The Trouble With (Some) Religiously-Affiliated Colleges

© Kurt dreamstime photos

© Kurt Dreamstime photos

It’s hardly a secret that I dislike religiously affiliated schools, but there are plenty out there that don’t rub religion in their students’ faces and force them to bathe in it regularly while preventing any new ideas from reaching their students’ eyes or ears. While I don’t attend a religious college, I know several people who do, none of whom feel that religion is being imposed upon them. Quite to the contrary, some of them have experienced a great deal of diversity on their campuses, including but not limited to diversity of religion, sexuality, and political opinions. And you know what? I’m glad there are many schools like that out there.

That’s exactly what I think college should be:  a safe place for people to be themselves, while listening to and considering new ideas. In many ways, college is the rest stop between childhood and independence (if you can get yourself out of debt), and it’s an excellent place to figure out what you stand for, and what matters to you. Especially since you’re constantly learning. Often, the things you learn in class will help you make decisions about what to believe. There are some courses that are extremely common for college students to take, and I recommend them all–English 101, Intro to Psychology, Intro to Sociology, etc. While these courses may not always relate directly to your major, the information you learn from them might affect your political opinions, the way you vote, the way you read the news, and how you conduct your daily life.

Unfortunately, there are some problem schools that don’t encourage that kind of self-discovery. They act like boarding schools for minors rather than educational institutions for adults because they choose to enforce ridiculously strict rules in an effort to promote a pure Christian lifestyle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a pure Christian lifestyle if that’s what you want to choose, but to force it on young adults is to tell them that you don’t trust them to make their own decisions, and that they aren’t strong enough to do so on their own. Need I remind these schools that their students are adults?  The excessive control these schools keep over their students shows a fear that young people, if left to their own devices, will always resort to sex, drinking, and other risky behaviors associated with people their age. And you know what, in a school that doesn’t have crazy restrictions, many of them will, there’s no denying that. But a significant number will not, and their decisions not to at a time when many around them are will mean a great deal more to them, because college will have been more like the so-called “real world.” The more you shelter, the more you prevent people from understanding reality. If young adults don’t learn how to make their own decisions by the time they graduate from college, they will be worse off when they attempt to enter the workforce, or go off into the “real world” to live on their own.

In this post, I can only scratch the surface of the ridiculous things religious colleges do in order to protect their students’ “purity.”

Dress codes are a common thing to see at these schools. While encouraging students to dress professionally is one thing, sometimes these dress codes can lead to problems. Check out this post, at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/10/21/there-are-still-christian-schools-with-this-awful-fire-safety-policy/

Fire? Hope you have time to follow the school’s dress code! Maybe just in case you should shower in a dress. In my experience, the most ridiculous dress code rules tend to focus on female modesty, because of the double standard for men and women. I’ve frequently seen people have to leave my school’s dormitories in towels because of a fire drill, or a fire alarm going off. It’s not fun, but it’s the best thing to do, because in a real fire it’s extremely important to leave as quickly as possible. Screw dress codes, this is student safety we’re talking about!

Then there’s this story about Patrick Henry College, and one student’s experience with its rigid dress code and curfew.

http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/change-the-world-with-love-not-a-battle-axe-alaina-gilloglys-story/

In this case, the school’s dress code and its curfew rules made her life extremely difficult. Imagine being spied upon by other students, who at any moment could report you for a violation? How do you focus on your school work in a situation like that?

How about the wording of some codes of conduct? Check out Christendom College, which goes out of its way to actually tell students what types of films they should and shouldn’t watch on campus. This is their student handbook. Scroll down to section VIII. The part about movies and other media is under part B, number 15, pages 21-22. Tell me again how old your students are, Christendom? http://www.christendom.edu/life/pdfs/Handbook.pdf 

Franciscan University of Steubenville’s sex policy is pretty ridiculous too. The student code of conduct prohibits “Lewd, indecent, obscene or otherwise immoral conduct or expression that violates Catholic moral teaching on sexuality; or the promotion or advocacy of such conduct or expression.” (section 3.13). Don’t believe me? Check it out. http://www.franciscan.edu/StudentLife/Default.aspx?id=164&menu_id=111

Imagine going to a school where, for example, being gay and kissing your boyfriend/girlfriend, which certainly violates Catholic teaching on sexuality, could cause you to receive disciplinary action! Under this policy, you could probably get the same treatment for premarital sex. I’d have been expelled from that school long ago if I went there. While you’re on that website, also take a look at section 3.19, which prohibits “Violation of University visitation policy for residence halls including but not limited to:

a. Visiting in individual residence hall rooms of members of the opposite sex outside of designated hours.
b. Visiting in lounges, common rooms, or kitchens of members of the opposite sex outside of designated hours.”

While this isn’t the strictest visitation policy I’ve read, it’s not at all necessary. There’s no reason to ban adults of one gender from visiting adults of another gender completely at any time. It should be up to the individual students to invite their friends over or send them home as they see fit, because guess what–if you’re in college, you’re probably 18 or older, and you’re ready to take responsibility for how much time you spend studying, and whether or not you’re doing things like having sex. Sometimes the reasons for a guy coming to visit late at night aren’t at all sexual. My boyfriend sometimes comes by to do homework with me. Sometimes I visit him to do the same thing. Heck, I’m in his dorm room typing this right now. We like to hang out and watch movies together (and we don’t check with the USSCB before choosing them because we don’t care whether or not they’re offensive to Catholics). And you know what? I’m just shy of a 4.0, and not suffering for it at all. I get my work done, and hang out with people of both genders in my residence hall.

Sure, things go on in college that probably make parents extremely uncomfortable, but when a kid turns 18, he or she is no longer considered a kid, and will have an easier time becoming independent if he or she is treated as an adult.

Happy Thinking!

-Nancy

 

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