Religious culture at southern university breeds prejudices
The Towerlight Online
by Mike Vandermause
April 19, 2004
I received a rude awakening this weekend when my friend Lindsay and I decided to take an impromptu road trip to visit some friends at Clemson University in South Carolina.
I found my friends telling me to “watch what I say” and to “be careful” while I was down there. As it turns out, Clemson is unofficially rated the second most prejudiced university in the nation. So naturally, I asked, “Well, who is number one?”
The university currently holding the title of most prejudiced university in America is Bob Jones University, only about 20 minutes down the road from Clemson in Greenville, S.C.
I did a little research on our friends at Bob Jones University, and the findings were disturbing.
Prior to 2000, the university’s official policy placed a ban on all interracial dating. In a letter written to a Mr. James Landrith of Alexandria Va. on Aug. 31, 1998, Jonathan Pait, Community Relations Coordinator at Bob Jones University, made the following statement:
“Bob Jones University does, however, have a rule prohibiting interracial dating among its students. God has separated people for His own purpose. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural and language barriers. God has made people different one from another and intends those differences to remain. Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established.”
He continues to say that the university believes the overall plan of God suggests that interracial marriages are not in the best interests of mankind.
University president Bob Jones III finally rescinded the ban on interracial dating on March 3, 2000. The decision to remove the rule was based on the fact that the university’s controversial stance was defining the university and the rule had become a “stumbling block” to the public, according to Jones.
Surprisingly enough, many students of the university were in full support of the ban on interracial relationships. In a column by Veena Thomas in a March 2000 issue of MIT’s student newspaper The Tech, a Bob Jones student was quoted saying, “My own personal belief is that God made races perfect. God has made whites perfect and blacks and Orientals, and he hasn’t given us any reason to intermix those races.”
Bob Jones University is situated in the “buckle” of the Bible Belt. But sadly, the racism and prejudice the school represents reach far beyond the school’s campus and the city limits of Greenville.
Our president is a supporter of the university and makes no solid claims distancing himself from the policies of BJU. Bush made at least one appearance at BJU back in 2000 to campaign for the presidential election. I find it personally offensive that the president was seeking support from a group of people who not only ban interracial dating, but also ban visits from any gay alumni.
Although not as bad and certainly not as publicized, Clemson University is also associated with the same fundamental prejudices. Being there was very discomforting to me at times. I feel as if anyone at Towson can feel proud to be who they are and feel supported by the university community.
During a recent Towson SGA discussion about the name change of TU’s gay group on campus, SGA president Bobbie O’Connell said it is the job of the SGA to support such groups on campus and not regulate them in any manor that would not be considered democratic. I wouldn’t hold my breath for BJU to make any similar statements.
The South is a completely different world with a completely different culture than we are accustomed to in Baltimore. Although not everyone in a particular region subscribes to such bigoted beliefs, you can rest assured that a school like BJU would never survive anywhere in the Northeast.
I think we should all feel very lucky to live in such a diverse and accepting community as Towson.
Mike Vandermause is a sophomore mass communication major and The Towerlight’s arts editor.
© 2005 The Towerlight Online