The Greenville, S.C., university did not admit black students until 1971. The school also maintained a prohibition on interracial dating between students until 2000.
Bob Jones III, the grandson of the school’s founder and namesake, announced the lifting of the interracial dating ban in an interview on CNN’s Larry King program in March 2000, after the school had become a lightning rod during the South Carolina presidential primary campaign.
Then-candidate George W. Bush gave a speech at the school during the contentious Republican campaign that year. Bush defeated Sen. John McCain in South Carolina, a key victory in his drive to the GOP nomination and the presidency.
Thursday, the school issued the statement on its Web site.
“Like any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it. In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry.”
A group of approximately 500 people, at least 450 of them BJU alumni, had asked the school’s board to make a statement of “regret and reconciliation” from the current administration and board about the school’s past policies on race.
The effort, called “Please Reconcile,” had been conducted with little fanfare and the group’s Web site states that it was not “an independent source of information to be used as a critical tool against Bob Jones University.”
The university’s online statement stressed the school’s history as “a private Christian institution of higher learning for the purpose of helping young men and women cultivate a biblical worldview, represent Christ and His Gospel to others, and glorify God in every dimension of life.”
It also acknowledged that the school “allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.”
“Please Reconcile” spokesman Tim Tsuei said that he and other group members “rejoice with the university in their statement.”
While the group’s message to the school’s leadership was not offically acknowledged, Tsuei said he believes it did have an impact.
“We have no way of knowing for sure, but we believe strongly that the timing of their statement shows that the grass-roots alumni effort was noticed and appreciated,” Tsuei told WYFF News 4 . “We know that others in the past have written personal letters, and even recently had conversations behind the scenes. We believe that … perhaps the largest single group of alumni to speak together in one voice on this topic, had to have an effect.
In the 2000 CNN interview with Larry King, Bob Jones III said that BJU was wrong in not admitting African-American students before 1971.
Jones was succeeded as president of the University in 2005 by his son, Stephen Jones, passing leadership of the school to a fourth generation of the founding family.
Stephen Jones is currently serving as the school’s president.
The school was founded in Florida in 1927 by Bob Jones Sr. The school moved to Tennessee in the 1930s and then to its current campus on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greenville in 1947.
BJU currently has about 5,000 students.