November 21, 2008
Bob Jones U. Apologizes for Former Racist Policies
Apology came after school received alumni-penned letter with over 500 signatories.
Bob Jones University of Greenville, South Carolina, issued an online statement Thursday apologizing for "racially hurtful" practices of its past, including prohibiting married African American students until 1971 and unmarried African American students until 1975, and banning interracial dating until 2000.
The letter stated that BJU's former policies were "shaped more directly by that [segregationist] ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures." "In so doing," the letter said, "we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry."
The statement came after an online effort, Please Reconcile, gathered over 500 signatories for an "Open Letter to Bob Jones University," which was sent to President Stephen Jones yesterday. Please Reconcile began in March 2008 "solely to defend efforts to request a statement of regret and reconciliation from the current administration and board." The site's coordinators, three alumni, claim that 92 percent of the letter's signatories were other former students. The group's Facebook page was only open to students, faculty, staff, and administration of the past and present.
Regarding Please Reconcile's efforts, alumnus Michael Gembola told Christianity Today, "The petition was actually nicely worded - other similar attempts have been sidelined by emotional language and spitefulness. This one showed actual care for the university."
Bob Jones III announced the school was dropping its interracial-dating ban on Larry King Live in March 2000. The decision came after President Bush received heavy criticism for making an appearance on campus during the 2000 presidential race.
President Stephen Jones is the great-grandson of evangelist Bob Jones Sr., who established the fundamentalist college in 1927 as a "thoroughly Christian school to train America's youth." The school's current enrollment is about 5,000.