Saturday, August 13, 2016

Student shaming at legalistic colleges...

I shared a post on Facebook that was related to yesterday's blog post about legalistic Christian colleges.  My post attracted some interesting commentary.  One of my friends, who had attended Brigham Young University-Idaho, had some good comments about what it was like to attend such a school.  I have heard some stories about life at BYU, particularly the one in Idaho, where Bill's ex daughter is supposedly studying.  I'm not sure it's quite as strict as Pensacola Christian College is (or was).

Anyway... here's an interesting video about Carissa Beard's experience when she got in trouble for wearing clogs to class at Pensacola Christian College.  The clogs were actually useful to her because she has a bone spur that makes wearing shoes with backs painful.  But the PCC administration had deemed that they were "inappropriate" for class...

Imagine attending school in an environment where wearing the wrong kind of shoes can cause anxiety that you might get kicked out of school.

Now, I do realize there are places where an administration dictates what you will wear to class.  Obviously, if you attend a military school, you will be expected to wear a uniform.  You sign up for that when you decide to attend the school.  I suppose the same could be said for religious colleges and universities.  People who decide to attend a legalistic Christian college presumably know that there will be a lot of rules they have to follow.  For all I know, some people might even thrive on these kinds of rules.  

But all I can think is that these are people who are legal adults.  These are folks who, when they graduate, will hopefully be able to function somehow on their own.  And some of them have to be counseled on their choice to wear clogs to class.    

Just as an aside, I would not do well at PCC for many reasons.  However, I also happen to be a big fan of clogs and PCC's rules about not wearing them would cramp my style.  They're very comfortable and easy to wear.  I dress for comfort these days.

Carissa Beard goes on to relate how her shoes led to shaming from a PCC administrator.  Shaming is a big deal in religion.  It's one way church officials keep people in line.  Most people don't want to make waves or attract negative attention to themselves.  They want to be well liked and regarded by their peers and mentors.  Shaming is an effective technique in keeping people in the fold because it creates the perception that others within a specific group disapprove of certain behaviors.  Many people want to be in a group, so they will alter their behavior so it suits the group's standards. 

The trouble is, the group's standards aren't always appropriate for an individual's needs.  For instance, Carissa Beard had a bone spur that made wearing regular dress shoes difficult.  She had to go to the trouble and expense of seeking a doctor's note so she could wear the shoes in college (again, an experience she was presumably paying money for).  The doctor thought the note was ridiculous, but wrote one for her.  She turned it in and got called on the carpet; the administrator even insinuated that she might be lying!  All this trouble over shoes!  And there Carissa was, sitting in the administrator's office, feeling ashamed and afraid of what others would think of her.  FOR WEARING CLOGS!!!!  I mean, of all the shoes a fundie college could get upset over, clogs?  Really?  They're not exactly sexy shoes.

It must take a lot of time, energy, and manpower to have such extreme control over thousands of students the way PCC does.  But they have a pretty good system for catching people who break the rules.  For one thing, snitches are apparently rewarded by the powers that be.  One way to get prestige in such an authoritarian environment is to play ball with the administrators.  I read one story about a guy who did well at PCC for a semester and was "invited" to spy on other students.  This was apparently regarded as an honor.  I'm sure the invitation to spy is framed in such a way that it's a Christian duty and the person who turns in his buddies will be rewarded by the administration.  Somehow, I doubt the rewards will mean much outside of the college, but it is an effective way to keep everyone in line.

I think back to my time in college and realize that it was a scary period for me.  And that's even though I went to a somewhat small public school in Virginia, with caring professors and administrators.  I can't imagine how much more stressful it would have been for me had I been surrounded by people who might tell on me for doing something that most people would find harmless.  All I can think of is that I would probably have raging paranoia.  

Actually, paranoia goes hand in hand with another condition that religious people often condemn.  It seems that legalistic colleges have little patience for illnesses.  They have especially little patience for people who suffer from mental illnesses.  It's a fact that mental illnesses are actually often physical in that they can manifest in a physical way.  They also respond to medications.  But dare to be depressed on a fundamentalist Christian campus and you might be told that the devil is making you depressed and anxious.  You might be advised to pray instead of seeking medical help.  If the depression doesn't go away, you might even be kicked out of school.  After all, that mental illness-- in their mind-- means that you've sinned and aren't "right" with God.  If you aren't right with God, you could lead others astray.  You could be a "bad influence".  So you have to go.  But before you go, you have to be "shadowed" by another student, to make sure you don't cause anyone else to fall.

Here's a story about a woman who was kicked out of Hyles-Anderson College for being depressed.  From what I've read, HAC has an environment similar to PCC's, so it wouldn't surprise me if the same thing happened at other schools.  Imagine feeling lower than dirt, which is what depression tends to do, and then being told you have to leave your college because your depression is from Satan.  Of course, the lady who wrote the post said that leaving that environment was the best thing she could have done.  It was toxic for her.  Frankly, I think it would be toxic for many people.

Anyway...  while I don't think shaming is always inappropriate, I do think it can be overdone.  I think it is overused on some campuses.  And again, I can't imagine paying for the privilege of being shamed when I'm a legal adult.  My guess is that a lot of young people choose legalistic colleges because they're very young and see no other way to do what they want to do.  Perhaps many of them are coerced into going by their parents or there is a lot of pressure to go there by others in their community.  Some may even thrive in that environment.  But for me, all it does is cause me to shake my head.  


  1. I've read some articles and books about PCC and Patrick Henry College. I'm less familiar with hyles-Anderson, but have read of just a few of their associated scandals, of which there are apparently many.

    I will not do this, as I have far more important things to do with my time, but it would be fun to take a gap year and enroll somewhere like BYU-Idaho, PCC, Hyles-Anderson, or Patrick Henry just for the purpose of stirring up as much trouble as I could legally without breaking any laws and getting myself thrown behind bars. I'd get kicked out, of course, but I might have some real fun for a few weeks, or maybe even a bit longer if I went about it really smartly. It wouldn't work anywhere really large like BYU-Provo, but at a small school, one student could make a real impact. Of course I won't ever do it, and if I were going to do it, the best time to have done it would have been before I completed or even started my undergrad degree because I wouldn't have had so much to hide. Still it's fun to think of what might have been.

    Lots of people where clogs in surgery.

    1. Ugh. I think it would be dangerous to be exposed to it.

  2. I keep forgetting abut bob Jones University in any discussion of any of the extreme fundie colleges. BJU should not be forgotten except by any student considering enrolling there. BJU is so bad that it's a really funny joke except to those incarcerated there.I bought my uncle a BJU sweatshirt for Christmas as a joke. He only wears it to family events because he worries that in a liberal state such as california, he could be endangering his vehicle by wearing it in public. (Fortunately the gun laws aren't too lax here, so he probably wouldn't be shot for wearing it.)

    One of my friends' moms worked very briefly for a summer camp associated with BJU. Once they demanded that she sell her car so that she could work for them for almost nothing without financial encumbrances, she packed up and left in the middle of the night.

    1. Yeah, I wrote about BJU in an earlier post.


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