In 2009, I presented my rhetorical analysis of the Bob Jones University’s response to Please Reconcile, an alumni effort urging BJU to apologize for its past racist policies. I theorized that BJU’s “Statement on Race” parallels a Lost Cause apologia – a romance caught at a potentially tragic crisis point. For BJU, like all patricians in the Old South, the rules of chivalry drive their action or rather their reaction. They imagine themselves a Lost Cause hero, a southern Cavalier, who moves more than he acts. Acting, you see, is reserved for their peers. And this Patrician, as a man of leisure and good birth, simply is, until a moment of deadly crisis. When he is challenged — imagine a duel — his duty is to “serve the eternal verities” of the established order. He must, at all costs, maintain “good form.”
Thus, guiding him is an unspoken code duello. If he ever acts, he will only act in response to his peers, his fellows, his equals. He will never, ever respond to those beneath him because responding at all (acting, in the Burkean nomenclature) elevates the lowly to his stature.
Thus, within the enduring rhetorical romance of sectarian religion, the code duello informs and contains conflict. In 2008, for instance, Bob Jones University could not sully themselves by appearing to respond to its alumni. Instead they issue a “Statement on Race” while insisting to their employees that Please Reconcile had nothing whatsoever to do with their statement. They had been thinking of this for a long time. They were going to do it anyway. It’s nothing new. It’s what they always thought. There’s nothing to see here.
Nobody bought it, of course.
Third said the same thing on Larry King during Campaign 2000 — that the Board was going to lift the interracial dating prohibition anyway the previous May. Senior said the same thing about admitting blacks back in the day — that they were planning on building a school for African-Americans but we mouthy Northerners all went and ruined it for them. They pulled the same “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” tricks with Billy Graham, too.
All that to say this: they haven’t changed one whit. And they won’t. But again, they haven’t. There’s no new arrow in their quiver, no new management by a new administration, no matter how many earnest hopes we project onto him. We out here point out problems, and they note them (secretly) and change them (but not really) but never, ever let on that we were the catalyst for their mere “motion.” Remember that.
One thing first, Kenneth Burke talks about the difference between motion and action. Motion is a habit. It is unthinking. It is not meaningful. It is unintentional. It just is. Acting, on the other hand, is fully sentient. When we act, we human beings are most human, according to Burke. A dog can move, but he can’t act. Only humans can act. It’s the difference between breathing and sighing. You breathe all the time without meaning to per se; but when you sigh, you are communicating something and you intend to. You are acting.
In the contraints of the code duello, the Patrician Hero can only move. He cannot be seen to act because that would imply the eternal verities for which he stands have been compromised. If he acts, his world crumbles, and his Cause is Lost.
And we’re seeing it all happen again. Right now. They are trying to ignore those who care enough to speak up because addressing us would be acting and would elevate us, in their minds, to equal status.
Let’s look at the facts.
- In September, 2011 several of us discovered that BJU’s employee handbook’s statement on reporting sexual abuse did not comply with South Carolina law. It put “first contact” and investigation in the hands of the BJU employees instead of in the hands of the legal system. The statement was:
Bob Jones University does not permit or allow sexual abuse or molestation to occur in the workplace. In order to make this “zero-tolerance” policy clear to all employees, we have adopted mandatory procedures that employees, volunteers, family members, board members, individuals and victims are to follow when they learn of or witness sexual abuse or molestation.
Sexual abuse takes the form of inappropriate sexual contact or interaction for the gratification of the actor who is functioning as a caregiver and is responsible for the patient’s or child’s care. Sexual abuse includes sexual assault, exploitation, molestation or injury.
All employees who learn of sexual abuse being committed are to report it immediately to their supervisor, department head or the director of Human Resources. If the victim is an adult, the abuse will be reported by this designee to the local or state Adult Protective Services (APS) Agency. If a child is the victim, the designee will report it to the local or state Child Abuse Agency. Appropriate family members of the victim are to be notified immediately of suspected child abuse.
We take allegations of sexual abuse seriously. Once the allegation is reported, we will promptly, thoroughly and impartially initiate an investigation to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that sexual abuse has been committed. Our investigation may be undertaken by an internal team, or we may hire an independent third party. We will cooperate fully with any investigation conducted by law enforcement or regulatory agencies, and we refer the complaint and the result of our investigation to those agencies. We reserve the right to place the subject of the investigation on an involuntary leave of absence or to reassign that person to responsibilities that do not involve personal contact with individuals or students. To the fullest extent possible, but consistent with our legal obligation to report suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, we will endeavor to keep the identities of the alleged victims and investigation subject confidential.
If the investigation substantiates the allegation, our policy provides for disciplinary penalties, including but not limited to termination of the actor’s relationship with BJU.
- On September 22, 2011, several of us wrote elected officials in the South Carolina and BJU administrators pointing out the lack of compliance.
- On September 28, 2011, Bob Jones University’s Carol Keirstead emailed all the BJU employees with the following statement from Marshall Franklin and Gary Weier, attaching the newly revised, 6-page sexual abuse reporting policy:
>>> Communications (Carol Keirstead) 9/28/2011
>>>Faculty and Staff,
Attached is BJU’s revised Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedures. The original policy, including the section on the policy in the 2011-2012 Faculty/Staff Handbook, was written in consultation with legal counsel and met state reporting requirements. Within the last two weeks, some of our constituents pointed out weaknesses in the wording. When we receive input such as this, we evaluate to see what we can learn and/or how we can make something better. We now have clarified this policy so that it not only meets legal requirements but also is a best practices policy. It is important that we verify that each employee has received and read the policy. Please print the two forms at the end of the policy—-Statement of Life Practices and Child Abuse Policy and Procedures Acknowledgment—-complete the forms and send them to the Human Resources office by October 7, 2011.
We suggest you retain a copy of the signed forms as well as a copy of the policy for your records.
Marshall Franklin, Executive Vice President for Operations
Gary Weier, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
- On November 1, 2011, I pointed out that the infamous Chuck Phelps, defender of convicted rapist Ernie Willis and punisher of a minor rape victim, had been put back on the Bob Jones University Cooperating Board of Trustees in December 2010. There was some doubling-down about when exactly Chuck had been appointed, but nonetheless by November 4th, Laurie Moody had drafted a petition to get Phelps removed from the BJU Board. 1222 people signed that petition — over twice as many as signed the Please Reconcile petition.
- On November 5, 2011 Jerry Sandusky was arrested on multiple counts of child sex abuse.
- On November 15, 2011, Bob Jones III preached about the Penn State case in Chapel, assuring the “University Family” that Bob Jones University does not sweep such matters under the rug.
- On November 16, 2011, Christopher Peterman started Do Right BJU, a student-led effort to speak up for the victims of sexual abuse at Bob Jones University and to push toward Chuck Phelps’ resignation.
- On December 1, 2011, Lyn Riddle of the Greenville Journal reported that Chuck Phelps had resigned from the Board. December 2 was the semi-annual board meeting.
- On December 12, 2011, Do Right BJU successfully accomplished the first protest on the campus of Bob Jones University ever. Several alumni joined those very few and very brave students.
- On August 17, 2012, the Greenville Journal adopted a different tact than its previous “watchdog” approach. They featured Stephen Jones as the new and improved president, rising from the “ashes.” In that article, Stephen Jones describes the Tina Anderson case as “really old news.”
- On September 28, 2012, WSPA’s Chris Cato reported that Bob Jones University had the worst Clery report statistics in the Upstate. Carol Keirstead tried to mollify the report by saying that it was just one perpetrator of the nine “forcible sex offenses” on campus. But the statistics still stand. Do Right BJU deserves credit for bringing the issue to light and encouraging those assaulted to report. Keirstead “reassures” us, however, that the young man will be allowed to return to campus in January 2013 — a real bonus for all the other alleged sexual assault perpetrators in fundamentalism.
- On November 6-8, 2012, Jim Berg conducts a Sexual Abuse and the Church seminar under the auspices of the BJU Seminary — a move that its future ombudsman advised them against.
- On November 8, 2012, Bob Jones University announces that G.R.A.C.E. will be their much-needed ombudsman. The Greenville News‘s Ron Barnett remembered the past year’s conflicts in his article announcing the appointment.
- On November 16, 2012, Greenville Journal‘s Cindy Landrum reports on G.R.A.C.E.’s investigation, describing the Chuck Phelps resignation as a catalyst.
- On November 23, 2012, when all the peeps are out conquering the Black Friday sales, the Journal‘s Cindy Landrum reprints Carol Keirstead’s latest statement. Unchecked and unvetted. The first statement is plainly inaccurate:
The Penn State University sex abuse scandal prompted Bob Jones University to rewrite its sexual abuse policy and hire an independent ombudsman to review the university’s handling of reports of abuse not connected to the school.
No. I have proven that above. That was not it. It was those of us out here who care about BJU, about the Church, about the Law, and about the safety of the students who pointed out the problems and prompted BJU to rewrite their reporting policy in the last week of September 2011. Carol herself admitted then that “some of our constituents pointed out weaknesses in the wording.” It was not the 150-year+ school with its $1.708 billion endowment and nearly 100K student body that motivated BJU’s response. It was BJU’s real peers — its alumni and former employees and fellow believers — not its imagined peers over 600 miles away.
There are more inaccuracies from Carol. In this latest statement, Keirstead claims that ”there have been no reports of sexual abuse on campus.” That directly contradicts Carol’s own words from September 28th of this year where she describes the 2011 “forcible sex offenses.” Which is it? And how did the Journal miss this?
For those who prefer a more linear layout, I compare all Keirstead’s statements here.
But there you have it. BJU’s ignoring of the very people who care enough to speak up. They have to ignore us. They have to insist that we don’t matter. They have to maintain the myth that they never act, only move. Otherwise, the Cause is Lost.
As I said at NCA in 2009, the root of the problem within Southern romantic apologia is a juggling of the usual mystical purpose with the pragmatic agency. They get mixed up. They make God, the purpose for which they claim to be living, merely a tool. That is, by relegating God to the means of propping up their societal hierarchy, participants in the rhetorical drama are distracted from the essentially preservationist purpose in their micro-culture. When they make God the scaffolding for their mythology, the loyalists lose their psychological and logical footing and stumble into the goose-stepping line.
What do we do to help? We lay out the facts. Just the facts.