From the blog Burning Bridges, I present this piece in its entirety.
Things I Know
These are things I know because some people told me so,
And some people know,
And some people know.
Nathan Davis, The Devil Knows
An article appeared a couple of months ago on a site called the Wartburg Watch, a religious blog of some sort, written by Dr. Camille Lewis.
Camille, who graduated from Bob Jones University (Greenville SC), then spent several years there on the faculty. After she left there… well, I'll let her tell you herself.
I am immersed in an ongoing project to tell a more complete story of Bob Jones University's history from the sources that are too often overlooked. Secular historians have done a great disservice by simply repeating the BJU's scripted narrative of goodness. My project seeks to correct that blindspot. After I left BJU's employ myself, I dredged up archival research from all over the country to understand my own departure. And I was pleasantly surprised to find so many kindred spirits among the former BJU faculty and staff.
Camille and I have shared time together off and on participating in a couple of Facebook pages devoted to the joys of witnessing the fairly rapid decline of Bob Jones University. I attended their Academy (high school) in the early sixties.
In the course of conversation rattling around these Facebook pages, and as sheer idle gossip for which I have no shame, I told a story about a teenager who was in school with me at the Academy. One evening, he shared a fairly horrific story with me about what had happened to his father just a year or so earlier, prior to my arrival.
Camille was very interested in my account. So interested, in fact, that she actually went to a bit of effort to check out the bare-boned facts of my story – basically, that the teenager existed, that he was a student there during the appropriate years, that his father did in fact die the way I was told he did.
Then Camille began to kind of gently nudge me. She wanted me to contact the young man involved and ask him to verify the story. She found out where he lived, and got the link to his web site. Since I haven't seen the guy in fifty years, I wasn't exactly anxious to start off a reunion with "Hi. Remember me? Do you remember that story you told me in 1963? Was it true?"
So I, well, just didn't.
And time passed. And I assumed that she'd set the story aside. Or forgotten it. Or something.
It was something. This.
In case that is difficult to read, here you go:
There are more stories. This one's the most tragic: Murray Havens' family was given 24 hours to vacate their on-campus home after Mr. Havens was found dead on those premises. He was in the middle of producing an elaborate Art Gallery show for Bob Jones Jr. and had checked himself into the hospital because of stress. Junior forced him to check out and then something snapped. His death was labeled a suicide.
This is basically the story I told Camille.
Completely unvetted. As I told it to her. Without any checking with anyone. My story.
I know this because shortly after it appeared, she contacted me to tell me she had published it. I was very surprised, frankly, but delighted at first. I always thought that the Havens family deserved some justice. I assumed, of course, that she had somehow vetted the story. I assumed that she had contacted the son, or found another family member or a close friend or somebody to corroborate what I'd said.
But then, she commented that she wished one of us had been in touch with the son, but… I was stunned. What? I was the only source?
At the time, I said nothing. I know from experience that disagreeing with Camille is a good way to get your head handed to you in a paper sack.
But over the past few weeks, it's been nagging at me. What if the son, in some internet rambling, found the story? He probably wouldn't know I was the source. He may have told that story to a dozen people over the years. But still, this is a supposed scholarly article, a research article, written by a person who prides herself on her academic prowess, and it was never vetted. And he was my friend. He was kind to me when the people at Bob Jones were not.
I started to have questions pop into my mind, like:
1. How does Camille know I told her the truth?
Obviously, she did verify that the son is real, and that the father is who I said he was, and that he held the position at BJU at the art gallery, and that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But what about the rest of it?
I know I told her the truth about what I was told, but how does she know I wasn't just making it up? It's a second-hand story.
2. Even if she knew for certain that I was telling the truth, what if my memory was faulty?
This story is fifty years old. Memory is fickle. Did the son really tell me "24 hours" or was it a short time, and over the years, I just turned that into "24 hours"? I can't really be sure. And if I can't be sure, Camille sure as hell can't.
What was the actual time period between the hospitalization and his release/leaving, and his suicide? Days? Weeks? I'm not sure. I think maybe two weeks. But I really am not sure.
3. What if the son was lying?
This was a teenage boy in a horrible situation. He'd lost his father in a very tragic manner and to say he was traumatized and grief-stricken is an understatement. Did he just sort of fabricate this excuse for why his dad committed suicide as a way to blame somebody other than his father? Did he just need somebody to hang it on, something that had caused it?
How would anyone know? How would Camille know?
4. What if the son was telling the truth as he saw it, but was simply wrong?
For example, what if the reason they moved out of the university–provided housing in the first twenty four hours was because his mother simply couldn't stay in the house where her husband had killed himself? What if the school had nothing at all to do with the decision? What if the son just sort of filled that in due to grief and anger?
Did Bob Jr really talk Murray into checking out of the hospital? Did overwork cause his original breakdown?
In short, this story is totally hearsay. It's fifty-year-old hearsay. It's not scholarship. It's an internet rumor taken as fact, and published as though it were fact by a woman who claims to be an "historian." She just took a comment made on Facebook and published it.
And it's not just a harmless human interest anecdote. It's a story that makes a pretty terrible accusation against both an institution and a man. Hearsay.
So, after I thought about all this, and decided that this just wasn't right, I made an attempt to contact Camille and express my concerns. I tried to message her via Facebook but discovered that I'd somehow peeved her and she had blocked me. I could not send her a message.
However, she is an administrator of a Facebook page called Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones.
So I went over there and posted a comment asking her how I could contact her.
It was deleted within a couple of hours.
I tried again. Deleted yet again, in minutes. [Screen shots available upon request.] So that left me basically nowhere. She wouldn't talk to me in private.
So, is this scholarship?
These photos were posted on Camille's Facebook page. They appear to come from Murray Havens' son's annual. Surely this means that Camille has been in touch with Glen Havens, doesn't it? And she properly vetted the story? And I'm basically full of shit?
Well, no. Right after I told the original Murray Havens story on the BJU-related forum mentioned above, Camille went to her vast library of BJU annuals. I don't know if she has every single annual from every year, but she has a lot of them. Some of them are given to her, but she also gets them by finding them in used book stores in Greenville.
So, she pulled down the yearbook from the date of my story, and was checking to see if the Havens were in there. This is as much "vetting" as Camille appears to do. She calls this "research."
And in doing so, she suddenly realized that she had Glen Havens' annual in her hands.
It was a miracle.
But not exactly. Camille had purchased the annual at a used book store, where Glen (or his sibling) had apparently taken it after his mother died when he cleaned out her possessions. In other words, when I told Camille the Murray Havens story, she already had this annual in her library.
This is probably, at least in part, a reference to the annual photos Camille supplied above. However, it doesn't matter how many "sources" Camille has for this story now, in September 2014. The fact remains that she wrote an article in February 2014 claiming that the story was true, and I was the only source at that time.
This is really not terribly difficult to understand, unless like some of these folks, you just don't want to understand.
My personal policy with private messages is that they are just that: private. However, Camille doesn't see it that way, and has a long history of leaking private messages all over social media and the internet and this one is no exception. Of course, she does so very selectively, snipping and clipping and altering stuff so she presents the message she wishes to convey. I present the whole thing with nothing altered.
Facebook calls her "Facebook user" because she has me blocked, but it doesn't matter. It's clear from the context that Camille is speaking.
And please note the times involved. This was more of an instant message type thing - both of us were posting at the same time. There is a five-minute gap between her initial message and my reply to it, a three-minute gap between my initial reply and her reply to that, and then a ten-minute gap before my last reply.
That's because I was trying to figure out how to respond. The phrase that I have highlighted hit me like a bomb going off. It was then that I realized that she had never vetted the story. She just went with what I told her, without checking it out. I didn't know what to say to her. I had to go think about it a bit. So I blabbered something just to end the conversation and that was it.
When I tried to contact her to discuss it several weeks later, she had blocked me and I couldn't.