The president of a staunch socially conservative university in South Carolina abruptly resigned his post this week – days after submitting a letter detailing the dysfunctional nature of his relationship with the school’s board of trustees.
And detailing their dysfunctional relationships with each other …
Dr. Steve Pettit – the fifth president of Greenville, S.C.-based Bob Jones University – stepped down late Thursday following a closed-door meeting that also saw several board members ousted from their positions.
Pettit’s resignation came ten days after he penned a letter saying he could not “continue to serve” as long as Dr. John Lewis remained in place as chairman of the school’s board of trustees.
“The current direction is unsustainable,” Pettit wrote in his letter. “I am walking down a dark road with no light ahead. The future of BJU requires the chairman and the president to work together. It is not happening now, and I can’t see it happening in the future.”
According to Pettit, Lewis has been holding clandestine board meetings, improperly storing “sensitive board documentation” and restricting access to information for certain administrators and board members.
(Click to view)
These actions have “heightened the disunity of the board over the past several months,” Pettit wrote.
Pettit also accused Lewis of displaying “an uncaring or cavalier disregard for the cause of troubling financial numbers triggered by the ongoing dysfunction and uncertainty” – specifically pointing to “shortfalls in the university’s current and projected financials” as well as “ongoing deficits in donations and enrollment that are directly linked to a loss of confidence in the university’s direction under the current board leadership.”
Pettit further accused Lewis of failing to report “a matter to the university’s Title IX coordinator as required by law.”
“This followed months of ignoring, minimizing and delaying the consideration of this issue, which arose from one trustee’s alleged public comment to an alumnus in the presence of a faculty member about whether female students’ clothing and female students athletes’ uniforms accentuate their ‘boobs and butts,'” Pettit wrote. “The alumnus’ letter of complaint to the board also alleged that the trustee may have taken un-consented photographs of female students.”
The trustee who allegedly took these photographs was not identified.
According to sources close to the school, the Title IX drama “has been building up” ever since trustees were reportedly shown a PowerPoint presentation which contained the aforementioned images of female students – all of which appeared to have been taken without their knowledge.
“Basically the old guard wants to go back to super fundamentalist standards and they don’t like that women wear pants,” one source told me. “There was a PowerPoint presentation showing creeper-type pics of female students and their attire that was taken without their permission.”
According to Pettit, the board’s refusal to address the scandal – and attempt what amounts to a cover-up by postponing and suspending an internal investigation – has placed the school “in a perilous position.”
Pettit – a Citadel graduate and Baptist pastor – became president of BJU in May 2014 following the resignation of Stephen Jones, great-grandson of the school’s founder Bob Jones, Sr. Pettit was the first president of the school who was not a member of the Jones family.
He was reelected to a new three-year term in office on November 22, 2022.
Lewis did not address the scandal in his statement responding to Pettit’s resignation.
“This afternoon, the BJU Board of Trustees regretfully accepted the resignation of Dr. Steve Pettit as president of Bob Jones University,” Lewis said. “The Chair and the full board voiced overwhelming support to him, but each one of us respects his decision to resign and are deeply thankful for his years of dedicated service to the mission of BJU and its faculty, staff, and students. We wish him God’s best in his future endeavors.”
THE LETTER …pettitlettermarch2023
(Via: Bob Jones University)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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Why would anyone go to BJU, let alone a follower of Christ?
As a lifelong Greenvillian it’s time that the bigoted ” idealism” of BJU be shut down forever. Turn it into a real University where closed minds are opened by real learning. BJU is a blight on our beautiful city.
Is John Lewis the one who swept the Title IX allegations under the rug the first time that led to Dr. Pettit getting the job over another Jones scion?
Just another example of how Evangelical Christians are the worst people around. Absolute trash.
Can we shipped them off to some other land, like the English did to the Puritans?
Just another example of how all Christians are flawed. We’re petty, we’re proud, we’re pious, we’re legalistic and we are plastic. We do what we don’t want to do, and can’t bring ourselves to do what we want. We are “saved” not because of our loveliness but God’s grace. We are being refined and restored by the Holy Spirit, but that won’t be completed till heaven. Bob Jones has many great things going for it. A few days among the faculty and students will show you that. Hopefully, the old guard board will step down and the reformers take over. A “reformed” Bob Jones, there’s an idea!
BJU is nothing less than a cult and always has been one. They are arguing over making women submit to primitive ideology and controlling their attire? As a Greenvillian, I have witnessed their legalistic ideology which reenforces their theology. What an embarrassment to the Kingdom. These people are the ones in the so called Freedom Caucus- many graduated from BJU. It is ironic that both only want to oppress rather the assist Freedom.
Thank you Mark Freeman for your comments above. My wife and I have a graduate of BJU and a current student of BJU, both having profited immensely from the leadership of Steve Pettit and the awesome faculty. The school is blessing so many in the community and is truly a city on a hill for Christ that cannot be hid.
The President and the Board Chairman must be unified. President Pettit seems right taking himself out of a role where he sees unity denied. The Board needs to decide on the future direction of the college – Pettit or Chairman.
Everyone knew a non-Jones President would have to lead or just be a pawn. We have a leader – a godly leader – in Steve Pettit. Our prayer is that the board recognizes the opportunity before them and, by God’s grace and for His glory, reinstates Steve Pettit as President of Bob Jones University for the long haul. We need a president like Steve Pettit, a man who is humble, willing to lead but not do so under a sham, able to address issues and standards with grace, and who likes to play a bit of gospel bluegrass. Fundamental Christianity needs a leader like Steve Pettit. If we want to produce leaders in all walks of life, would we not want a servant leader like Steve Pettit to be championing the way by being in the visible, public helm of a school like Bob Jones University! Like a friend of mine said at a critical juncture in my life, “Choose Life”, so the board must choose wisely, because, as we know and sense in our hearts, this is a choice of great significance, a choice of life or death, that will have long-term and lasting results. No matter what, God is in charge, and I would want to make sure I came down on His side. May God bless the students, faculty, staff, administration, Steve Pettit, Dr John Lewis, and the board of Bob Jones University.
If BJU goes back to strict fundamentalism and legalism and rules the school will close, BJU will no longer be their. Buildings and land will be sold off.