Tag Archive | "handbook"

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)

The handbook: intellectual property

The past week marks a major shift in the American debate over intellectual property rights and the enforcement of existing legal codes.

Online powerhouses roused dissent among commoners Jan. 18 by publicly protesting two bills proposed by the U.S. Congress. Wikipedia censored itself for 24 hours to draw attention to legislation that could, according to its opponents, “break the Internet.”

FBI agents acted on more than 20 search warrants Jan. 19 in nine different countries, seizing $50 million in assets and 18 domain names related to Megaupload.com, according to The New York Times, all in the name of enforcing existing copyright law.

“Anonymous” responded quickly. By day’s end, the clandestine collective of hacktivists took down major websites that supported the Megaupload raid, including sites belonging to the FBI, the Department of Justice and the copyright offices in the U.S. and France. Also affected were websites belonging to major proponents of the proposed anti-piracy legislation, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Universal Music, Warner Music and others.

Congress then tabled the two controversial anti-piracy bills Jan. 20, two days after their proposals caused such a stir online.

But Congress isn’t the only legislative body with an interesting stance on intellectual property rights. Crack open a 2011/2012 student handbook, if you care to read a curious claim made by Indiana Wesleyan University officials regarding content produced by its students:

Page 30 states that “all information composed, transmitted, received or stored via the IWU computer system is also considered the property of Indiana Wesleyan University. As such, all stored information is subject to disclosure to management, law enforcement and other third parties, with or without notice to the student.”

This “Exclusive Property” clause in the handbook may appear to be an attempt to comply with lawful requests by law enforcement officers, whether they be enforcing state law or IWU codes of conduct. But if this were truly the only purpose served by the rule, it would merely restate the “Technology Equipment” clause a page earlier, which reads:

“Technology equipment provided by the University is the property of IWU, and as such IWU retains the right to remove, reallocate, or change equipment at its discretion. No information residing on any computer hardware owned by IWU should be considered private and therefore is subject to review by University staff.”

This “Technology Equipment” clause is completely acceptable, but the “Exclusive Property” clause makes the dubious claim that everything I transmit, using IWU’s technological equipment, belongs to the school.

I spent a semester at the L.A. Film Studies Center, a program offered by the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. For insurance reasons, all films produced by LAFSC students belong to the center, which I was required to list as the “production company” for each of the three films I produced.

Upon returning to IWU, I spoke with my academic adviser, Dr. Randall King, to ensure that the short film I produce for my senior project would remain my property alone. Instead, this rule could possibly indicate otherwise.

The question rests in how the interpreters of these two clauses choose to define “information.” Does the “Exclusive Property” clause claim intellectual rights to my film and anything I write, such as this column? Or does the term “information” apply solely to the lingering files archived by the IWU technology equipment? The former interpretation presents some terrifying legal ramifications, while the latter makes me ask what the “Exclusive Property” clause adds to the “Technology Equipment” clause a page earlier.

Policies like these are not unique to IWU. Other university policy books include similar clauses which are similar to rules commonly enforced in the corporate world. Regardless, this is a prime example of an ambiguously worded student handbook rule with potentially contentious implications.


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 (4)

The handbook: an introduction

Some of the rules established by Indiana Wesleyan University have received widespread attention among students in recent years. The evangelical school’s stance on media, social dancing and compulsory chapel services are frequent topics of heated debate. Meanwhile, potentially contentious lesser-known rules have gone uncritiqued.

IWU published an updated, 64-page student handbook in October 2011 that specifically requires students to familiarize themselves with its contents.

“IWU students are responsible for the behavior expectations and policies set forth in this handbook,” states page 4 of the 2011/2012 handbook.

“All students should be familiar with and abide by the expectations set forth in this publication.”

These expectations include some nuanced clauses that may be unfamiliar to students.

Page 44 explicitly forbids opening windows “to transmit music to the community outside the residence hall.” (That’s right, Scripture Hall Disney fans, we’re looking at you.)

“All candles are prohibited,” states page 35. “This includes wickless gel candles, candle warmers, and decorative candles.”

Officials have very clearly defined IWU as a dry campus. Students are not allowed to drink alcohol off-campus or attend dance events where alcohol is sold or provided. Page 31 of the handbook takes the rule a step further and prohibits alcohol substitutes, including “near beer,” which includes a variety of malt beverages with little or no alcohol. Page 35 prohibits empty beverage containers, advertisements and clothing items that promote alcohol on-campus.

“As a Christian community, IWU is careful not to celebrate the pagan holiday called Halloween, with its emphasis on the occult, witches, the dead, ghosts, and rituals,” states page 22. “For this reason students should avoid dressing in costumes or otherwise promoting Halloween during this time of year. Therefore, any event or activity on or near Halloween which may include costumes must be approved by Student Development in advance of the promotion and marketing of the event.”

In two separate paragraphs on page 19, the handbook necessitates church attendance, stating that IWU community members “are to revere the name of God and observe the Lord’s Day through worship and spiritual edification and renewal for tasks ahead.”

Some of the handbook’s regulations are clearly defined, but others leave questions in the minds of students and administrators who interpret the loosely worded rules differently.

For instance, is the church attendance policy to be interpreted as a rule or a suggestion? That question may seem petty, but other questions are clearly not.

Are students permitted to attend a dance-free party where alcohol is served, so long as students do not consume alcohol? There are clear rules against drinking and attending dance events at venues where alcohol is sold or provided, but there is no prohibition of simply being in the presence of alcohol.

This did not stop the drafters of the handbook from suggesting that such a rule exists. Page 47 summarizes potential handbook violations in an inexhaustive list that includes “attending a party where alcohol is served (unsolicited confession)” as a Level I violation.

Points of potential contention and varied interpretation exist throughout the 2011/2012 handbook. The legislative process is one of constant evolution, so these cases represent issues that should be clarified one way or another in the coming semesters.

In each of the next few weeks, I will explore one or two topics found in the student handbook with lesser-known rules or inconsistencies in hopes of highlighting points that should be clarified or abolished, including issues of sexual misconduct, intellectual property rights, free speech and nondiscrimination.

As always, The Sojourn invites IWU community members to participate in the conversation. Send a letter to the editor to iwusojourn@gmail.com.


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 (5)

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