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with tax issues in the years after the Supreme Court tax case, but no mention is made that the original promise was withdrawn.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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