday that Kappa Sigma fraternity will not be allowed to return to campus until 2019. Columbia Police and USC campus police raided a house in October where some fraternity brothers lived. Police said prescription drugs were being distributed at the home and hazing violations also occurred there.

Kappa Sigma had just completed three years of probation that ended in August stemming from other underaged alcohol use by members.

The fraternity’s national executive director Mitchell Wilson told the newspaper that the organization is also reviewing spending by the USC chapter, particularly $4,000 that may have inappropriately gone towards members’ legal fees and the repayment of a $17,000 loan to the chapter’s treasurer.

A fraternity member contacted by The State said the national fraternity’s portrayal of the October police raid was “outrageous and extremely exaggerated.” He said police found alcohol in the house, but only a small amount of marijuana and prescription drugs. He had been expecting sanctions, but was surprised the chapter was kicked off campus.

It is the fourth fraternity to be removed from USC’s campus since 2011 and the second this semester, according to school student-conduct records.


Clemson identifies student found dead in dorm

The Young freshman dormitory

Young Hall freshman dormitory (Image: Clemson)

Clemson University officials have identified a student who was found dead in her dorm this weekend.

School officials say they believe 18-year-old Stefanie Martin died of natural causes. The Pickens County Coroner’s Office said it conducted an autopsy Monday, but Coroner Kandy Kelley does not expect the results for a few weeks.

Kelley says the 18 year-old female student lived in Young Hall. The State Law Enforcement Division investigated the scene of her death, but say no foul play is suspected. “”We certainly offer our thoughts and prayers to the family, but from what we have seen this does not appear to be suspicious in nature,” spokesman Thom Berry said.

The school said in a release that Martin was a freshman engineering student whose family lives in Columbia.

It is at least the fifth death of a Clemson student this semester. Back in September, the Oconee County Coroner’s Office said 19-year-old Tucker Hipps died after falling off a bridge during an early morning run with a fraternity he was pledging. The circumstances of that death are still under investigation by the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. Just a week later, 20-year-old Kendall Wernet fell from the forward mast of a cruise ship while sailing near Miami. Two other students died of natural causes in August and September.

UPDATE (12/10) An obituary released by the Dunbar Funeral Home in Columbia said Martin had been battling cancer. The obit also said she was a student at Spring Valley High School, where she ran track and cross country.