College Week: Watchful Watchers Who Watch

If you’re a person who does not enjoy having your every move scrutinized, analyzed, and documented a fundamentalist college campus is not the place for you.

Not only does Fundy U have an army of deans, deans assistants, residence managers, and dorm monitors, they also see to it that each room has its very own prayer leader or assistant leader. The most important five minutes of your entire college year is the moment when you first meet your room leader and find out how “cool” they are — in other words how likely they are to report you to the powers that be for any small infraction.

Educational buildings on campus are assigned floor monitors and chaperons as well to make sure that boys and girls aren’t dilly dallying around the stairwells or passing notes in the computer labs. Chaps will also patrol the outside walkways looking for girls who aren’t sitting modestly enough or guys with their shirts untucked. Secular colleges may have cameras to catch potential thieves and rapists, Fundy U uses them to catch any misguided fundy Lothario who seeks to steal a smooch by the snack machines.

Off-campus movements are monitored as well. There’s the sign-in and sign-out mechanisms, the list of approved locations you can visit, and the ever present army of college employees who are just walking around the mall aimlessly on a Saturday morning for no apparent reason other than spotting students out of dress code or talking to the opposite sex in (gasp) Sears.

If you still look around nervously after you walk out of the “Entrance” door at the supermarket and half-wonder if someone is going to jump out of the bushes and give you a demerit slip, you probably went to a fundamentalist college.

133 thoughts on “College Week: Watchful Watchers Who Watch”

  1. I went to a HAC clone. All the staff and mini student-clones were obsessed with Jack Hyles: he was like God come back to earth!

    But oh, the school. I managed for three semesters. The first was just awkward as I was a silent little mouse who had grown up in a box (i.e. seriously wacked out church that was independent from independents). I was soooo careful about every little rule. The second was fun: I had awesome roommates and a job I loved.
    Then the last week, we heard in chapel that one of the seniors wasn’t allowed to graduate because he had been discussing (disagreeing) with theological things in the dorms. He had to stand up and publicly apologize. It stayed with me all summer and I didn’t want to go back. I was guilted back into it, saying I wasn’t close to God and just listening to other people and my emotions. (The first thing he said when I didn’t want to go back was, “who have you been talking to?” I said I had talked a little to my sister. He gave an all-knowing nod and I was toast from then on.) I wasn’t allowed to go see my sister with my brothers even though I had a plane ticket and it would cost $450 to change them all. Bawled hysterically the whole way home.

    Third semester was horrible. I was working all the time and had no money, my roommate was fundy poster child. Listened to the same Southern Gospel songs every.single.morning. Highlights were wearing pants to my night job the entire semester and not getting caught. I washed them on Sunday and let them dry in the back seat/trunk of my car. Left campus and went out to eat with my brother several times which technically wasn’t allowed without an official pass, and ranted. Listened to “evil” music on my mp3 at night when depressed out of my mind. The OT Bible teacher who believed guys should just wear white shirts (!!) That you couldn’t get saved from a NKJV. Another who linked those listening to bad music to those who leave the church and become bitter school-bashers. The preacher who said that if you listen to any CCM you weren’t Spirit filled! But couldn’t give a Bible passage in context supporting that. (The one he gave was talking about tongues!!)

    I made it due to my mp3, the Psalms, keeping my mouth shut, and pretending as long as I could. I said goodbye for a week with no one noticing.

    My mom was FURIOUS. Would barely talk to me for weeks. Wouldn’t let my younger sisters do things with me. She’s still mad, almost seven months later! I’m not allowed to talk or hang out with any of my friends at school. I heard this year’s college graduation sermon and was so relieved I left. They have good hearts, but all the rules and traditions have gotten in the way. How sad.

  2. @usedtobefundy

    Oh yes, the poor girls! (though I didn’t go to WCBC) Skirts to the knee, necklines no more than three inches from collar bone, shoes had to have a back strap, hose, earrings no bigger then a quarter, no denim (except for the hayride and gym night), no flip flops, no t-shirts, nothing written across or emphasizing the chest area, dress clothes even in the activity center to watch sports (with the commercials paused!), no guy/girl in the computer lab even though they aren’t dating would never consider dating and actually sat at opposite sides of the room, no unnatural hair colors, one earring per ear, three girls to leave campus, no high-fives between opposite sex (it was too casual), absolutely no going over to each other’s houses. I guess we would completely fall apart if left on our own.

  3. @ Don; I didn’t end up there. I spent the past four years at a wonderful non-fundy school. It might not be the best strategy–but when it was the only thing that could have possibly offered some hope–it was a chance worth taking. I wasn’t doing “Witchcraft,” I was taking the only chance I had of escaping at that point in my life.

    I understand your concern, but if I had to do it over again, I would. I don’t know everything about Jess’s situation, but if she feels as trapped as I did–then this might be an option.

  4. @Easterlily241
    Sorry to hear about your rough experience. Sounds like they did what all good legalists do… beat people down!! You are in a safe space here though… we all have been there.

  5. @ Jordan Poss
    Thanks for the shoutout! I remember that specific moment. In fairness, that was probably the most awesome prayer group I was in during my 4 years. (Our group leader was from Haiti. Godly enough to help us grow, naive enough about American culture to be totally harmless.)

    I too, read Brave New World and 1984 while in school. I read 1984 one month after I’d been campused and socialed for the rest of the semester. It shocked me. I wondered how anyone could have that in the library and still subject me to the treatment I received.

    Actually, I do have a theory in regards to that. In addition to the dystopian novels already mentioned, a BJU favorite is Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury’s classic about books being banned. In contrast with the rest of their entertainment rules, BJU’s rules on books were shockingly lenient. The only books forbidden were those with hard-core pornographic content. I read several Tom Clancy novels openly during my time there with no fear of repercussion. I guess the point was missed that Bradbury’s allegory could be applied to all sorts of media.

    Actually, I think an even bigger point was missed. Allowing books means nothing if the ideas within are not read and pondered.

  6. @Jess (college bound),
    Find out the reason behind your parents request. Dig deep until it all makes sense.
    My parents asked me to attend a fundy school because:
    1) find a wife – FAILED.
    2) find God’s will (get a calling) – FAILED
    3) be convinced to attend another year – SUCCEEDED
    I wasted 4 years of my life persuing an education that I never have used, attending a college that was babysitting fundy adults that were still children.
    Figure out who you are first, who you want to be, and become an adult (You may be there already, I don’t know).
    Then go to college.

  7. @JimE “Figure out who you are first, who you want to be, and become an adult”


  8. Forget roommates. I was turned in by my *uncle* early on in my first semester at BJU (he was faculty) . . . it’s beginning to dawn on me that being socialled that early on influenced how I was viewed the rest of my time there.

  9. @Luna
    Didn’t mean to be so heavy handed but that sent up some red flags… the whole fleece-pray-results = God’s will thingy. *shudder* I dare say the Magic 8 ball would be as effective but that is for another post and another time.
    I pray that Jess does work things out and her parents change their minds.

  10. In fairness, that was probably the most awesome prayer group I was in during my 4 years. (Our group leader was from Haiti. Godly enough to help us grow, naive enough about American culture to be totally harmless.)

    Ditto. But I also got the impression from our PC that he genuinely believed it wouldn’t be his place to dress us down or turn us in. He as much as said so when he let us write our own evaluations at the end of the year. The fundy college experience depends a lot on whom you fall in with in the dorm room grab bag.

    BJU’s rules on books were shockingly lenient.

    I read The Catcher in the Rye yearly at BJU, sitting in the Snack Shop for hours at a time. I also read The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, Gates of Fire, The Naked and the Dead, The Black Dahlia, and Fields of Fire–among scads of other books–none of which would be even remotely checkable in a cinematic iteration. The watchful watchers’ total illiteracy of anything but bonnet fiction could be an advantage at times.

  11. Heck — I had NOW coffee mugs and Malcolm X stuff all over my office. We all learn how to fly under the radar. We have to. It’s the only way to survive!

  12. @Camille

    Yes. It has changed. Quite a bit. Sure, someone who isn’t familiar with fundyism would find it crazy. I grew up in fundyism, and I find it crazy. But it’s not near as crazy as when I was in the dorms. Not even close. Even the tone has changed. And it’s not near as crazy as some of the other schools represented on this thread.

    I remember well the dorm meetings before summer break when going to the movie theatre was painted as equally sinful as shooting up smack, fornicating, and doing shots of tequila off of the waitresses belly. And now BJU students are allowed to go to the movie theatre for at least 3 months of the year without having to worry about those pesky opening services convicting you of your sin, thereby forcing you to confess to the Dean of Men, or Women, that you saw Toy Story 3 in the devil’s house.

    So yes, the handbook has changed. For the better. And maybe, just maybe (and to be honest it’s not a maybe I’m willing to bet on, but a maybe I’m willing to pray to King Jesus for) the powers that be at BJU will grow in Grace, and in a few short years Stuff Fundies Like will be referenced from the FMA pulpit as a site that all the students should have bookmarked on their computer. At least the students who want to be hall leaders (or whatever they’re called now).

  13. Jodi – I would have probably yanked that woman right over the chair if she pinched my shoulder. That is totally insane. It almost makes me want to visit there just to piss them off. 🙂

  14. @everyone thanks for all the advice. I will def pray about it. Andif feel god truly does not want me at any of those colleges then will have to go to the one God wants and trust in him to provide and not my parents to help me through. If I do end up at one of them though… I’ll be able to relate to all of you alot more lol
    Peace from the north:) jessD

  15. @Jess

    I don’t mean this negatively, but how will you know that a particular college is the one God wants for you? How do you know the rest aren’t what God wants? A good book for me that answered questions like, “How does God guide? How can I know His will for my life? Why haven’t I ever ‘felt’ His leading in my life” is called ‘Decision Making and the Will of God’ by Garry Friesen. Maybe some people here have heard it.

  16. @John

    I’d say the rule book has only “drastically” changed depending upon when it was you last read it. But I feel that the over all arch of the student handbook hasn’t changed at all. It still relies on works and outward compliance while missing the heart. It is still wild and wonky often for no good reason. Has it changed for the better? Superficially for sure, but the heart is still rotten.

  17. @JessD

    Yea good luck.

    “Andif feel god truly does not want me at any of those colleges then will have to go to the one God wants and trust in him to provide and not my parents to help me through.”

    This is exactly what he’ll do. My wife just finished up grad school here in Boston. She needed the degree for various reasons. Anyway we moved over 800 miles to Boston so she could get this degree. My parents thought it was going to be a disaster and her parents were mum on the whole thing. Our entire apartment in IL was packed and I still didn’t have a job. But I knew this was where we needed to be. Half way to Boston I got a phone call from my current employer offering me the job. That was when I knew it was God. I had to trust in him to provide and we did. We took the leap not knowing if things would work out. I quit a perfectly good job in IL praying in faith that He would provide…and he did.

    I say all that to give you hope. Pray about it and make the wise decision. Maybe that is at Fundy U, but maybe it isn’t. If God wants you elsewhere He *will* provide. I’m confident of it. That doesn’t mean the road will always be easy or enjoyable, but it will be right and things will work out. God is faithful just trust in him.

  18. Hey, I’m thinking about switching colleges and really have no idea what to do. I want to be a pastor someday and have two full years of ministerial credits from Bob Jones. What colleges are there that would 1) accept BJ credits, 2) have good theology, and 3) not have ridiculous rules?

    Help me.

  19. @CDG: “I went to Asbury and thought we had it bad, but wow! One thing, I kinda guess what “checkable” and “doesn’t check” means, but can someone explain further? Thanks!”

    It means whether or not it is allowed in your dorm room. At BJ, the rule book said that “popular” movies and music were not allowed because they were worldly. So a song that was completely innocent, had no beat at all, no suggestive words, absolutely nothing wrong with it could be considered “popular” and not be allowed just by that one standard. Example: the theme from Chariots of Fire was not allowed because it was from a movie that was still playing in the theaters, hence it was “popular”. Music from The Little Mermaid was not allowed because of how Ursula really jazzed up one of her solos. No, I’m not making this up! Most music was just not checkable, and if you had it in your room, you could get mega-d’s for it.

    If you had a question about if something checked (easy: it didn’t!) you could give it to your dorm sup and ask them to check it for you. I can’t imagine how much of a headache this was for them!!!

  20. I will add, however, that despite the silliness that I ran into at BJU, I actually did enjoy my four years there and grew a lot. It’s easy to bash the nonsense that goes on, but I have a lot of good memories too, and I made friends that I have to this day.

  21. @John —

    Are you concluding that I’m not familiar with fundyism? ::scratching head:: Maybe I’ve misunderstood what you said. . . .

    Oh me, oh my . . . I’m familiar. I’m very, very familiar. We should talk sometime.

  22. @Andrew– my husband graduated from Southeastern for his M.Div. It’s a really great school, with great academics, and accepts BJU credits (I don’t remember him having to get a “wash letter” either). As for the teachers, the school grants them greater academic freedom, so long as they hold to the Baptist faith and message (available on the SBC website). All his professors were published authors (and not from vanity presses or in-house publishing). They do offer undergrad credits.
    Another option in the Greenville area is North Greenville University. Over the years, they’ve progressed from a little Bible College in Tigerville to a top-notch university, attracting several professors from BJU who differed from the university’s party line. Had they have been a viable option when I was college age, I would have gone there.

  23. ::raises hand:: I know all about North Greenville. It’s a very good option. . . . especially if you’re a vocalist. 😉

  24. @Andrew,

    Good theology is a loaded and impossible question. I attend a church now that I think has great theology, but BJU would likely beg to differ, not because my church doesn’t hold to orthodoxy but because my church doesn’t hold to Fundamentalism.

    Anyway Gordon College up this way. I have no idea if they would touch BJU credits, but I’ve met several people who are well prepared for their careers. Academically speaking it is up there and the seminary is pretty good as well.

  25. I think the BJU Student Handbook is worse. It leaves much more stuff “fuzzy,” which means, the interpretation is up to the DoM, DoW and DoS. I also think they’re probably really mad that Camille posted it on the Internet. I would love to know how she got a copy – and so would *they*. I’m not asking.

  26. “I emerged from Bible college pure and usable”

    I’m laughing so hard I actually have tears in my eyes.

    This is hilarious.

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