Too strict? Too loose? Or just right? 13

By Sarah Martindale

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.”

13 thoughts on “Too strict? Too loose? Or just right?

  1. Reply Susanna Bucci Feb 13,2010 4:27 pm

    I think the rules we have are good, except for the dress ‘code’. I strongly believe HU should follow other colleges in terms of the shorts girls can wear. Its appalling to see girls here wear shorts that barely cover their rear in the warmer months. If you’re exercising, fine, but put on some sweats when you’re done. I think if you wear anything shorter than Bermuda shorts to class (except PE stuff) or chapel, you should be asked to leave and put on something more modest. Remember, ladies, the men of HU are our brothers in Christ; think before you throw on those ‘are they or aren’t they?’ shorts this spring.

  2. Reply Hannah Megill Feb 13,2010 10:36 pm

    I chose HU in part because the rules were more relaxed. I have friends at Moody, BJU, and Liberty, and knew they weren’t a good fit for me. We’re adults here. Many college students are living away from home for the first time. We need to learn to make basic right decisions on our own at SOME point. I think HU provides a good, safe environment for that kind of thing, with Christian perspectives and counseling readily available for people sorting through these issues.

  3. Reply Jared Murray Feb 14,2010 2:38 am

    Like the rules or not, we can all agree that in spite of a few things we may not particularly enjoy about HU’s policies, we’re thankful that we at least don’t have this:

    Take a gander at just one of many lists of things at BJU and tell me you still feel like complaining. Sure, it’s a lot easier when you compare, but we do the exact same thing when we say how nice it would be not have certain rules. It’s a comparison.

    Look at it this way, no matter where you go in life, you’re going to have rules in place that you just have to follow. End of story. It doesn’t always matter one bit if you agree with every rule, you’ll still have to follow them. I hear many students say, and I’ve done this myself, that we shouldn’t be made to follow all of these rules in order to prepare for the real world. I’m sorry, but that’s not the real world. You’ll have plenty of rules to follow there, so that argument can be put to rest.


  4. Reply Jared Murray Feb 14,2010 2:42 am

    One more thing about that link:

    If you notice, even Christian Contemporary Music is outlawed on Bob Jones’ campus.

    But not guns. They can be stored, as long as the trigger lock is on.

    You can bring your Glocks and Kalashnikovs, but not your Michael W. Smith Greatest Hits Album. That stuff will kill you.

  5. Reply Brandon Harnish Feb 15,2010 1:26 am

    Is this supposed to be a balanced news piece? Because it sure looks like it’s taking the “Hey, you think we’re bad!? You should look at those other guys!” approach.

  6. Reply Jimi Bonogofsky Feb 15,2010 4:53 pm

    Technically, HU *does* have a dress code. It is little known, and while not in the Community Life Agreement, it is found in the Student Handbook.
    This very loose code includes, “Shirts or tops (no halter or tank tops), and shoes or sandals are to be worn in all buildings.”

    Guess I broke that when I go barefoot.
    Bottom of Page Two.

  7. Reply Jack Heller Feb 16,2010 9:20 am

    Generally speaking, I don’t mind the bare feet except that (a) I don’t like seeing them on the top of a desk, and (b) some folks have smelly feet. It’s a fact.

  8. Reply David Schell Feb 17,2010 8:18 am

    I think (honestly) we all knew what we were signing up for when we came to HU. I read the handbook and community life agreement before I ever set foot on this campus. For the record, both of my parents attended BJU, and I visited. Twice. Wearing a tie all the time before 2 pm? Seriously? No… I couldn’t pull it off. When I came, I knew I wouldn’t have a problem with the CLA, because I didn’t DO any of the things it was worried about! I did think I’d have a problem with the NOT having a curfew, but then I realized that I have enough maturity – or should – to get to bed on time.

  9. Reply Angelica K. Potts Feb 18,2010 7:04 pm

    My mom wanted me to go to Bob Jones, because that’s where a lot of her side of the family went. As soon as I heard about the rules and requirements of their students I stood up in front of my mom and told her to look at me. It was probably about the beginning of may and I was wearing shorts and a tank top with my hair in a messy bun. I said, “Mom I would get kicked out of that school before the first week was over.”

    I like HU and occasionally I’ll complain about the rules but I think for the most part everyone sees that as far as rules go, we’re better off than a lot of people.

  10. Reply Bob Landon Feb 19,2010 9:26 am

    You know… this whole discussion is pointed in the wrong direction. Are we followers of Christ or are we legalists? (Note that I use the term “legalist” simply to mean one who is concerned with a set of rules for behaviour.) It’s a good and desirable thing to have rules, especially to help those of us who aren’t as far along walking with Christ. Our focus isn’t supposed to be these rules though. Our focus is to be on Christ. I’m not talking about an intellectual, theoretical focus. I speak of a practical everyday how do I live focus. What does it mean to be like Christ? What does it mean to follow Jesus? This is the real meat and drink of living, not a set of rules and a “how close can I get to the edge” attitude. I implore you to not let the “rules” distract you from the end goal.

  11. Reply Jack Heller Feb 19,2010 5:14 pm

    I’ve been at schools stricter than Huntington and schools with almost no rules at all (except against plagiarism, which could get you in deep water at Louisiana State University, and except for the law). I don’t agree with either extreme, but I think when a person goes to a college or a university, that person implicitly at least agrees to become a part of a community. It’s in some ways like joining a church–you may choose what church to go to, but once you decide, you ought to live by what the church practices. Of course, some churches are entirely too strict, and they believe their rules are all
    God’s rules. Same for universities. Other churches have no rules at all, also like some universities. Choose wisely, which is going to be somewhere in between the extremes. And then accept your own choice.

  12. Reply Dan Cocks (Sr.) Feb 20,2010 6:55 pm

    This article seems to be saying that HU is OK because it fits in with schools around it. If HU were the strictest or the most lenient, we might feel uncomfortable, but so long as we are in the middle of pack we are probably pretty normal. “We have to deal with some rules—but at least not THAT many rules, so we must be alright.” That’s relativism. Is that really what we are after?
    The article—even its title—seems to be missing something. It’s incomplete. “Too strict? Too Loose?” For What? To feel comfortable and “let me be me” or to help me shape my Christian character? Those can be very different goals.
    Cars have steering wheels and trains don’t. That’s why trains stay on tracks. Taking a train off its tracks is not liberating, it’s destructive. Drivers of cars don’t need tracks, but they do like to have guard rails at key places. Imagine driving across a high bridge that had no railings–just a cement ribbon stretching across the river. If you decide you want to make a hard right turn, no railing will stop you. Is that liberating? Hardly. I can pretty much guarantee that cars would hug the middle lanes and stay far away from the outside edges.
    As little children, we had pretty tight rules. All kinds of things were prescribed for us such as when we had to go to bed. If I know the principal of proper rest, then having liberty as I get older to stay up occasionally is a good thing to finish that long assignment. If I totally lack the discipline to get the rest I need, then my health suffers when parental rules are removed and I abuse the new liberty.
    Schools like Bob Jones University have far more rules. They keep the rails in pretty tight to direct students that (presumably) can’t or won’t guide themselves wisely. The goal is to form good habits that will stay with the students after graduation. HU, by comparison, has only occasional guard rails around areas that have probably proven dangerous in the past. Students can steer their own course within those limits.
    As I read this article and the various comments, the question that I’d like to hear HU students answer is not so much “Is HU right?” but rather “Am I right for HU?” Am I mature enough in my Christian character to enjoy the liberty of (relatively) relaxed rules without getting derailed? Is it a freedom that allows me to live as I should or is it a freedom from having to live as I should?

  13. Reply Karli Feb 5,2013 4:30 am

    I think people should wear what they feel comfortable in as long as it is not too revealing (cleavage, short shorts). There should be a fair dress code, but not a strict one.

    People should be discouraged from smoking but it should not be outlawed. It would hurt more than help anybody as some people would not attend for this reason (tough habit to break).

    Alcohol should be allowed off-campus for people of legal age. Drunkenness however should have consequences.

    Curfew for a young adult is a ridiculous thought. If we were in a drug rehabilitation or prevention program I would understand, but we should be responsible enough to make petty decisions such as this ourselves at this age. If we needed someone to enforce our bed-times and tuck us in, we’d bring our parents to college with us.

    Some of these rules enforced at other Christian Universities seem overly religious, others much too lenient based on Godly standards. Huntington seems just about right.

    Our faith is our own, not everybody else’s. Teach us the right way and let us be our own person. God gives us freedom of choice for a reason.

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