The more I delve into the culture and "policies" of Bob Jones University, the sicker I feel. It's all so familiar--like a bad nightmare from my fundamentalist past. What's ironic about all this is that the BJU Mission Statement claims the university "exists to grow Christlike character." (page 3, BJU 2011 Student Handbook). But after reading through the entire student handbook, I can't help but wonder if BJU defines "Christlike character" as legalistic, rigid, punitive and cruel.
I was shocked by how extensively BJU exerts high-demand control over its students---all under the auspices of "discipleship toward Christlikeness." At least, that's what Stephen Jones, President of Bob Jones University, writes in his letter to the students (preface to BJU Student Handbook): "[BJU is] obligated to you to do everything we can for your physical protection and personal purity, growth and discipleship...we want to give you a handbook that will help you develop discernment and earn more responsibility and privileges over time."
Ok, hold up. Let's decode what President Jones is REALLY saying: "BJU is usurping total and final authority over every area of your life because that's what God wants us to do. Once you sign the student covenant, you surrender all your God-given rights to us. We slowly let you earn them back as you demonstrate behavior in accordance with our highly-specific rules."
President Jones goes on to write that "while externals are not our focus, we do need to recognize that externals do communicate and therefore need to be addressed on some level."
Externals are NOT the focus? That's laughable. After reading through BJU's exhaustive list of rules, externals ARE the PRIMARY focus and are addressed on EVERY level.
A a fairly common response from those defending BJU's recent actions against Chris Peterman is that if you choose to attend BJU, then you have to follow BJU's rules.
I think that argument only goes so far. If the rule setters are creating punitive, cruel and draconian rule systems, then they are unjustly wielding authority.
By subjecting their students to highly-controlled, rigid requirements, BJU unfairly binds the free-will and conscience of those under their authority.
So, let's take a look at some of the rules in the BJU Student Handbook and ask ourselves: do these rules fit with President Jones' stated objectives, mainly that they exist to grow "Christlike character" and are NOT about external controls? Are these rules a breach of student privacy? Are these rules reasonable?
Because, quite honestly, I can only think of one description for the BJU demerit system: DRACONIAN.
I mean, these rules are written for adult, university students--old enough to die for their country but not old enough to stay out past...10:25pm!
Here are some real rules from the 2011 BJU Student Handbook [my comments are in brackets]:
- Only students with "advanced privileges" are allowed to study until 2am (pg. 22)--and even then, only ONCE a week.
- Only students with "advanced privileges," are allowed to access open/mixed media websites (pg. 22)
- Students must get approval for leaving campus (page 24). Students must check in and check out. If working, students are to return by 10:25pm. [Translation: we must know where you are at ALL TIMES! And you better be back by TEN TWENTY FIVE. Not 10:26. Not 10:30. 10:25 on the dot]
- Mixed groups in public places "need to include an odd ratio of genders (e.g., three women and two men) and at least one student with advanced privileges for every five students in the group." (pg.24) [Dude, you practically need a degree in mathematics just to calculate the exact Biblical male-to-female ratio. Gender ratio for dummies? More Women Than Men + 1 Student With "Advanced Privileges." Unless the Dean disapproves. In which case you have to solve for VARIABLES!!!]
- Male students must have general privileges AND dean approval before dating a day-student or non-student. (page 25) [and just to be safe: get dean approval before you say "good morning" to any female whether she's on-campus, in town or on the moon]
- Female students "are have an approved chaperon" (pg. 25) [Yes, that is the literal reading, grammatical error and all. I'm not lying. Go read page 25 yourself. R have chaperon? I R Haz one 2!]
- Before purchasing tickets to off-campus event, make sure it is approved (pg.27). [also, before purchasing tissue to blow your nose, make sure the location of your nose-blowing has been approved and that you're accompanied by a BJU student of the same gender in an odd male-to-female ratio]
- Students may not walk or ride the bus to a public place alone. Must be accompanied by a BJU student of the same gender (pg. 27). [ I'm guessing you can't even go to the bathroom without 1. prior approval and 2. being accompanied by a student OF THE SAME GENDER!]
- BJU students may not listen to rap, rock, jazz or country music. Or any music with a "discernible rock beat." (pg. 28) [Discernible rock beats lead straight to fornication. Indiscernible rock beats, however, must be approved by the Dean!]
- "To ensure personal accountability, students are not to listen to music with headphones" (pg. 28). [To insure we maintain maximum control over your every single movement, headphones are VERBOTEN!!]
- Carefully monitor cell phone ring-tones! pg. 28 [Ring-tones aren't just annoying, they also could lead you into sexual sin.]
- Movies. Pretty much, just don't watch anything, anywhere for any reason. (pg. 29)
- No TV. (pg.29)
- Use blogs responsibly, "following biblical principles" [3,000 demerits for reading Elizabeth Esther's blog]
Phew! I'm exhausted! And we haven't even gotten to Dress Codes and Disciplinary System yet! I guess we'll have to save that craziness for tomorrow.
HINT: NO BIRKENSTOCKS!