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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.