Bob Jones University on Tuesday released its response to the recommendations of a third-party firm last year that reviewed the university’s past sexual abuse disclosures and responses.
University President Steve Pettit said that some victims had been helped by loving counseling but acknowledged that others had not.
“We have to own this problem,” he said in an address to students at the evangelical Christian college in Greenville. “And we have to have the courage to deal with it in the right way.”
The December report by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) found that students who reported abuse were often blamed for bringing it upon themselves and that proper authorities were sometimes never notified about attacks. The school had requested the review.
Of the 66 students who told investigators they were raped or assaulted during their time on campus, 31 (47 percent) said school counselors had either directed or discouraged them from going to police. Only 5 of the 66 (7.5%) said they had been encouraged to report their abuse to law enforcement. GRACE investigators said they found numerous instances where school officials expelled a student for assault, but did not notify law enforcement as state law requires.
The report, in particular, recommended disciplinary action against former chancellor Bob Jones, III and ex-Dean of Students Jim Berg. Berg was considered the chief counselor for students who said they were victims of sexual assault. The report noted he did so despite a lack of formal training in the field. GRACE recommended that the school stop selling videos of Berg’s sermons.
Pettit did not address Berg’s situation, but the Greenville News reports the school’s website stated personnel matters were handled privately. However, it did say BJU would continue to sell Berg’s materials, saying it had reviewed them and found them to be biblically sound.
President Pettit was not on the Bob Jones faculty during the time the report examined (although he was a BJU grad student and board member), but apologized on behalf of the school after the report’s release in December.