I find colleges fascinating. State colleges with huge sports teams and hundreds of people in a lecture, tiny colleges in the middle of the desert where “butcher” is a work study job, colleges with strong family histories, colleges where virtue __ is said to be prized over all. Colleges are fascinating.
Right now I am completely obsessed with Fundamentalist Christian universities. This is not necessarily a recent development; I have found them fascinating for years. But it’s an interest that ebbs and flows and right now I’m reading all about various Christian universities and the rules they have. It is absolutely fascinating.
The two schools I have looked into the most are Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College, both unaccredited Fundamentalist Universities. They are fascinating. I can’t imagine learning in the environments that they purport to offer. There’s a strict dress-code, a complicated system of demerits, no physical contact allowed between male and female students, no headphones for music, bedtimes, graduated privileges, permission needed for everything. Mandatory prayer meetings, daily room inspections, no movies above a G rating, no video games above E10. No tattoos or body piercings, no long hair on men, no short hair on women. The people who attend these colleges have fewer privileges than your average sheltered middle schooler.
It’s unbelievable to me especially when I think about my own college experience. My college where, in essence, the only real rule is don’t be a Republican. As RAs we were specifically told not to look for people breaking rules. Most people drank on campus and many did drugs – it was just expected that you’d do it somewhat quietly. We’d run around at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes residents would inform their RA if they were leaving for awhile, but not always. We cuddled for hours watching movies during long winter nights, going to classes in our pajamas after staying up all night talking about the meaning of life and how our composting toilets worked. And we were not, under any circumstances, to automatically respect authority.
The point of all of the rules is to create a Christ-centric body and mind. I certainly would hesitate before labeling very many people at my college Christ-centric (though there were some) but by and large they are good people. It isn’t like we have no rules so all people do is drink and smoke and listen to foul music. You’re more likely to hear bagpipes or Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams as you are anything hardcore. Usually there is at least somebody on campus dressed like a pirate, and sword fights happen pretty often in the spring. There’s an ongoing rivalry about a “yield” sign that was stolen a few years ago – it travels between houses, getting stolen in the middle of the night. A couple years ago a giant paper mache penis was constructed and left on the lawn of one of the dorms, after that dorm had filled the penis-constructing dorm’s bathroom with news paper. That is what you do at college. It is ridiculous and stupid and fun and you never get to do it after college so why the hell not?
But most of that stuff would never be allowed at these Christian colleges. With their bedtimes and their dress codes and their focus on submitting to authority. Those things could get you kicked out of school, while at my college they were laughed at by administration. Every spring an email is sent out reminding us that our bodies are beautiful but that the dock is not a clothing optional zone. Not that any of us pay attention do that, but the email is sent all the same. My college felt safe and welcoming and let people be whole. These schools… don’t sound that way. All the structure and rules they have put in place seem to form an environment of fear and domination not of respect. They don’t treat the adults who go to these schools like they are adults.