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How these Christian schools use campus policy to cultivate Christian sexual virtues


Enforcement ‘not often needed,’ one school says; policy still employed

Though most universities and colleges take a more-or-less hands-off approach when it comes to student relationships, numerous private Christian universities use their campus policies to ensure their students, while attending school there, abide by Christian sexual values.

Johnson University, Biola University, Liberty University, and the University of Notre Dame—all Christian universities representing a diverse set of affiliations—each have regulations on the books that dictate certain behaviors and prohibit certain romantic interactions between students.

Johnson University, a nondenominational Christian school in Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee, spells out in its student handbook the policies to which couples must adhere in order to continue to study at the school. ”It is expected that students will heed the call to make all things subject to Christ, including all things related to sexual morality,” it states.

It mandates that “the conduct of couples is to be guided by a hands-off policy,” that “couples must keep themselves to open and lighted areas” when walking in public, and that students “should avoid spending extended time in locations where there is little or no accountability, such as apartments (on- or off-campus) or bedrooms.”

Any behavior “deemed incompatible with a biblical worldview and understanding of human nature and Christian identity will be deemed unacceptable within the campus community,” the handbook states.

Dean of Students David Legg said that though “disciplinary action is not often needed,” the school’s sexual policies are still enforced from time to time.

“When my office becomes aware of a possible violation, my staff will interview the student(s) involved, make a determination of fact, and consult with me. I make a determination on how to proceed, which may involve simply dropping the matter, issuing an administrative sanction, or referral to the discipline committee (which consists of faculty and students, but does not include student life administrative personnel),” he told The College Fix via email.

“Because the intent of our enforcement of all our student policies is redemption/restoration, consequences will vary according to the facts in evidence, issues related to the behavior, and the general principle of redemption/restoration,” he added.

‘Grace-based’ campus policy

Liberty University, an Evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, also enforces a strict Christian vision of sexual morality. The school’s “Liberty Way” declares that “sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible,” and that students “are encouraged to know and abide by common-sense guidelines to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Activities inconsistent with these standards and guidelines are violations of the Student Honor Code.”

Campus spokesman Scott Lamb partially dodged questions about the code’s enforcement on campus. “As with any policies and regulations governing behavior of faculty, staff, and students, there are clearly defined procedures for dealing with infractions. Such procedures are internal matters and they involve real people living in community with one another. Our institution has redemption in our DNA. We are a grace-based community at heart,” he said via email.

Quoting the school’s president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Lamb wrote: “What most people don’t understand is that the core of Evangelical Christianity is the belief that everybody is equally a sinner. You can’t just pick and choose who deserves a second chance and who doesn’t. Nobody’s worthy of heaven. All people are equally guilty. When you look at the world that way, we all need a Savior, we all need to believe in Christ, and all need redemption, then you don’t pick and choose based on who might have gotten the best press or who might have been accused of this or that.”

School promotes ‘Christ-like virtues’

Biola University, an evangelical institution in La Mirada, California, also dictates similar Christian principles its students must follow. The school’s “Sexuality and Relationships” policy stipulates that sex was “designed by God to be expressed within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman” and that “sexual activity outside of marriage or behavior promoting sexual activity outside of marriage…is contrary with God’s intentional design for sexuality.”

“When joining the Biola community, students agree to refrain from engaging in behaviors and romantic relationships that are inconsistent with Biola’s position on marriage. Students who choose to engage in such behaviors or relationships will be referred to the Department of Student Care, which handles student care and conduct violations,” the policy states.

Campus spokeswoman Jenna Loumagne explained the school’s policy in an emailed statement to The Fix.

“Biola is a Christ-­centered institution founded on truth, love and grace and seeks to be a community where students, staff and faculty who choose to live in a community that shares the institution’s religious values can thrive,” she wrote.

“Biola’s biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality has remained faithful since its founding in 1908. Biola extends compassion and care for students and the community as a whole, while providing accountability and assistance to support students in their desire to live consistently with Christian teaching. As a private faith based institution, students make a choice to enroll at the school and adhere to the university’s code of conduct such as abstaining from alcohol and premarital sex.”

“Biola aims to offer an environment that personifies Christ-like virtues of love, kindness and care for each student. This extends to how we care for students when they choose to engage in behavior outside Biola’s community standards.”

Catholic university silent, again

The University of Notre Dame, a Catholic school, has its own student sexuality policy on which The Fix previously reported in April. That school holds that “[s]tudents who engage in sexual union outside of marriage may be subject to referral to the University Conduct Process.”

The school also places strict limits on when opposite-sex visitations may occur in on-campus housing. “Undergraduate residence halls will set their visitation hours within the following limits: visiting hours for guests of the opposite sex are not to begin before 9 a.m. on any day and are not to extend beyond 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and midnight on Sunday through Thursday nights,” the university’s website says.

Heather Ryan and Daniel Riemersma, the director and assistant director of Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards, respectively, did not reply to Fix queries in April; nor did they reply to queries this month. The Fix had sought to learn how often the policies are enforced, and what the sanctions have consisted of.

One Notre Dame student who spoke to The Fix in April said that “nobody gets in trouble for that stuff,” while another said that the regulations “are kind of enforced on a dorm-by-dorm basis.”

UPDATE: This article has been updated with a comment from a spokeswoman of Biola University.

MORE: Harvard Sex Week: 13k condoms, 1,200 bottles of lube, and ‘BDSM in the dorm’ lesson

MORE: Student leaders fight ‘heteronormativity’ at Notre Dame

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About the Author
Ema Gavrilovic -- DePaul University