Category Archives: Alma Maters

BJU and the Brooklyn Bridge Hypo

In your first year of law school, you will take Contracts. In Contracts, you will hear “The Brooklyn Bridge Hypo.” It goes like this: A says to B, “I will give you $100 if you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Students are then asked whether and when a contract is formed. Is A’s statement to B an offer? If so, when does B accept it? When he says he will walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, when he begins walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, or when he completes the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge?

The answer is that this is an offer than can only be accepted by performance—it is a unilateral contract. The offeror is bargaining for performance, not for an agreement to a set of terms (as is the case with a bilateral contract).

A’s offer is an option contract. Once B has begun performance, A’s offer is irrevocable until B has had a reasonable time to complete his walk.

A may not now rush after B and tell him the deal is off. Nor may A push B off the Bridge in an effort to thwart his acceptance of the offer. Once B began to walk, there is nothing A could do to rescind the offer. He must wait for B to finish the walk, and then he must hand over the Benjamin Franklin. If he does not, he is in breach of the contract.

Does this sound familiar?

The Brooklyn Bridge Hypo is eerily similar to the situation I am studying for my Senior Paper–that of the Promise by BJU to support its retirees in their old age: A said, “If you work here throughout your career, we will provide food, housing, health care, and a small retirement salary.”

Hearing this, a great many Bs stepped onto the Bridge. They began walking. They walked for years. They walked for decades.

In 1989, because of a tax situation, A stepped onto the Bridge and ran as fast as he could up to where the Bs were trudging away. “Just so you know,” A gasped, “I’ve changed my offer! You’ll get less and less with each step you take, but don’t worry, because I’m stashing pennies over here in a can for you!”

The Bs nodded or didn’t nod, but continued to walk. They walked for years or decades more. Some finished their walk, only to find that A meant it when he said he wasn’t going to pay out, but over here in this can there were a few little discounts B could take advantage of.

“After all,” A said, “You have a rich uncle.

“His name is Sam. He likes to give checks to old people. He’ll pay some of your medicals, too, so go ask him, because what you are getting from my offer is a discount in my dining room.”

A goes his way, stopping perhaps to admire his gallery of half a thousand paintings worth millions of dollars.

Now, this all sounds very dramatic, doesn’t it? Like I’m puffing it up to get an emotional response, right? Like I’m making more of it than I ought to make?

Well, I don’t know. It would take an actual lawyer–not a law student like me–or a team of lawyers to untangle this mess. You see, suppose a lawsuit were to be filed. The other side would have defenses.

Here are some:

1. The faithful walking Bs ratified the changes to the offer. This is an interesting idea. Except that the offer is irrevocable while the performance is ongoing.

2. The Brooklyn Bridge Hypo doesn’t apply. Possibly a good lawyer will be able to argue that my example is so much horse manure. That’s why you need good lawyers on your side.

3. If you didn’t like the changes, you should have spoken up. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiigghhhhhttttttt. Like anyone who speaks up isn’t going to be shoved off the Bridge with nary a “Watch out! It’s cold when you hit!”

4. We can’t afford it–there are too many old people and medicals are so expensive these days! We could never have foreseen the costs! Well, I’ll grant you this, but see the notes about the Art Gallery above, and wonder why it’s now a wholly separate entity. Wonder about that deeply. The M&G aside, there was a recent case where GM found itself in this exact situation–they’d promised their retirees too much: they simply couldn’t afford to pay out without shutting down the whole company.

In the GM case, the courts allowed them to modify the terms of the contract so that the company wouldn’t have to close. At issue was whether it was in the public interest for GM to close. One wonders whether a court would find that BJU’s continued existence is so much in the public interest that the promise to the retirees should be modified. This is for the court to determine.

5. You shouldn’t sue us; we’re Christians. Well then, let’s have a sit down for some arbitration. Let’s hash this out with trained lawyers. Let’s get to the bottom of what was promised, what is needed, what is happening now, what is going on? Let’s find out if anyone is “underserved.” Let’s find out what happened to the Forsake Me Not endowment, the Diamond Jubilee fund, and any other funds. Let’s find out what Junior meant when he said the Gallery was “for a rainy day.”

6. You should have planned better. Certainly, some could have planned better. But others were told: “You can’t work another job” during the years they would have been most productive. Others were offered better jobs, but believed in A’s promise. They relied to their detriment on the promise that they would be taken care of.

(Detrimental reliance is another issue, to be discussed later, and it has to do with contracts that are unsupported by consideration. I would argue that the annual agreements to work-and-be-paid-for-it are separate from the trans-decade offer of care at the end of a career. Following that theory, we need to talk about the hypo where Uncle Albert tells Niece Nettie: “if you move down here and take care of me for the rest of my life, I will leave you the farm.” If Nettie moves down in reliance on the promise and Uncle Albert dies three days later, she still gets the farm. But again, that’s another discussion.)

That some people’s homes increased in value and others inherited enough to live on and others saved each and every penny of their “part-time mother” wife’s salary has not one thing to do with the fact that at the end of B’s walk, when he steps off that Bridge, A needs to reach into his wallet and pull out a nice clean one-hundred dollar bill.

The problem is that people are afraid. How many people I have heard from who have said, “Please don’t use my name–I need my job!” They know and we all know that anyone who complains will be pushed off the Bridge. They know and we all know that were a large group of faculty and staff to band together to get answers, they would all be pushed off en masse. We all know the atmosphere as to questions and internal complaints is hostile.

This man is not living on social security. This man takes trips to Italy.

That’s why it is very important, and probably inevitable, that outsiders be invited in to make some important determinations.

Still just thinking, studying, reading. More to come.

Write me your thoughts at sharonhambrick@hotmail.com. For your security, I am printing off the emails, cutting off all identifying information, and then deleting the mail from my accounts. All that is left are unidentifiable letters in a file folder deep in the back of my closet. Isn’t it sad we have to be this careful? Doesn’t that bother you?

(Real lawyers–I’d love to hear your voice behind me saying, “this is the way, walk ye in it.”)

UPDATE ON PROMISE PAPER

I thought some of you might be interested in how my senior paper research is going. Here’s an update:

1. I wrote to various officers of Administration, asking about the Forsake Me Not endowment. Mr. Randy Page replied that these things are confidential, but that I could be assured that “monies from the Forsake Me Not endowment continue to benefit retirees.” I have yet to hear from any of these happy people.

2. I have heard from some unhappy retirees.

3. I have heard from some frightened current faculty, afraid for their jobs. “Is my job secure?” No. “Are they all done firing people they no longer want to care for?” No.

(You ask why people would ask me this. Probably because to ask the Administration is to put you on a bad list. Be aware that a dear friend of mine, Rebecca Davis, an author with BJUP, recently received notice that one of her books, Fanny Crosby, Queen of Gospel Songs, has been taken out of print. Inquiring, Mrs. Davis learned that Fanny had sold almost a thousand copies in the past year. Many of my books sell far far worse than this, and yet I have not yet received notice that they are being taken out of print. Is it because Mrs. Davis wrote a letter to Dr. Bob III discussing her concerns for the school that her book was taken out of print when it sells much better than many other BJUP titles? The point is, bringing up issues to Admin can and may result in backlash. Just sayin’.)

You have to buy this on Amazon.com or eBay now.

4. I have learned that the “profit-sharing” plan was never that. The accounts are not tied to the profitability of the Press. Apparently the Press is quite profitable, and perhaps the money for the retirement accounts comes from there, but it is not a profit-sharing plan (this info from a BJU Business Office source, and no, you don’t get to know who).

Rather, the plan is one in which the U contributes to your account annually “as the Lord prospers.” With enrollment on the downhill, one wonders how that’s going. I haven’t received specifics on, say, this year’s contribution.

5. A friend with a PhD in mathematics is working on some numbers for me. I’m on pins and needles waiting patiently. The question I posed to him is what the dollar disparity is between the Promised “food, housing, health insurance, and small retirement salary” and what is being received.

6. I would like to know if Faculty and Staff are still forbidden from seeking outside employment. In the past, even a lowly $6/hour staff worker (me) was forbidden from having a second job at McDonalds, because such action by me “indicated God was not supplying your needs through the school.” (Three people at Varsity Village–one in the ES, one in the U, living on $6/hour.)

(I’m not angry about that, just curious if employees are still forbidden from flipping burgers on the side. We were also forbidden to hold hands on campus, as “What would the students think?” My answer was, “They’ll think we’re married.” This rule was dumped when Stephen and Erin married.)

7. I have received documentation detailing the U’s disavowing of the Promise and coincident move to the Retirement Account system. I now understand the “Disappearing Promise” percentage system. Very clear is the truth that if you are still working there, you are going to be living on Social Security payments unless you have other sources of future income. Alert your children that you might need them. They have BJU degrees, so they can afford to keep you. Right?

8. Hence, my question about outside employment.

More awful than any of this (if anything is much more dreadful than the FACT that old people are living on about a thousand dollars a month in Social Security with the–bonanza!–added “bonus” of discounted meals at the Aramark Feeding Center, bolstered by roughly $100 in “housing stipend.”) is the growing fear I have that the whole thing might be and have always been nothing more and nothing less than a Family Business.

Was the “investment” in the Art Gallery to protect the Family and Close Friends in the event of rainy days? Is the reach into Chinese education just another potential family stream of income?

This keeps me up nights.

You see, for over 30 years I have been defending my school. Bartosch knocked me off my perch, but I was still at least a little bit willing to think, “Ah, c’mon, that was a lifetime ago, and what’s a little prostitution between friends?”

But then I started wondering if Dr. Lewis was making it all up. I mean, think about it: either she is or they are. Period.

So I started reading. Dr. Turner’s book, Standing Without Apology, floored me. Aside from being badly written and lacking any apparent editor (an editor would have slashed half of it)*, it is full of admissions: yes, BJ Senior agreed with the Klan; yes, we hated the idea of integration; yes, we yelled at people to get them to do our will; yes, we threatened fellow believers with lawsuits; yes, we allowed a spoiled rotten mean kid to inherit the farm, buy up pictures stolen by Nazis and star in every single play; yes, we fired anyone who disagreed with us; yes, we sold bonds and then failed to pay on them, then ran out of Florida in a 400-mile dash to Tennessee; yes, we bullied the City of Greenville into raising money to buy us our campus; yes, after going to England with Junior, a woman had a mental and physical breakdown and had to go home for nine months! Immediately after, he married Fanny Mae.

(Oh, knock it off. I’m just telling you what’s in SWA. Don’t blame me.)

Further I read. Further I learned. Yes, Dr. III did say homosexuals should be rounded up and stoned. Yes, Dr. III did say on Larry King that the Dating Rule was no big deal to anyone. Never mind it was a firing/expulsion offense to be in favor of interracial dating. Yes, Dr. III did say “the negro is best when serving at table.” Yes, Stephen Jones did reply to me personally that there was nothing he could do about Dr. McCauley’s firing when it is clear in black-and-white in the confidential Board Handbook (so people send me things, what of it?) that the President has complete discretion in hiring and firing personnel.

And on and on and on and on…and on.

So I began my own project. Only because I had to–I have to write about some matter of legal significance. I spoke with current faculty. I spoke with retired faculty. I spoke with fired faculty. I am still speaking. I am still asking.

My paper is not due until late November, and I am committed to writing and rewriting it with new information as that becomes available.

Very likely, when my paper is done, I will not be done looking closely at BJU. Very closely. I have friends there, friends who, if they are not careful, are going to be in the position of a lady I recently spoke to–she and her husband had a combined 75 years of service at BJU. Her “retirement”? Social security, $140 a month for housing, and a discount on meals. Of course, she has to drive to the Dining Common to get them. So if she wants to save money and buy groceries, too bad for her.

Stories and documents trickle in. I welcome them. I hope for more.

Write me at sharonhambrick@hotmail.com

* Apologies to the editor. I know you (whoever you are) worked under “guidelines.” Furthermore, there was probably a rush to get this book out for the 75th. I have long experience with the skilled editors at BJUP. They have always only helped my manuscripts. I do not blame them for the sloppiness of SWA.

CALL FOR INFORMATION

Dear Friends and Friends of Friends,

As you may know, this is my last semester of law school. Lord willing, I will complete my JD in December and take the California Bar Exam in either February or July of 2014.

A requirement for graduation from Oak Brook College of Law is a Senior Paper on a question of law. I will be researching the question, “Is BJU’s ‘Forsake Me Not’ Promise to its Faculty Enforceable, and if so, By Whom?”

By “Forsake Me Not” I do not refer to the endowment fund mentioned in the late-1990s videotape, but to Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s promise to take care of faculty in their retirement. This promise is described in Dan Turner’s book Standing Without Apology on page 237, thus:

“The Founder’s ideal was that each member of the faculty was hired for life, and he promised that the school would care for each member of the faculty, providing him or her with housing, food, medical care, and a small retirement salary until death.”

Standing also indicates that a profit-sharing plan was instituted in 1989 to deal with tax issues in the years after the Supreme Court tax case, but no mention is made that the original promise was withdrawn. In fact, I clearly remember than when I came on staff in 1992, the above statement was still being made. I am not aware of the moment when (if ever) it was stated that there was no more Promise, and though I have heard rumors that the “endowment is lost,” I have no details on that.

I am aware that recently a number of older staff and faculty have been fired after lengthy careers at BJU. Some of these servants of God have been left with nothing—no retirement except Social Security, no Dining Common privileges, and no housing stipends. I would like to hear more. I would also like to hear from people who have been retired with benefits, as well as anyone else who would be willing to speak with me.

I am further interested to hear from people currently employed by the University. Are you confident you will be taken care of in your retirement years? Are you fearful of being let go just before retirement age? If you are left with only Social Security payments, will these payments be sufficient for you to have a peaceful retirement? What amount of monthly Social Security payments do you expect to receive based on the salary you received while employed at BJU?

I have loved and defended the University for many years. Many of you know that I received my MA in Church History in 1981, and that I worked at BJU Press from 1992 through my husband’s graduation from the nursing program in 1997. I have published eleven books with Journeyforth, all of which are in print as of the date of the letter. I have no animosity toward my alma mater, but recently I have been feeling a deep and growing discomfort about how older faculty are being treated.

Of course I want to protect your anonymity if that is your wish. I can do that by disguising your name, dates of service, department, and so on. I regret that it will make my paper less useful if I don’t know who you are, so I will need your correct information, but I promise to safeguard your private information if you prefer to be referred to pseudonymously. I am aware that there are faithful servants of Jesus who are working under fear of being fired, and this is one factor that has caused me to look into this matter.

I have heard from a few people already who have given up hope because, so they have said to me, “It was an oral promise.” There are laws about oral promises. They are not all gratuitous and unenforceable. Nor was this promise entirely oral. It is contained, for example, in Standing Without Apology, and recorded in the video we all received during the late 1990s regarding the proposed Forsake Me Not endowment.

I appreciate any help you can give me as I work through this problem. I look forward to hearing from many of you regarding your understanding of the Promise, how it applied or applies to you personally (or to your parents or spouses), how the profit-sharing plan was presented and how that has worked out, and so forth. I assume I will also hear from those who would not like me to poke around in such things. To them I can only say that I hope their jobs are safe and that they never need to worry about how to live on a few hundred dollars a month in Social Security payments.

I can be reached at sharonhambrick@hotmail.com. I prefer not to speak by phone, as I wish to have everything written down. Please feel free to share this note with anyone whom you think might be interested.

Sincerely,
Sharon Hambrick
MA 1981
BJU Press 1992-1997
Author of Arby Jenkins, Arby Jenkins Mighty Mustang, Arby Jenkins Ready to Roll, Stuart’s Run to Faith, Arby Jenkins Meets His Match, Adoniram Judson: God’s Man in Burma, The Year of Abi Crim, Tommy’s Clubhouse, Tommy’s Rocket, Tommy’s Race, Brain Games

STANDING ON THE PROMISES

Dr. Bill McCauley, faithful servant at BJU for 47 years.

Specifically what I’m looking for are answers to the following questions:

1. Was the Promise to house, feed, provide medical care, and a retirement salary communicated to you when you were hired at BJU? Was the Promise important to your decision to work for BJU?

2. Did you rely on the Promise at any time? By relying, I mean, did you make choices based on the Promise that you would not otherwise have made? Did you forego putting money into a retirement account because you believed you would be cared for in your old age? Did you stay at BJU instead of pursuing other opportunities because of your reliance on the Promise?

3. Do you know others who relied on the Promise at any time? In what way did they rely? Can you connect me with them?

4. Do you know anyone who is reaping the benefits of the Promise at this time, or who did until his/her death?

5. Have you been denied the benefits of the Promise on which you relied? In what way?

This spring, Dr. Bill McCauley, pictured above, was dismissed after almost fifty years of faithful service! That is just one example, and while I have heard stories and rumors of others who have been fired just a few years before they would have received full retirement benefits, I have heard from few of these people personally. I would like to hear from more.

Please write me at sharonhambrick@hotmail.com with information.

I have also heard from one person whose mother does receive full benefits. I’d like to hear those happy stories too.

I have written to a number of in-the-know people at BJU as well. I eagerly await their answers.

FORSAKE ME MAYBE

June 27, 2013

Dear Friends and Friends of Friends,

As you may know, this is my last semester of law school. Lord willing, I will complete my JD in December and take the California Bar Exam in either February or July of 2014.

A requirement for graduation from Oak Brook College of Law is a Senior Paper on a question of law. I will be researching the question, “Is BJU’s ‘Forsake Me Not’ Promise to its Faculty Enforceable, and if so, By Whom?” By “Forsake Me Not” I do not refer to the endowment fund mentioned in the late-1990s videotape, but to Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s promise to take care of faculty in their retirement. This promise is described in Dan Turner’s book Standing Without Apology on page 237, thus:

The Founder’s ideal was that each member of the faculty was hired for life, and he promised that the school would care for each member of the faculty, providing him or her with housing, food, medical care, and a small retirement salary until death. (my emphasis)

Standing also indicates that a profit-sharing plan was instituted in 1989 to deal with tax issues in the years after the Supreme Court tax case, but no mention is made that the original promise was withdrawn. In fact, I clearly remember than when I came on staff in 1992, the above statement was still being made. I am not aware of the moment when (if ever) it was stated that there was no more Promise, and though I have heard rumors that the “endowment is lost,” I have no details on that.

I am aware that recently a number of older staff and faculty have been fired after lengthy careers at BJU. Some of these servants of God have been left with nothing—no retirement except Social Security, no Dining Common privileges, and no housing stipends. I would like to hear more. I would also like to hear from people who have been retired with benefits, as well as anyone else who would be willing to speak with me.

I am further interested to hear from people currently employed by the University. Are you confident you will be taken care of in your retirement years? Are you fearful of being let go just before retirement age? If you are left with only Social Security payments, will these payments be sufficient for you to have a peaceful retirement? What amount of monthly Social Security payments do you expect to receive based on the salary you received while employed at BJU?

I have loved and defended the University for many years. Many of you know that I received my MA in Church History in 1981, and that I worked at BJU Press from 1992 through my husband’s graduation from the nursing program in 1997. I have published eleven books with Journeyforth, all of which are in print as of the date of the letter. I have no animosity toward my alma mater, but recently I have been feeling a deep and growing discomfort about how older faculty are being treated.

Of course I want to protect your anonymity if that is your wish. I can do that by disguising your name, dates of service, department, and so on. I regret that it will make my paper less useful if I don’t know who you are, so I will need your correct information, but I promise to safeguard your private information if you prefer to be referred to pseudonymously. I am aware that there are faithful servants of Jesus who are working under fear of being fired, and this is one factor that has caused me to look into this matter.

I have heard from a few people already who have given up hope because, so they have said to me, “It was an oral promise.” There are laws about oral promises. They are not all gratuitous and unenforceable. Nor was this promise entirely oral. It is contained, for example, in Standing Without Apology, and recorded in the video we all received during the late 1990s regarding the proposed Forsake Me Not endowment.

I appreciate any help you can give me as I work through this problem. I look forward to hearing from many of you regarding your understanding of the Promise, how it applied or applies to you personally (or to your parents or spouses), how the profit-sharing plan was presented and how that has worked out, and so forth. I assume I will also hear from those who would not like me to poke around in such things. To them I can only say that I hope their jobs are safe and that they never need to worry about how to live on a few hundred dollars a month in Social Security payments.

I can be reached at the addresses listed below. I prefer not to speak by phone, as I wish to have everything written down. Please feel free to share this note with anyone whom you think might be interested.

sharonhambrick@hotmail.com
11948 Pericles Drive
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

Sincerely,
Sharon Hambrick
MA 1981
BJU Press 1992-1997
Author of Arby Jenkins, Arby Jenkins Mighty Mustang, Arby Jenkins Ready to Roll, Stuart’s Run to Faith, Arby Jenkins Meets His Match, Adoniram Judson: God’s Man in Burma, The Year of Abi Crim, Tommy’s Clubhouse, Tommy’s Rocket, Tommy’s Race, Brain Games

COURAGE

No, I’m not courageous. Forging ahead when you have something to lose, or when the power you are speaking truth to can hurt you, is courageous. Speaking truth to power when the power can’t hurt you isn’t courage. It’s just talking. Talking is valuable, but it is not, of itself, courageous.

Others are courageous. Others are speaking out when family relationships may shatter, when their stories may cause humiliation to themselves, to those they love. Others are speaking out when they may be shouted down, called liars, ridiculed, shunned. Others are speaking out when they may be fired, left with nothing, forced to move. Others are speaking out when they live right there, must interact with the principals, must rub shoulders with the hurting, the wounded, the perpetrators, the uncaring. Others are speaking out when they must pick up the slack, pay the bills, promise again where promises have been broken, discounted, disappeared.

Others are courageous. I’m just typing.

Here’s something else that requires no courage, and I hope many of you will do this:

It does not require courage to pick up a telephone, dial 864-242-5100, and say, “The firing of Dr. Bill McCauley was the wrong move. Please rescind it.” It does not require courage to open your computer, go to bju.edu, click on the little “Contact Us” envelope at the bottom of the home page and write a little note to Dr. Stephen Jones or Dr. Bob Jones III or Darren Lawson or Ed Dunbar or whoever you want to talk to and say, “You know what, firing Dr. McCauley was not right. Please reinstate him,” and sign your name. There is no courage required for this, only fingers.

It might also be a good idea to follow up your call or email with a real letter on a real piece of paper with a real stamp and really mail it to 1700 Wade Hampton Boulevard, Greenville, SC 29614, since I understand the computer people go through the mail (this may not be true, but I’ve heard such a rumor) and don’t deliver what they don’t want to deliver.

Banish those silly sounds in the back of your head that say, “Who am I?” and “They won’t listen to me,” and “I shouldn’t get involved” or “That would be ganging up.” It’s not ganging up. It’s talking. It’s just talking.

Do not be afraid to do the right thing. Do it for Dr. McCauley. And, if there is someone else you know of who was forced to retire, do it for him. Do it for her.