27 August 2015 Update: For a statement on the latest information regarding Jimmy Epting, please click here.
I left the meeting with Hagin and immediately emailed NGU Vice President for Academic Affairs Randall Pannell and requested a meeting:
I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss Bob Jones University’s contact with you regarding my employment here. When is the soonest we can meet?
We both agreed upon March 4 at 1:30. I replied as follows:
Since this involves a good bit of reading and in the interest of transparency, I thought I’d pass along this article that was already headed to publication when Linwood and I talked on Thursday. This is what I do: I speak truth to power. Some evangelize, some administrate, some minister mercy. This is my job in the Body and my expertise as an academic. My Ph.D. in the rhetoric of religion has prepared me for just this:
When I have been interviewed for 20/20, Al Jazeera America, the American Prospect, and the New York Times, the first clarification I make each time is that North Greenville is not to be mentioned in the story. I have never spoken of any of this in the classroom. My students know nothing about any of this.
I can explain more on Tuesday. But since the above points are best clarified with some background reading, I thought I’d mention it ahead of time.
As it turns out, however, my expertise, my vocation, my published academic scholarship, my professional deportment in the classroom, my public vitae, and my handling of media interviews as an expert in Southern religious rhetoric would be completely irrelevant in this situation. Nothing about academic professionalism or Christian ethics mattered more than one thing: public relations.
Here’s the short version of the meeting: somewhere between February 12 and February 27, Bob Jones University’s Director of Public Relations Randy Page called another NGU administrator reasoning that because I worked for NGU and I was attacking BJU, NGU was, therefore, attacking BJU. A current NGU employee “who has friends over there” approached NGU President Jimmy Epting on or around Saturday, March 1. Pannell had also received 3-4 “anonymous phone calls” which he was including in the proof that NGU “had been dragged into this.”
Thus, Pannell asked me to “take a pause.” That was it — a pause. “Anything that is public like the blog, any kind of article, anything that’s out there we just can’t take it back, it would be ridiculous. You have not done anything that I want to punish you for.”
And so starting that Fat Tuesday, I began a sort of Lenten fast that would extend past Easter through to May 5 after I turned in my final grades. I emailed Pannell the following on March 6:
While working for North Greenville University, I intend to make no other comment about Bob Jones University.
And I kept my promise.