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Let me introduce you to… myself

Well, here we are again. New year, new classes, new friends, new challenges.

I myself have been faced with quite a few new things: new living arrangements, new job, new responsibilities.

It’s all quite terrifying, but also incredibly exciting.

My name is Erin Alberding, and I have the privilege of being The Sojourn’s sports editor.

I have heavily followed sports my entire life. I have favorite teams that I will cheer for almost religiously (Chicago Bears, Butler Bulldogs), and there are teams I pretend don’t exist (New England Patriots, Duke Blue Devils).

Whether we agree on teams or not, one commonality obviously joins us, our love of sports.

So my fellow Indiana Wesleyan University students, make sure this isn’t just another column that you read and forget (or even worse, skip over completely). Let’s work together.

I want to write on interesting subjects that are relevant to you. So talk to me, email me, Facebook me, find me in Elder Hall or in the Barnes Student Center. I am always up for a rousing sports conversation or to listen to your ideas for articles.

Let’s be a team, IWU.

Was that too cheesy for a first column? I feel like it might be.

In all seriousness however, I don’t want this to be a section that gets skimmed over or ignored. The coaches and student athletes here work too hard to be disregarded.

So now I challenge you. Go to at least one sporting event this year (home games are free for IWU students, so don’t play the “I have no money” card). I know I’m going to plenty. Stop by and hang out, cheer on your classmates, the coaches, Wesley the Wildcat, everyone.

We are IWU and we need to be proud of it.

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The first New Year’s resolution I made was in junior high, and it was all about a boy.
I was 12, and that year I resolved to get him to ask me out.

He didn’t. (Oddly enough, my resolution wasn’t exactly binding on other people.)

In high school, I resolved to master new skills like teaching myself an instrument or running half a dozen miles each day. I always made a valiant effort at the beginning.

By the end of the week, however, my resolution was broken. Three months into this year, I’m enjoying the fact that, so far, I haven’t failed.

But it isn’t because I’ve suddenly developed great willpower or a stringent routine. It isn’t even because I felt guilty for all of my past failures and have decided to change my ways. Instead, I haven’t failed because there’s nothing to fail at, since I stopped making New Year’s resolutions three years ago.

It’s wonderful, really. The sense of guilt I get from my inevitable failure is gone. But while I love not having to feel the pressure to fulfill a year-long promise, could I be missing out on the lessons I might have learned in the process?

Each year around this time, I’m surrounded by people who have decided to make “resolutions” concerning the season of Lent. The commitment is not as intimidating as an entire year long resolution, but the mindset is the same. Or so I’ve always thought.

Lent wasn’t something that I really paid attention to until I became a student here. I remember being extremely confused and slightly panicked at the Ash Wednesday chapel my freshman year. (Do I really have to keep the smudges on my forehead all day?) Four years ago I made a mental note to do more research on Lent so I understood it. It seemed like something “religious” people did and therefore, something I should do too. Right?

The thing is that I never did that research. I never understood Lent, and consequently I didn’t practice any type of fasting. Like a New Year’s resolution, I understood Lent as just another promise to better my life, something that until this year was concentrated on guilt, not deeper meaning.

My recent understanding happened by accident, actually; I didn’t plan on participating in Lent, but one of my friends shared a link on Facebook for Relevant magazine’s recent article, “Why practicing Lent is crazy.”

Ever the procrastinator (and over-user of Facebook, I naturally clicked.

The article didn’t revolutionize what I thought about Lent, but it did remind me of my former curiosity. That, and it emphasized a new element of the “fasting” process I hadn’t thought of before: sacrifice.

It makes sense, really, for sacrifice to be the true focus of Lent. The timing itself, for starters, lends itself to this as a natural focus. Lent leads up to Easter, the time when Jesus made the greatest sacrifice and gave us salvation.

The article, by Christine Jeske, discusses the fact that at face value, the sacrifice of participating in Lent may seem … pointless. To the rest of the world, giving up Facebook, sugar or some other “vice” won’t really have a long-term impact. According to Jeske, however, the act of sacrifice (no matter how menial) is much deeper.

“Sacrifice is hitting a point where you see your own limits, and give beyond that. It’s saying to God, “Fine, let my life make no sense at all, let it be a failure, let it be wasted, but above all, let it be yours.” It’s throwing yourself out across a canyon you could never leap across, trusting somehow there will be a parachute, or a net, or a bridge, or somehow it will be OK – even somehow better – because of your leap. It’s knowing this: God is in charge. Period.”

In light of this statement, my choice to “sacrifice” for Lent this year isn’t really a sacrifice. In fact, were I to mention it on Twitter, I’d probably receive responses with the hashtag #firstworldproblems.

I don’t know how the rest of my time fasting will go. Considering my history with commitments like this, there’s a good chance I’ll fail. And the thing is, that’s OK. In some ways, it’s not the flawless keeping of the promise that matters; it’s the attitude behind it. The commitment of Lent isn’t just to re-shape everyday habits or re-evaluate life’s blessings and gifts. It’s about growing to understand sacrifice – granted, in a very limited, human fashion, but understand all the same.

Chances are that I won’t truly ever understand sacrifice, especially the sacrifice that Lent commemorates. But I’ll get a little closer.

I think that’s worth the 40 days.

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The handbook: bigotry

This week marks the fifth and final installment of my column discussing lesser-known corners of the 2011/2012 Student Handbook. Beginning next week, The Sojourn will publish a five-week guest column from Andrew Parker, dean for student conduct and community standards at Indiana Wesleyan University, responding to each of my five topics sequentially.

To punctuate my commentary on the handbook, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss IWU’s umbrella nondiscrimination clauses.

“Because of our scriptural belief in the worth and dignity of persons,” states Page 19, “each member of the community is expected to be sensitive to special needs existing in our society and on our campus. Therefore, discrimination against others on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, socioeconomic status, or handicap is a violation of our Biblical principles.”

The “access, equity, diversity statement” found on Page 20 specifies certain discriminatory acts as inappropriate for IWU community members:

“Acts of racism, hazing, sexism, bigotry, harassment, and violence are not acceptable behaviors from either employees or students of Indiana Wesleyan University. Persons found involved in such behaviors may be dismissed from the institution.”

Racism and sexism tie in directly with the “Do Not Discriminate” clause from Page 19, but “hazing” apparently required some further explanation in the eyes of IWU’s administration – and appropriately so. Page 23 cites Indiana law to define “hazing” and demonstrate its illegality:

“For the purposes of this policy ‘Hazing’ means forcing someone, with or without their consent; and as a condition of association with a group or organization; to perform an act, in any context and anywhere, whether the act be physical, mental, emotional or psychological, which subjects another to anything which may abuse, mistreat, degrade, humiliate, discomfort, ridicule, harm, or intimidate.”

Harassment and violence are pretty commonly understood discriminatory acts involving a violation of a victim’s physical security, whether perceived or actual. But the unexpected word in that list above is “bigotry.”

According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, a bigot is “a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc.” or “a narrow-minded, prejudiced person.”

“Bigotry” and “intolerance” are synonyms. But they are fraternal, not identical, twins.

Rules, by their very nature, define certain behaviors as unacceptable or intolerable. I used to wonder, then, if rule books, which are necessary instances of codified intolerance, are not by their very nature bigoted. I used to wonder whether making a moral claim automatically rendered the claimant a bigot.

I then learned that “bigotry” carries with it connotations of violence and hatred, typically directed toward an identifiable group of people. So IWU’s rules against otherwise-legal alcohol consumption, for instance, are not bigoted because they are not motivated by hatred.

I am genuinely comforted by this realization, that the handbook outlaws all hatred-based actions directed toward all people, whether the policy specifically classifies them or not.

The drafters of IWU’s handbook apparently recognized how important the wording of this diversity statement is to a campus community. Too broad a clause could be interpreted as a form of extreme tolerance in which any moral claim is invalid, whereas too strict a definition would leave unintended gaps with unprotected groups of people.

The question for future handbook amendments is simpler to ask than it is to answer: Does the specificity of the nondiscrimination policy adequately protect all of IWU’s constituents from undue one-sidedness, or should it be amended?

This is a question that members of the IWU community members should ask themselves each and every year.

“Any persons who believe they are the object of such behaviors should speak to division chairpersons, resident directors, counselors or supervisors,” states Page 20 of the handbook. “If satisfactory resolution is not found, grievances may be filed in the manner indicated in the employee handbooks, the faculty handbook, or the university catalog.”


This column is part of a series:
The handbook: an introduction
The handbook: intellectual property
The handbook: free speech
The handbook: sexual misconduct
The handbook: bigotry

Posted in Columns, OpinionComments (2)

The handbook: sexual misconduct

“Indiana Wesleyan University is committed to the Biblical standard of sexual purity, and we desire to do all we can to stand against the loosening sexual standards of society,” states Page 18 of the 2011/2012 Student Handbook.

The policy book goes on to explicate what sorts of activities are permissible among IWU community members and how the university intends to address related concerns.

Five types of sexual misconduct are mentioned under the “Exercise Self-Control” heading on Page 19: “Those acts which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including … vulgarity, adultery, homosexual behavior, premarital sex, … [and] immodesty … will not be practiced by members of the Indiana Wesleyan community, either on or off campus.”

“Students who willingly come forward to seek help and healing in this area (without prior knowledge by university representatives) will be given support with accountability, while those who do not and violate this expectation may be referred to the Student Conduct Process,” according to Page 18 of the handbook. (Note the optional implementation of formal discipline.)

Consider, for instance, if a student becomes pregnant or is found to have fathered a child out of wedlock. Page 27 clearly outlines a checklist whereby those students can avoid the standard disciplinary channels. Upon learning of the pregnancy, the students must opt to not perform an abortion, voluntarily admit their wrongdoing to officials in the Student Development Office, consent to “a personal growth plan including, a vow to abstinence and counseling” and abdicate all positions of leadership or honor on-campus.

But the handbook prohibits far more than actual sex acts.

“Engaging in or the appearance of indiscreet or offensive sexual behavior in relationships is unacceptable and prohibited,” according to Page 28, which also states, “Members of the opposite sex discovered in a student’s room during non-Open House hours may be charged with sexual misconduct. This may include but is not limited to instances when doors are closed, when lights are off, and students are not fully clothed.”

The revised dancing policy further specifies modesty restrictions as well. Heterosexual social dancing is prohibited in residence hall rooms and apartments, according to Page 21, while sensuous and erotic dance is prohibited in all places on- and off-campus.

Page 43 re-asserts the handbook’s jurisdiction, which sees no limits. Even if students are exempt from curfew restrictions, they are required to sign out with their resident directors before spending the night off-campus. Students must be accompanied by a chaperone who is neither a student nor younger than 23. Furthermore, to spend the night off-campus with members of the opposite sex, students must ensure the sexes will bunk in separate rooms and fall subject to the supervision of “a married couple, parent or parents or family member over the age of 23.”

Sex acts and the appearance of sexual misconduct are prohibited as “vulgarity,” “adultery,” “premarital sex” and “immodesty.” Additionally, “homosexual behavior” is disallowed by the handbook, suggesting that there are some actions not already classified as sexual misconduct prohibited for being “homosexual” under this clause. This implication leads me to question, then, under this broader umbrella, precisely which actions and beliefs about social interaction among members of the same sex are inappropriate, according to IWU’s community standards.

Certain statutes that regulate interaction between the sexes, such as the revised dance policy, seem to ignore the possibility of same-sex sexual misconduct. To the credit of the handbook’s drafters, though, the document links to official statements on sexual harassment in the 2011 Annual Security Report:

“Both male and female students can be victims of sexual harassment, and the harasser and the victim can be of the same gender,” according to Page 14 of the 2011 ASR, which also clearly defines examples of sexual harassment, non-consensual sexual contact and sexual exploitation, each of which can be criminal activities.

“The University reserves the right to take whatever measures it deems necessary in response to an allegation of sexual misconduct in order to protect students’ rights and personal safety, including modifying academic and living situations if requested and reasonably available,” states Page 13 of the 2011 ASR. “The university will consider the concerns and rights of both the complainant and the person accused of sexual misconduct.”

Given IWU’s roots in the Holiness movement, I’m unsurprised that the emphasis on sexual misconduct in this document is strong.

While many of the sex-based regulations are well-developed, it could benefit future drafts of the handbook to use gender-neutral terms where practical to avoid unintended loopholes and implications for these policies.

Conversely, while the extensive sign-out procedures place a great deal of knowledge and authority in the hands of RDs, they also exert what may be an impractical expectation on already-busy residence life staff, who must attempt to track hundreds of residents each night throughout the school year. The university could consider toning down to allow students who are not on curfew to take more responsibility for their personal safety and nighttime whereabouts.


This column is part of a series:
The handbook: an introduction
The handbook: intellectual property
The handbook: free speech
The handbook: sexual misconduct
The handbook: bigotry

Posted in Columns, Front Page, OpinionComments (1)

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