Indiana Wesleyan University students can now watch R-rated movies and play M-rated video games.
But IWU Dean of Student Conduct Andrew Parker wants you to read past that sentence.
“The intent behind it is not to say ‘the R-rated movie policy’s gone, the M-rated policy’s gone, it’s a free-for-all!’” Parker said Thursday in an exclusive interview with The Sojourn. “But we want to make sure students understand why they’ve changed; those policies have changed intentionally.”
The university announced this rule revision, effective immediately, along with a simplification of the dress code policy during chapel services Monday. Any movies rated above R, including NC-17, pornography and adult-only video games will still be banned.
Student Government Association President Tim Scurlock, IWU Executive Vice President Keith Newman and Parker all spoke during the service, hoping to make clear the reasons and vision for the new system.
“The policy is recognizing that they’re adults,” Parker said. “But it’s also calling to say, with this comes responsibility and even some added thought that we need to have as Christians of ‘how are we critical consumers of media?’”
SGA played an important role in the process that culminated Monday. The university enacted exploratory committees June and July 2012 for the media and dress code policies respectively, according to Parker. Students sat on both these committees.
Scurlock echoed Parker’s sentiments before the announcement, saying he wants his fellow students to actively think about the media they consume.
“I hope students, my peers, understand the philosophy behind this; they’re wanting to empower students and give them personal responsibility,” Scurlock said Thursday. “This is a great opportunity for students to wrestle with what it means to be a Christian while engaging media, what does it mean for a Christian while choosing, for the most part, what is appropriate, what is modest. I hope at the end of chapel students are willing to recognize that this is an ongoing process of trying to better understand what it means to be a Christian in culture today.”
These ideas started in those exploratory committees almost a year and a half ago before going to the cabinet, which consists of all the vice presidents of the university and President David Wright. Each proposal received revision recommendations before going to the student, staff and faculty-led Student Life Council. The proposals then went before the cabinet one final time and were unanimously approved Sept. 6.
“That’s exactly what we should be about — having these conversations,” Parker said. “As a liberal arts institution we should be opening people’s minds, expanding people’s mind, seeing what’s out there; pursuing truth.”
Parker also said the debates surrounding media policies and dress codes at Christian colleges has been going on for “several decades.”
As for the dress code policy, Parker said the new rules are more concise, paring down a 600-word policy with guidelines down to the inches. The updated standards are “less prescriptive,” according to Parker, meaning it’s less about specific rules and more about the concept of being modest.
Modesty may appear like a gray area, but we’re wanting students to think about what is modest,” Parker said. “Think about how you’re presenting yourself, how you view yourself and what you wear says about who you are.”
With both of the new rules, Parker and Scurlock each hope the change prompts more conversations and learning opportunities for students.
“Hopefully we learn how to look at things and not just shut them off as being secular or negative,” Scurlock said. “But we learn how to come along these different media and we learn how to look at culture with a lens that’s critical but also positive and that there’s room for transformation.”