Every college and university around the world expects its students to uphold certain standards. Honesty, refraining from causing harm to others, community, and staying within the laws of the home country all remain relatively reasonable and universal codes that give students structure while still preserving their individuality and bolstering their character. But some schools, most especially those affiliated with the evangelical Christian movement in the United States, raise a number of extremely difficult questions with their adherence to a highly restrictive code of values. While it usually remains the students’ choice to partake of such environments, many outside the affiliated fundamentalist organizations may look over their rules and find their jaws dropping. For these schools, leeching beyond the academic and school-related extracurricular functions and into the private lives of their students remains a high priority, with handbooks dictating very clearly how all of them must behave regardless of whether or not they live or play on campus. Are they genuinely pushing their students towards the path of Christ? Or are they treating free-willed adults as if petulant children incapable of forging their own individual perceptions, decisions, and behaviors without being fed someone else’s interpretations of Christian dogma? There are as many answers as there are people to consider the questions, because the world exists in shades of grey. Perhaps they are harmful. Perhaps they are harmless. But the following schools nonetheless play host to a number of regulations that seem rather appalling to mainstream society, and this article takes an admittedly irreverent peek at a little of what they have to say.
All resident and commuter students at Oral Roberts University are required to attend church at least twice a week and find themselves to a highly restrictive dress code. All men and women are expected to dress modestly, stay well-groomed, and avoid tattoos and body piercings. The former may not wear makeup, because breaking archaic gender tropes will rip the very foundations of society asunder. Alcohol is held up as equally detrimental as illegal substances regardless of whether or not a student partakes responsibly and remains at or above the drinking age – and the University does not discriminate on whether or not consumption or possession takes place on- or off-campus, either. Raffles are not even allowed as fundraiser due to their association with gambling, which is also banned. Obviously, dishonest or disruptive remains heavily discouraged as it does even in public schools. But premarital sex, homosexuality, aligning oneself with occult religions (though the handbook never actually specifies which belief systems they consider “occult”), using expletives, tobacco possession or use, dancing, and working at any establishment that encourages or involves any such things apparently constitute impropriety and stand as offenses worthy of expulsion.
While most schools understandably discourage nationally illegal activities involving drugs or underage drinking, Pensacola Christian College outlaws perfectly legal ones such as gambling, possession of pornography, dancing, swearing, smoking tobacco, and even patronizing movie theatres. They completely reach into the personal lives and convictions of their students, demanding that they refrain from such so-called “perversions” such as premarital sex, extramarital sex (even if both parties agree to an open relationship), and homosexuality. Anyone caught in such a position faces discipline or dismissal. In addition, all students enrolled in 12 or more hours are required to attend at least one chapel event a week. Part-timers or those with special circumstances must do so on days when their classes do not begin until after noon. All of these policies supposedly honor the wishes of Jesus Christ and facilitate participation in the encouraged weekend activities of door-to-door and child evangelism, working in churches, and volunteering at nursing homes.
Bob Jones University requires all students to attend regular church, Sunday school, society, Bible conferences, artist series programs, and vespers services on campus, though not necessarily in a single week. They understandably discourage illegal and discourteous behaviors such as excessive drunkenness, but generally harmless actions like possessing legal pornography, moderate drinking, disciplined gambling, dancing, sensuality, premarital sex, and homosexuality all remain condemned and held up as just as harmful to young, educated minds. All mixed groups of men and women – both on and off campus – require the presence of a chaperone to intercede on any behaviors they deem offensive to their conservative sensibilities. The school even governs how students are to go about their off-campus employment as well. Serving alcohol at bars or restaurants, keeping hours past 10:30 PM on weekdays and midnight on weekends, and door-to-door sales without expressed permission from the dean or a retail license are all forbidden by Bob Jones University. Any and all work must not interfere with weekday prayer sessions, either. In addition, all freshmen with jobs must consent to being chaperoned by a prayer captain or one of their assistants or an upperclassman while working. Neither freshmen nor sophomores are permitted to drive cars to work, either.
As with many Christian colleges and universities, Liberty extends its behavioral guidelines to students who live off campus as well as on. They do not require church service, but Convocations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are compulsory for the entire student body. Political or social demonstrations – including harmless picketing – are completely banned on campus, and the University heavily discourages participating in any held off-campus as well. They reserve the right to discipline any student who does so, most especially in cases when the politics and ideals expressed in the protests go against the school’s extremely conservative beliefs. Commuter students cannot cohabitate with significant others or any peers of the opposite sex, either, and anyone hoping to get married before the age of 21 is highly encouraged to seek counseling and receive parental permission. In addition, anyone considering dating a classmate or other attendee must refrain from any sign of affection beyond handholding. After dusk, mixed groups are not allowed to fraternize without chaperones because having a group of friends including males and females alike is not normal psychosocial behavior – it is “improper” and apparently leads to premarital sex and dancing and other alleged affronts to Jesus.
The official “Honor Code” of BYU strictly outlaws camping trips with members of the opposite sex, though instances with separate accommodations for males and females will at least receive a modicum of consideration and reduced discipline if unauthorized. Most of the punishment is reserved for any involving “impropriety,” however. In accordance with their Mormon faith, students must also refrain from the expected and reasonable discourteous and illegal behavior – but coffee, tea, responsible alcohol consumption, and tobacco are also disallowed as well. All women are required to keep their skirts at knee-length or longer and receive no piercings beyond one in the earlobe. Men may not grow their sideburns past their earlobes, have hair covering their ears, or keep moustaches beyond the corners of their mouths. Beards are completely banned without explicit permission from the school, and neither gender may color their hair or wear any form-fitting apparel. Openly homosexual students are allowed to attend classes, but they must commit themselves to the same standards of staunch chastity as their heterosexual peers. In addition, they must refrain from participating in any pro-gay demonstrations or distribute literature involving equal marital and legal rights for their community. While BYU does accept students who do not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they are still required to participate in the community as if they were.
Demanding a “radical commitment to Jesus Christ” of all students involves not only the usual abstinence from illegal substances and behaving courteously, but a number of other legal but forbidden or discouraged behaviors frowned upon by the religious right as well. Possessing legal pornography, light to moderate drinking (even non-alcoholic versions of beer or cocktails), gambling, premarital or extramarital sex (regardless of whether or not the latter take place within an open relationship), dressing immodestly, supporting or practicing religious beliefs in line with the “occult” (with the lines of what constitutes such practices never explicitly stated), using profanity, tobacco, engaging in or supporting homosexuality, and having or supporting abortions are also very much in violation of the school’s strict moral guidelines. Allowing dancing at any school-related function – on or off campus – is strictly prohibited, though students are allowed to bust a few chaste, pre-approved moves at “weddings, military balls, graduation exercises, church, and family occasions” provided they refrain from attending clubs, bars, or parties that allegedly lead to temptation no matter what. Attending chapel is mandatory, and it is heavily suggested that not participating in other Christian ceremonies or functions is highly frowned upon. Any movies to be shown on campus must receive approval from Asbury College faculty and staff if it involves a rating of PG or PG-13, with all R’s and NC-17’s banned except in extreme circumstances (Passion of the Christ, by the way, was considered violent and intense enough to warrant an R by the MPAA). Students hoping to visit any friends of the opposite sex must receive permission from their families and keep it on file with the school as well.
Dallas Christian College directly addresses individuals who feel their extremely staunch policies are either too slack or too restrictive, stating that such measures strike a balance between freedom and Christian piety. In addition to outright banning the expected illegal and discourteous behaviors, premarital sex and homosexuality are “considered as absolute” in their alleged offense to God and society as stealing and lying. Any freshmen taking less than 24 hours of coursework must be in their dorm rooms by midnight on Monday through Wednesday and 12:30 AM on Friday through Sunday. Other academic levels are not stringently held to these policies, but they must sign out if they want to return after curfew. Thursday nights require a 10:00 PM return time because of devotionals. All students with a course load of 6 hours or more are required to contribute at least 6 hours of volunteer work in a Christian-related field per month, and they are heavily discouraged from taking jobs that distract from the school’s staunch moral guidelines. Students caught engaging in premarital, extramarital, and homosexual behavior face the risk of being expelled completely from Dallas Christian College as well. Dancing, too, falls under extremely restrictive guidelines as well, with the school outright refusing to allow it on campus or any official functions held offsite. Social and dance clubs as well face quite a bit of consternation.
Most schools understandably want their students to stay away from breaking the law or acting inconsiderately towards others – but Ozark Christian College also places tight regulations on legal activities as well. Alcohol and tobacco are forbidden even for those of age for purchase and consumption, and media intake is restricted to whatever the faculty and staff deems inoffensive. This, of course, means any movie above a PG-rating or below a -1 score on Previewonline.org (though there exists the very rare acquiescing from the school). In addition, attendance at parties, clubs, casinos, restaurants, and bars is expressly prohibited except when no alcohol is present. Mixed groups of males and females must agree to confer in the presence of a chaperone. Public displays of affection beyond handholding are highly discouraged, as is fraternizing with those of the opposite sex on co-ed camping trips. Dyed hair and “faddish or extreme styles” are out, as are any piercings beyond the ears or a nose stud – presumably allowed for cultural reasons. Save for the dress code and media violations, most of these infractions can lead to disciplinary actions or even outright dismissal from the school.
This Florida institution takes its “honor court” very, very seriously – going so far as to issue demerits for a number of completely legal offenses. Some are grounds for immediate expulsion, while others build up over time before a student can be dismissed. Arrests, convictions, and firearms understandably lead to suspension or termination, but so can purchasing and consuming alcohol (even when of age), attending a bar or a club, involvement with a cult, Satanism, or witchcraft, or engaging in sexual activity. Because the nude human body is just as detrimental to society as a sawed-off shotgun. Major infractions largely accepted by mainstream society and allowed under American law include “dating violation[s],” owning potentially offensive media (which will get confiscated), swimming with the opposite sex, patronizing a movie theatre, attending a concert, receiving a tattoo or piercing, gambling, possessing pornography, or purchasing and using tobacco (even when of age). Some of the dating offenses include displays of affection beyond hand-holding both on- and off-campus, seeing one another in swimming or sunbathing attire, not exiting a car at the same time immediately upon turning off the engine, being caught alone together while at school, and going on single dates while a freshman. Minor infractions include borrowing and not attending chapel and group devotions on a regular basis. All students are also required to adhere to a stringent dress code lest they find themselves facing a few more fines along the way.
The veritably Orwellian Florida Christian College combs through its students’ media collections, banning any books, movies, music, magazines, or video games it deems detrimental to Christianity. No video games may possess an M rating, nor are students allowed to own movies above the PG-13 rating. They can’t dance, can’t gamble, and can’t even lightly use alcohol or tobacco even if of legal age. They have to cover tattoos, remove piercings, and maintain hairstyles approved by the dean – and all without any unnatural colors, of course. Employment must not mainly involve the sale of alcohol (so no bars or liquor stores), anything even remotely sexual, gambling, or anything un-Christian. Sexual abuse and incest are very understandably considered a violation due to their illegality and penchant for psychological damage, but legal activities like abortion, premarital and extramarital sex (even within the confines of an open marriage), and homosexuality are held up as just as appalling.
In their quest to encourage their students to live like Christ – or, more accurately, their interpretations of how Christ lived – these schools push upon them a series of heavy restrictions involving their behaviors on and off campus. Going far beyond the usual, generally accepted standards of not breaking the law, acting in a disruptive or discourteous manner, and remaining honest in word, deed, and homework, they raise a number of fascinating moral and ethical questions regarding personal freedom. While this article certainly peers into their doings from the perspective of an outsider, it admits that the real answers remain entirely subjective and highly nebulous. Everyone should look at the evidence presented and formulate their own personal opinion of the matter.
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