Founded in 1927, Bob Jones University (BJU) touted itself as “the world’s most unusual university” for much of its ninety-year history. Known for its strictness, BJU has had rules in the past that forbade students from going to the movie theater, leaving campus with a member of the opposite sex without a chaperone, and long hair on guys. At the beginning of each school year, dorm students were required to turn in all of their music to be checked. Music that didn’t pass the school’s strict standards was confiscated until the end of the semester.
Opening each semester with a revival service, BJU students are expected to comport themselves in a manner that reflects well on the university, their faith, and that serves to be a light to the surrounding community of Greenville, S.C. BJU’s mission statement begins, “Within the cultural and academic soil of liberal arts higher education, Bob Jones University exists to grow Christlike character that is scripturally disciplined, others-serving, God-loving, Christ-proclaiming and focused above.”
At the beginning of the daily chapel service, the students, faculty, and staff recite Bob Jones Univerity’s creed:
We believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.
Over the last decade, though, many of the university’s “unusual” rules have been discarded, and a kinder, gentler BJU has emerged, while still holding to the fundamental truths found in their creed. Movie theaters are no longer off limits (certain restrictions still remain in place), women can wear pants, and men are allowed to have beards and their hair has grown noticeably longer. The school has also embraced discipleship over a strict disciplinarian system. However, possibly the biggest signal that BJU has entered the larger confines of mainstream evangelicalism was the university being granted regional accreditation this past summer by the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
One of the hallmarks of the school’s founder, Bob Jones, and his son, Bob Jones Jr., was an entrenched refusal to seek accreditation. Believing that any external oversight would result in compromise, BJU operated independently for most of its history. This past June saw the results of a gigantic shift in the school’s philosophy bear real fruit. Students beginning this school year are now earning credits at a fully accredited university for the first time in the school’s history.
In a press release, university President Steve Pettit said:
Being granted regional accreditation is one of the biggest milestones in Bob Jones University’s 90 year history. We set out to obtain regional accreditation and strengthen our mission and, by God’s grace, we’ve accomplished both objectives.
The press release went on to acknowledge that:
Regional accreditation benefits students in specific ways. It makes it easier to transfer credits and be admitted to more graduate schools. It will show prospective employers a BJU education meets high standards and equips our graduates with skills needed in today’s world, and it could help graduates entering a profession where a regionally accredited degree is required for licensure or employment.
Christian parents who desire that their children continue their education in a safe environment that promotes Christ-likeness while earning a degree that will be readily acknowledged and appreciated outside of evangelicalism have a new option. Bob Jones University has always been known for its academic excellence; now the rest of the world has confirmation.