Bob Jones University

On Laying Up Treasures

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Among the recent criticisms of Bob Jones University, one of the strangest is that the university’s teachers are poorly paid. One critic even prepared a chart showing faculty salaries from independent four-year colleges and universities throughout South Carolina, locating Bob Jones University at the bottom of the salary scale. The (anonymous) critic took this lack of munificence as such an obvious scandal as not even to require comment.

Plenty could be said about the survey itself. Comparisons of this sort are rarely as helpful (or, in this case, as damaging) as they are meant to be. The variables are simply too significant for direct evaluations to be made.

A larger issue is at stake, however. The fact is that the published salaries at Bob Jones University are not greatly out of line with faculty salaries at most Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning (especially if regional cost of living is taken into account). Professors in Fundamentalist institutions are paid far less than their peers in comparable secular colleges and universities.

This situation extends further than just Fundamentalism. Many broadly evangelical schools do not pay their professors much more. I have degrees from two large, evangelical seminaries. In one of those institutions, a tenured professor told one of my classes that, in order to support his family, he had to make $10,000 to $15,000 of outside income every year. A recent reporting instrument shows that institution paying an average salary of only $25,000 per year, less than the reported average for the Bob Jones faculty.

While average salaries are low for Christian professors, they can be even lower for pastors. Many pastors receive no more compensation than professors at Bob Jones. In fact, many receive substantially less. Smaller churches frequently offer salary packages that virtually require pastors (or their spouses) to work outside jobs.

The people who take these positions—these professorships and pastorates—are obviously not taking them for the money. Some other concern is in play. That concern can be expressed in various ways: ministry, serving the Lord, the care of souls. Jesus called it “laying up treasures in heaven.”

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An Open Letter to Dr. Stephen Jones

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Dear Stephen,

Because we occupy rather distinct corners of the Lord’s vineyard, it has been some time since I have given much thought to you or to the university that you lead. My attention was riveted a few weeks ago, however, by a public clamor that was being raised against Bob Jones University. It is not necessary to rehearse the details of that commotion here, except to say that it brought certain matters to my attention.

First, it made me aware that your ministry (by which I mean both yours personally and the university’s institutionally) is facing sustained and sometimes very harsh public censure. Second, it alerted me to the fact that, while your critics are of different kinds, the most vocal detractors will be satisfied with nothing short of the complete collapse of Bob Jones University. Third, it made me aware that some of the most vitriolic criticisms are being leveled through venues in which careful analysis and personal accountability are notably absent—namely, venues such as Internet weblogs and social media services.

While I am not close enough to Bob Jones University to judge much of what takes place in the institution, many of the criticisms themselves simply lacked credibility. Both the vehemence and the virtual incoherence of the critics left me thinking of a lynch mob. The degree of their speculation about what you must have known or done behind closed doors was—well, it was hardly the mark of fair-mindedness or even-handedness.

On the contrary, as I have thought about what has taken place at Bob Jones University over the past fifteen years, I find many reasons to rejoice. Beginning under your father’s presidency, the ministry seems to have followed a trajectory of moderation and increasing responsibility. It is a trajectory of which I sincerely approve.

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"we bear responsibility to support victims who are under our care, to handle instances of sexual abuse biblically and legally"

“As a university committed to Christlikeness, we bear responsibility to support victims who are under our care, to handle instances of sexual abuse biblically and legally, and to train our faculty, staff and students to better understand this issue and to respond appropriately…”

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"Do Right BJU lost its credibility ... The Facebook page just went from one crisis to another, responding in very bad ways. And that’s why nobody wore red on Monday."

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