Playing by the rules of life

I’ve played a fair share of games in my 21 years, and one thing they all have in common are the rules —  like “The Game of Life.” The rules in that game help us understand how we should live our lives but still afford us much room for decision-making and, inevitably, failure.

The Indiana Wesleyan University 2011/2012 Student Handbook, a policy and expectation guide for students attending IWU, has an interesting way of helping us cope with the proverbial “game of life.”

All citations refer to the 2011/2012 Student Handbook.

There are three reasons to have rules for students; some rules may fit the bill for all three, but most likely rules fit into one category.

Health and Safety Rules

This is straightforward, where rules like “Meals During Illnesses” (p. 39) require students with serious illnesses to report them to the university and have meals brought to their rooms. This is to make our campus healthier because no one wants to get sick.

Other rules, like the code involving fire code, are to help us stay safe. Policies for things like “Fireworks/Explosives” (p. 21) ensure that we won’t start fires or hurt ourselves.

These rules are great. I like being safe and healthy.

Community Standards

These rules aren’t as straightforward. It’s hard to determine if rules fit this category or the following (“In loco parentis”). These are the kind of rules that establish and promote a community built on mutual respect and consideration.

The “Quiet Hours/Courtesy Hours” (p. 41) policy is a great example of a true community standard. That rule isn’t in place so that at 10 p.m. students have to go to bed, but instead because as a community we want to allow the option for students to get a good night’ rest, uninterrupted, before classes at 7:50 a.m.

There are fewer of these rules than I’d like there to be.

In Loco Parentis

A Google search will tell you that this is Latin for “in place of the parent.” In my opinion this is the most dangerous way to approach student development and unfortunately, this is most often the way IWU operates. The university takes the role of our parent and makes judgement calls on what we should and shouldn’t do. In their view, we can’t be trusted with our own judgment.

The best example, and also one of the most lengthy of these policies, is the “Media Policy.” Our student handbook states, “IWU hopes to challenge students to develop discernment, evaluate and ultimately select entertainment that allows for meaningful learning and wholesome fun.”

I take issue with this rule. How are we expected to development discernment, done through becoming “active learners, not passive,” found in the “Desired Outcomes” section of the handbook, when we aren’t permitted to see the other side of the fence?

Our university has placed before us its own convictions and shown us where its discernment lies. Many of our rules fit this category, which I include “Appropriate Appearance and Attire,” “Dancing,” “Halloween/Costumes,” “Entertainment,” “Curfew,” “Social Networking Websites,” “Chapel,” and “Appropriate Content” or iPrism.  We can’t make decisions on our own. We are asked to submit to the school’s decisions for us, lest we risk its punishment.

“In loco parentis” is a student development concept many student development philosophers feel thwarts the idea of growing students into adults. We punish students via negative reinforcement and hope they have learned their lesson (like mom and dad did with a spanking when I was little). I have no qualm with this parental method. I’ll probably adopt much the same method when I have children, but there needs to be a conversation had about whether it’s the university’s role to act as my parent.

Our current way of treating students doesn’t adequately prepare them for graduation, the true ultimate goal of any university. Many students will exit this university with a diploma but not a clear set of convictions when it comes to attending chapel or a church, how to view media and movies, social networking, appropriate attire, boundaries in a dating relationship or many other ideals addressed in our student handbook.

This is the safest place we will ever live; it is the best place for us to develop insight into living as an adult, even if that means making mistakes. We can receive grace here, get help and be forgiven. The world isn’t as forgiving.

It’s your turn to take a spin at this game of life. Write your response to my critique of the student handbook and email a letter to the editor to

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@AvgIWUStudent: Conversations with the anonymous Twitter-user

She’s 20 years old, a nursing major, Wesleyan and a Townhouse resident. Who is she? Based on Indiana Wesleyan University’s own statistics, “she” is the average IWU student.

@AvgIWUStudent, on the other hand, is a Twitter account created earlier this year. The anonymous tweets claim to represent the average student at Indiana Wesleyan. To maintain her anonymity, @AvgIWUStudent is precisely that 20-year-old nursing major mentioned above — at least for today.

“There was very little planning when I made this account,” said @AvgIWUStudent via email. “I had no idea it would turn into this.”

“I hope to show the administration that students want a voice,” she added, noting that she aims to critique the school, make students laugh and inform students “in [her] own unique way.”

“My intentions are good. I just want to make a difference here and unite students,” she said.

@AvgIWUStudent tweeted first on April 17, 2011 in which she said, “Just arrived at #IWU. Something tells me John Wesley wouldn’t approve of everything that goes on here.” Since then, she has left no facet of life at IWU untouched by her sometimes-satirical approach to social media.

This anonymous Twitter profile spawned more than a few accounts, which include @IWU_gay_kid, @AboveAvgIWUStud, @BelowAveIWUStud, @WhySoIndWes, @AvgIWUGrad (which @AvgIWUStudent claims as her creation), @AwkwardIWUstud and @IWUHumor, which have some 450 follows collectively. @AvgIWUStudent as of Oct. 5 has 316 followers, more than any of the other accounts.

@IWU_gay_kid has a much more tailored purpose. “Being gay at IWU is a hardship that most people don’t understand…[and is] mostly aimed at trying to connect with those individuals who may view their lives as less than optimal and opt to end them,” said the creator of @IWU_gay_kid during an email interview.

Both accounts have a common theme — giving someone a voice.

Administrators have heard the voices of these Twitter accounts, but the officials’ opinions are split when it comes to the effectiveness of anonymous social media posts.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that [they feel] they have to be anonymous,” said Brandon Hill, dean of student engagement, “but to some extent it brings to life things we need to think about where there’s fear to talk about.”

“They [the administrators] know they exist,” Hill continued. Part of his job is to find places where students are talking, figure out what students are thinking and how to make sure IWU solves those problems if they’re affecting students’ growth negatively.

“People are concerned when students put things [online] that are viewed to be harmful, but my opinion is that this shows us what we need to work on, and I can engage with them and figure out with the student and who it’s directed toward,” said Hill.

Erik Fisher, IWU’s social media manager, has a different view.

“I’m not necessarily sure there is a need for anonymous Twitter accounts,” said Fisher. “IWU is on Twitter because if students are willing to talk we’re willing to listen. … They [the accounts] perceive anonymity as a benefit.”

Fisher said he treats the accounts as he would any other Twitter, and that they are making as much a wave as someone’s personal Twitter could make.  Fisher feels that “they aren’t good or bad.”

Fisher and Hill agreed that IWU wants to listen to students and pvass along complaints and ideas when possible. All the Twitter accounts, including students who aren’t anonymous, may be heard equally.

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Science vs. Everything Else

The Indiana Wesleyan University board of trustees (the same group that hires our president) recently approved what members are calling a “Major Health Science Initiative.”  This major initiative will cost up to $110 million and take 10 years to complete.  The program will be kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony for a new science and nursing building costing $45 million.  To put that number in perspective, the new chapel put IWU back $22 million.

The Division of Math and Computer Sciences will find a small home inside this building of three or four stories, as will the mathematics division.  The initiative will benefit nursing as well and work toward establishing a school of osteopathic medicine.  The new building and programs would bring “a Doctor of Nursing Practice, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and an Occupational Therapy Doctorate. There also would be two new master’s degrees: a Master of Public Health/Global and Rural Health and a Master of Biomedical Science,” according to an IWU press release.

President Smith has mentioned at two locations, one at an SGA meeting and the other in an official IWU press release, that he wanted to see an additional 1,500 health science students  and another 700 traditional students on campus by 2020.  Based on information from IWU’s enrollment numbers over the past four years, the main campus would contain roughly 3,894 students, in comparison to this year’s 3,111 students. Add those 2,100 students and that will bring IWU’s headcount in Marion to an approximate 5,394 students in the year 2020.  Based on a headcount by major conducted by IWU, including the additional 2,100 desired by the President, our campus will have 2,643 students in  the health sciences.  That means roughly 49 percent of IWU’s main campus will be focused on health sciences, compared to our current percentage of 19 percent.

I did the math myself, so I won’t be too offended if you discredit my numbers, but I do intend on asking the question of our priorities of development.  Are we a university focused on producing World Changers that will give back to this institution or are we focused on producing a wide range of World Changers?

I know we do have to find something to keep our university afloat in these rough financial times, and I do applaud leaders for attempting to gain revenue, but at what cost?  Of our 80 majors, we offer only one foreign language major with only two language courses of study, Spanish and French.

Additionally, the Division of Math and Computer Sciences is in drastic need of development.  We only recently opened a course in iPhone App development, a billion-dollar industry that is changing the world without us.

Our art department is requiring the graduating seniors to display artwork as part of a senior show, but due to space restrictions displays student art in Noggle, Beard and two locations in the Barnes Student Center, one of which is a hallway.

Forty-five million dollars for a building and another $65 million toward our health sciences seems like we only want to change the health science world while increasing our bottom line.  Our art alumni do not donate back to our school like our health science alumni do, which was a major point made during the presentation of the project at the board of trustees meeting.  Is potential income a reasonable enough determinate to choose to heavily develop one major before another?  I think not.  You can decide, but know that if we continue down this course the Class of 2024 will be made up of one part healthy World Changer, and one part everything else.

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