He could easily pick them out, the bad guys with their “hard-core comb overs.” They were stationed throughout campus, prepared to catch any male student who dared to wear jeans, grow facial hair or put an arm around a girlfriend’s shoulder.
They were resident assistants, and he was a Bob Jones University student. That is until he transferred to Huntington University.
And that is how Daniel Cocks was sitting in a noisy Wright lounge one Sunday afternoon, telling tales of how he’s had to adjust to not-so-strict HU after transferring.
Cocks, one of the 60 transfer students to grace Huntington this fall, found the university’s rules to be more lenient compared to his previous school.
Although one can frequently hear complaints about HU’s “petty” rules, Cocks is not alone in his appreciation of them.
Many HU students and staff feel the current Community Life Agreement maintains a good balance between strictness and leniency. When compared with other faith-based schools, the HU rules do seem to have balance.
Bob Jones is one of the strictest schools in the nation. Its rules—no jeans during class hours, no facial hair and no arms around girlfriends—are just a few of the many which HU does not practice. BJU is not the only school that has stricter rules than HU.
Nearby Indiana Wesleyan University and Grace College have curfews for freshmen and sophomores. HU does not.
“I have an appreciation for curfew,” said Josh Christenson, a student at Grace. “It gets freshmen into the habit of figuring out when to go to bed.”
Senior Matt Brown, who transferred to HU from IWU, had different sentiments of his past with curfews.
“I hated it,” he said. “I think the idea behind it was definitely well-intended to protect students from themselves, but it’s more like a prison-jail mentality.”
Brown said later that he went to IWU because of the rules. He was a past addict, but wanted to “go to college to go to college.” The rules helped to keep him from doing what he knew he should not be doing.
One rule not even addressed in the HU Life Agreement, but carried out by many other Christian colleges, is a dress code.
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., enforces a dress code. Guys have to wear shirts with collars to class. Girls can’t wear shorts above the knees. IWU doesn’t allow students to wear shorts or hats in chapel.
“You can’t worship God wearing this? What?!” said Brown about IWU’s chapel dress code, as he sat in the top floor of his church, the 509 in Huntington, dressed in shorts. He seemed very happy about HU’s no-say in this matter.
Similar to dress codes, Grace and Liberty students are only allowed to have their ears pierced. HU says nothing about piercings in the Life Agreement.
Indiana Wesleyan University does not allow smoking, regardless of age, on or off campus. On the contrary, HU has an unofficial “smokers’ corner,” which is set aside for smokers about ten steps off campus across from Wright Hall.
Junior Broderick Frazier found this a welcoming sight when he transferred from Barclay Bible College.
“I was expecting lots of rules because this is a Christian school,” Frazier said. “My R.D. was talking to us, and I was told I could smoke. Immediately I went to Owen’s and bought a pack of cigars and smoked one. This is a liberal paradise as far as rules go.”
Although HU appears to be very liberal when it comes to rules, there are some Christian schools which are even more lax in this area. HU’s Community Life Agreement says, “Use, possession, purchase, or distribution of alcoholic beverages (including non-alcoholic beer and wine) are not permitted on or off campus.”
On the contrary, Trinity Christian College, near Chicago, allows their 21-year-old students to drink off-campus, as long as they don’t return to campus drunk.
Even with this exception, Amanda Carr, who transferred to TCC from HU last year, feels there are more students at HU who break the rules by drinking than there are students who legally drink at TCC.
“If you’re going to drink, you’re going to drink,” she said. “I think the school recognizes that you’re 21, and most people are going to go drink. I don’t necessarily disagree (with HU not allowing drinking), but I think that if the school recognized that fact, students won’t sneak around and potentially drive drunk.”
TCC has no chapel requirements either, whereas HU requires their students to attend a minimum of 30 chapels a semester.
At TCC, “People are much more serious about attending chapel.” said Carr. “Instead of having people in the back row listening to iPods or texting on their cell phones, it’s actually a much more spiritual atmosphere and more focused on God. I find it more beneficial than people sitting in the back row trying to get required chapel credits.”
Grace and Spring Arbor University allow dancing and Liberty even sponsors dance. However, taking the more conservative stance, HU’s Life Agreement says, “Social dancing (other than choreographed productions, aerobic or square dance or that which is part of classroom instruction) is not sponsored by the university.”
When asked if HU was too strict or too conservative, Drew Clay, admissions counselor for freshmen and transfers, said he felt HU had an interesting balance in comparison to other schools.
Clay said he has had some students from Cedarville University, in Ohio, who transferred because HU was less conservative. He has also had students transfer from schools which are Christian by name but not in practice. They came to HU for a more Christian experience.
Lucy (name changed) didn’t feel HU was right for her, and hoping to find a less-strict atmosphere, transferred to IPFW last year. However, she came to the realization that, “the rules and strictness are what make HU.”
“We gripe about going to chapel, but I look back and some of the best moments were at chapel,” Lucy said of her days at HU. “I kind of wish I had stayed. [At IPFW] kids come to class drunk, and I hate it. People don’t care if you pass or fail.”
Sarah Harvey works with transfers in the registrar’s office and has been at Huntington for over 30 years. She agrees that the Community Life Agreement makes HU what it is.
“It sets the tone for the school,” she said.
Do HU rules strike the right balance?
“It depends on the student,” said Clay. “Me personally, I feel like it’s a good balance. HU, being in the middle of Christian colleges in regards to the atmosphere—not being uber-conservative or uber-liberal—we have to wade through some gray areas. We find ourselves wrestling through liberty and moderation. It’s a good experience, and I think students appreciate that.”
It certainly appears students—at least ones who have been to other colleges such as Lucy, Brown, Frazier and Cocks—do appreciate that.
“Having stricter rules and a very strict spiritual focus really helped me ground myself,” said Cocks, pointing out how Bob Jones was a good start for him, and HU a great finish. “But now I feel like I can experiment and look around and I still have that foundation I had.”