Bob Jones University is asking an outside Christian organization that deals with abuse claims to investigate how the fundamentalist college responds when students say they’ve been abused.
Trustees at the Christian university in Greenville agreed earlier this month to the investigation, which also will produce recommendations on how to better deal with any allegations of abuse in the future. The investigation will include the nearby affiliated Bob Jones Academy, which teaches students from preschool to 12th grade.
School officials said the investigation was prompted by revelations of sexual abuse in both secular and Christian organizations, but isn’t in response to any specific claims of abuse at the school. The university wants to make sure it is doing the right thing when students come to officials to report abuse that happened before they enrolled or off campus, university spokeswoman Carol Keirstead said.
“What we are really asking is how we have responded when we have received allegations of abuse from our students at any time,” Keirstead said.
The investigation will be handled by an organization called GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.
“It is our prayer that this partnership with GRACE — operated with complete autonomy from Bob Jones University — will create an atmosphere of trust and complete honesty, allowing Bob Jones University to identify any cases in which we need to exercise authentic repentance and demonstrate biblical love to those we have always desired to serve to the best of our ability for the Lord’s sake,” the university said in a statement when it announced the investigation.
The organization was founded in 2004 and includes pastors, psychologists and lawyers. It has created a confidential survey to collect information about anyone who was abused at the university or academy or knows about previous abuse claims at the schools.
The organization promises to keep confidential those who agreed to be interviewed and said its investigation will not be influenced by the school.
“We are prayerful that this difficult but necessary process may be able to bring a new dawn of hope and healing for hurting souls, along with positive institutional changes for both Bob Jones University and Bob Jones Academy,” GRACE said in a release announcing its investigation.
Bob Jones University was founded in 1927 and is known for its fundamentalist Christian views. The school banned interracial dating until 2000, issuing an apology for the ban in 2008, saying its rules on race were shaped by culture instead of the Bible.