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. “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”

    How true is that. I remember when I started Grad school this was even more important. I’d have the same roommate for 2 years and by this point I was pretty well on my way away from strict fundamentalism, but I didn’t want to fight about it nor did I want to live on egg shells in my room. My roommate came a bit late in the summer and we spent 3 weeks accidentally avoiding each other. If I came home early and stayed in the room he’d come in late, and if I came in late he was in bed early.

    After the two weeks we finally ran into each other. It was awkward at first until something came up and we both realized that we were both “cool.” We laughed because each had assessed the other as being a “bo-jo” leading us both to sort of avoid the other, the truth is we were both the exact opposite. We are still friends to this day 🙂

  2. Darrell, the only thing I can think is that you are trying to see if you can get Mullenix to mention this website by name in a chapel service. Extra points if they send out an e-mail to alert the troops.

  3. The Dating Parlour at PCC just floored me. I realized they expect kids at secular schools to be hormone driven sex crazed loonies (after 18 years of fundy repression who wouldn’t be) but to treat young adults as bratty kids who need to be monitored closely so they don’t sin…
    I now realize that just by being myself, I would’ve been kicked out inside of a semester.

  4. Thanks for reminding me of that 🙂

    i remember those precious few days when my parents came to visit at the begining of the year. thanks to them, i missed the majority of pcc’s start of year “revival”. when they were getting ready to leave, i remember feeling like a door was being slammed in my face.

  5. After about three weeks at HAC, my girlfriend and I were sitting in church on a Sunday morning. (We had come to HAC from the same home church.). A lady behind us asked us our names. We thought that she was being friendly since we were “new.” A few days later we each received our demerits slips for “sitting too close to each other in church!”

  6. During my time at BJU there was a dollar movie theatre in town. *side-note – I miss dollar movie theatres * This particular movie theatre was located behind a strip mall on Haywood Road. One of the stores in the strip mall was a Christian bookstore. My friends and I would park in front of the bookstore, and then walk all the way around the strip mall, down the weed covered embankment, and then quickly sneak through the parking lot of the theatre. All this to avoid the *rumored* faculty/staff members who were assigned the job of driving through movie theatre parking lots in search of BJU stickers.

    At times I miss the heady rush of adreline that was provoked by going to a movie theatre. But I quickly remember that I am no longer in my 20’s and do not need to be hiking a quarter of a mile, crawling down hills, and hiding behind parked cars, all while attempting to look cool for the girls in pants simply so that I can watch whatever movie happens to be starting within 15 or 20 minutes of my poorly time arrival. For some reason it always seemed to be a cartoon.

    I always knew my roomate was going to be a bojo since I was always in the hall leaders room.

  7. It took my 75% of my BJU career to figure out that BJU wasn’t omniscient. Almost my whole time there I was looking over my shoulder and stressing out after I broke a rule that I would get called to the DoW office sometime that week. I finally got it through my head that I could get away with breaking a lot of rules if I 1) looked like I knew what I was doing (as opposed to looking like I was up to something) and 2) keeping my mouth shut. I think my senior year was the least stressful of all, as I was never on campus after 5pm, never went to Vespers, and skipped the Commencement concert.

  8. … to be fair BJU has changed A LOT since I was in the dorms during the mid 90’s; at least in regards to rules, not the theology. Students can now go to movie theatres when home on breaks from school, no light bell, guys can wear jeans to town, girls can wear pants to town, facebook is allowed on campus, and beginning next year guys don’t have to wear ties to class and mixed groups will be allowed off campus together.

    I know that probably makes me sound like a BJU apologist. Believe me, I’m not. Just trying to be fair.

  9. I’ve heard tales that things have gotten lest strict at PCC as well on some fronts. On others the craziness remains unabated. It all depends on who you talk to.

  10. My parents want to send me to a bible college. I only have 5 choices btwn wcbc, gsbc, Pcc, CBC, and hac, which is the least super fundy?? Also any tricks on how to survive would be appreciated

  11. @Kirsten: I think that’s how I made it through four years of that nonsense. I can’t believe how many people got in trouble for things like openly talking about going to the movies. If you’re going to break a rule, at least have the common sense to not talk about it at all, at least not until you are 100% certain you can trust someone.

    @John: I was fortunate enough to go to college in a town where the dollar theater was way across town in a place where you were terribly unlikely to be spotted. The only trick was remembering to throw away your ticket stub and any remaining concessions BEFORE leaving the theater.

  12. When I was still in school, we used paper passes for permissions for church, off-campus stuff, etc. I would have my parents (didn’t have a car then) come up and pick me up, but you would have thought that I was sneaking off with someone! Twenty questions about where you would be, would you be in contact with someone from school of the other sex, etc. Maybe the dorm sup didn’t like me (always possible).
    Then came the e-pass system. Talk about the possibility of being stalked….
    I know people who were CONVINCED that there were tracking devices in them. 🙂
    About movies: right after I finished my second degree from BJU, I took my wife to see Star Wars in Greenville. I have never seen more town student stickers in my life in a movie theater parking lot. Probably kept the secret teacher watchers busy. 🙂

  13. I was at Ambassador Baptist College in the early days so for the first couple of years I didn’t experience very many pedantic rules. That changed, however, when we got a new Dean of Students. LOL Oh brother. You couldn’t talk to a guy/gal over 30 minutes w/o it being considered a date and then you had to fill out a dating pass, even if you weren’t actually dating the other person! By this time, I was a dorm supe and also secretary of my league. The VP asked me personally what I thought of the new rule, and I told him I thought it was ridiculous. 🙂 How in the world was I supposed to be in a meeting with my married league president under that new rule??? LOL The VP said he understood my objections, but the rule didn’t change.

    Oh, as an aside, I was a cool dorm supe. 😉 My girls got away with a lot.

  14. @Darrell if you got mentioned from the podium or in an official alert/update, you would become my #1 hero. Anyone else get any rules created @ your fundy college? I take credit for 2, but 1 was really just a hall meeting announcement not an rule. Other one is in the PCC handbook now (and the guys are all still bitter). Men used to be able to remove shirts on East Field (only place on campus you could, and it was pretty far isolated. The only women that could come would be parents really. Well my friend Dan & I didn’t appreciate women occassionally popping in on “man land”, and would take our shirts off when women came. Did it one time at a November night soccer game that was COLD (band aid cold), and some staff or floor leader or someone realized what we were doing, and it’s now forever verboten that men cannot remove their shirts on East Field. I had hoped to ban all women from East Field. I was not as fundy-saavy then as I am now. 🙂

  15. Two things that really annoyed me during my time at a “fundy college” (though, honestly, a much less fundy college than BJU or PCC, etc.):

    1. How certain people (i.e. those w/ connections, or families who gave to the college) got away w/ a lot more than other students.

    2. How every issue was DEFINITELY a deep heart issue. You went to the movies? That’ s a fine AND counseling (because obviously you have issues). . .You skipped dorm devos? Okay, we need to have a heart to heart talk about the *real* reason you skipped them (“but they’re boring and I have homework to do.” Dorm Supervisor: “Is there something else going on in your life you’re not admitting to? Something with a member of the opposite sex? Or is it that you are questioning God? I think you need to sign up for counseling.”

    Wow. . it’s hard to limit it to just 2 things that annoy me, now that I think back. . .

  16. I first read 1984 in the Snack Shop at BJU. That was a weird feeling.

    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.

    This brings back so many memories of the beginning of every one of the five years (yes, five) I was at BJU. Every new dorm room went through a week or two that reminded me of opposing armies trying to find each other in unfamiliar terrain–sending out feelers, larger and larger patrols, finally the reconnaissance in force. I was fortunate pretty much every year to run into allies rather than enemies.

    My absolute best memory in this regard came my first senior year and involves another frequent commenter on this site. We were the two APCs in a three-room prayer group. One night early in the first semester the entire prayer group was gathered in my room. I sat at one end of the room, he at the other. We had kind of met (via the campus intranet forums) but, of course, conversation on the forums was watched by the watchful watchers and so everyone was very typically guarded. We had discussed all kinds of things without ever getting to know one another–or meet, until now.

    At any rate, another member of the group was asking for prayer as he stalked a girl and, at some point, described her as “a lady.” I slipped and belted out, in my best Tom Jones imitation, “She’s a laaady!” My fellow APCs immediately followed with, “Whoa-oa-oa!!!” The rest of the room was a bit bewildered but I knew immediately that I had a friend.

    All that to say–great post.

  17. I read 1984 in a single night during one summer working on campus. I followed it up with A Brave New World.

    I looked at the campus through different eyes after that.

  18. Ah, yes. The whole “feeling-each-other-out” thing to see if another person was “cool.” It’s a strange mating dance that would be hilarious to an outsider. You had various levels of “cool”; there were those who would listen to Steve Green with you, and there were those who knew you had a contraband cassette but wouldn’t listen to it with you, nor would they rat you out.

  19. APCs…… oh gosh….. I had a devil APC.
    I was putting on makeup on morning humming something from Phantom of the Opera. HUMMING. And she told me I had better stop humming because that song “didn’t check” and she didn’t want to have to turn me in.

    She made a friend of mine with chronic back pain cry because she told her the pain was God’s way of punishing her for something she did.

    I had my computer open one time and when I left the room for a second evil APC lady opened my iTunes and went through all my music. (i REFUSED to delete “uncheckable” music off my computer). She turned me in and I got a lecture from the Dorm Supervisor. I lied and told her I deleted everything off my computer. I even offered to let her look. I think she was taken-aback with my boldness and she declined. I got 50 demerits and almost laughed when she told me that she was going to have to contact my parents. HAHAHAHA! Like they would give a crap….My uncheckable music never made it off my computer. I am very proud of myself.

    They have this “spiritual evaluation” thing they do where the APC tells you if you’re being Godly enough. She told me she was very sad that she would never be able to recommend me as APC for next semester. I took that as a compliment.

    She would harass me about not going to “extention” on Wednesday nights to help out with locals church’s Wed programs. God wasn’t happy with me. I told her I wasn’t shelling out a small fortune to assist with an Awana program. I was there to learn.

    I finally got so fed up with her I had my mom call the Dean of Women and demand my room be changed.

  20. It’s a strange mating dance that would be hilarious to an outsider.

    They probably wouldn’t even know what they were seeing.

    “Hey, I’m Dave…that’s a nice stereo you’ve got there. What kind of music do you like….?”

    “Hey, I’m Mike. I listen to…you know…all kinds of stuff”

    “Ahhhhh. That’s cool.”


  21. Reading all of these stories is amazing. All I can say is wow, just wow! I cannot believe what you had to go through at these fundy colleges. Having been introduced to the world of fundyism rather late in life all I can say is thank God that early in my life I got a real degree from a real college so I now have a real job. And I didn’t have to go through all this nonsense.

    For those of you who survived these places and have the sense to see them for what they are, I say bravo and congrats to you. Welcome to the real world.

  22. I never deleted the music off my computer. I put a password on my computer; if the computer was idle for 1.5 minutes you had to put the password in. The next year I didn’t even turn my CDs in. I just left them in my car. The rules at BJU were more a hassle than anything.

    What was funny was finding people in the dorm who were unknowingly “sharing” their iTunes libraries and seeing what kind of music they had.

  23. @Darrell……..”Quite a few of us have managed to find real jobs in spite of it.”

    I hope I didn’t sound arrogant in my statement about a real job. That was not my intent.

    So Darrell, did your fundy college have a degree program called “Creating Satirical Blogs About Fundamentalism”? 🙂

  24. It was hard being black at bju, i was supposed to know what every slang term meant, once i said “that sucks” and my dorm counselor said to me “you know what that means, your from the inner-city, you know what that means”. . . i really wasnt trying to be a pervert in my speech. WHen something sucks i say it sucks, i didnt say what it sucks because i wasnt thinking like that. I prayed once in room group and my roommate interrupted me and said my prayer was too short and that God didnt honor the prayers of someone who wasnt saves. The only person that believed in me at bju was a man by the name of matt wilson. He was my dorm counselor and he had 3 opportunities to kick me out and with good reason (i punched a hole in the wall and drew a penis on my roommates whiteboard and wrote “daniel likes dong”, i got over 160 demerits and trashed several rooms there).. . . Outside of them very few people gave me a chance. Only those who came from rough lives like mine, i write all of this to tell you that i owe the people at BJu a lot, but the hypocritical, proud attitude that is pervasive among some students in position and administration that are so stuck in fundyland that a minority from the innercity confuses them, i owe nothing too. . .

  25. “drew a penis on my roommates whiteboard and wrote “daniel likes dong”, i got over 160 demerits”

    But did daniel get any demerits for liking dong? :-/

  26. @kirsten I too am guilty of not turning my music in too the dorm sup, when they found my usb drive with 2gb of music my dorm sup gave it to me and said (i can give you 50d’s for this, or we can pretend this was never found), ,hip hop is looked down at fundyland. . . .=s

  27. @Darrell Brilliant description of a typical dance. I was fortunate my naieve freshman year to be more honest than I should be, and lucked out into an APL that was a “I won’t tell, but don’t get my in trouble”. I just used radio, didn’t have CD’s till later in college.

    One of the funnier dances that I didn’t get demerits for, but got a “I’m so disappointed” pep talk. I was chorister of my collegian for 2 years (they thought it was funny to elect an unqualified person that just wanted to do homework, and once I got elected I never made them stand one time for 2 years, and made sure every collegian meeting includined “roll vikings roll”. Anyone a floor leader who was in my collegian caught me singing AC/DC’s “You Shook Me” in the bathroom w/ a suite mate. He wasn’t happy, but I somehow didn’t get written up for it. Told him straight up I thought it was fine, and was just a fun song. I sometimes felt sorry for my floor leaders & the cognitive dissonance they had to be experiencing (the more ones that love to enforce rules). But then I’d get demerits and lose all sympathy.

  28. Ah, attended Baptist Bible College East in Boston from 1984-87. I worked for a security company downtown off State Street with a buddy of mine from school. Well, if there was a movie showing we both wanted to see, we would just split the shift in our building: he would go to the movie first and I second…saw some good Rambo movies that way…bring an extra shirt and you could grab a brew or two on the way back!

  29. @Scorpio
    “But did daniel get any demerits for liking dong? :-/”

    I almost fried my keyboard with my spit take. I need to learn not to drink while perusing this site.

  30. Though I attended a slightly-less controlling Bible college, I got to experience this first-had a couple years ago when, as a 30-something mother of three, I visited a young lady from my church who was attending PCC. We arrived at Sunday afternoon vespers a few minutes early, so I took the opportunity to check email on my cellphone to see if my husband had communicated with me. From behind me I heard an woman’s voice say, “Put that thing away.” Thinking she couldn’t possibly be talking to me, I ignored her. She pinched my shoulder and growled into my ear, “I said, PUT THAT THING AWAY!”

    I turned around, looked her in the face and said, “I’m not a student here.” She asked, “Well, are you staff?” and seemed disappointed when I said, “No.” I wanted to tell her she’d just ensured that none of my children will ever attend PCC. But that would have been a lie, because I’ve never had any intention of sending one of my kids to that awful place.

  31. @John–the dollar movie theater is now part of a megachurch complex called Redemption World Outreach headed by the “Apostle Ron Carpenter.” The bookstore is still there.

  32. @beth I’m guessing that is more off limits for BJU students than the $1 movie theater was! 🙂

    Thoroughly enjoyed @John’s description of commando style sneaking into theaters!

  33. Ok, story time…

    My group of friends liked to sit in one of the back rooms of the dining facility that had a big picture window which looked out over a walkway. It was great for people-watching.

    One day a male student and his female non-student guest were parked on a bench right outside the window. The lady was wearing a skirt that came just above her knee when seated. It wasn’t outrageous, just a little beyond the rules.

    As we sat there we observed no fewer than four female ‘authority figures’ do the same routine. They would walk by, glance over and spot the girl. Then they would stop, walk over to her and say “can I talk to you for a moment?” Once she stepped away from her date they would tell her that her clothing didn’t pass and she would explain that she was a guest.

    Four stops in one thirty-minute lunchtime. That’s quite some patrol they’ve got going on.

    Finally one of our group made up a sign that said “SHE’S A GUEST!” and pasted it on the window above them. Then we all laughed only the way fundy college students can in those kinds of situations.

    The End.

  34. @Mike,

    Was the theater on Tremont street there at the time?


    You should have lied anyway…actually I’m not sure that it wouldn’t have been such a lie. Even though you had no intention of ever sending your children there she did help ensure 🙂

  35. @Rob M –

    How about stories about pouring Zima into Clearly Canadien bottles? The best class at a fundy college is “Learning to be Resourceful”. Unfortunately it’s audit only.

  36. @ Jodi, what an icky story! I’m so grieved at the judgmental Pharaseeism that this sort of “watchful watching” produces. That woman showed you no grace, beauty, love, or benefit of the doubt. Instead she took the position of judge and put you in the place of sinner. Why, oh, why do people who claim to follow the Bible so closely miss so much of it? Don’t they see that they are straining at gnats and swallowing camels?

  37. So all of this talk of “the dance” reminded me of an incident at BJU. I was an APC (not sure how that happened) and had ordered music from Columbia House (10 CDs for $1!!!). One CD I ordered was some classical CD that had a picture of the conductor on the front. I confidently left this CD out with no worries about checkability. I also ordered a Jerry Mathis CD for my mom for her birthday when the semester was over. Of course Mathis is uncheckable (hard to type that with a straight face), so I kept it tucked away in my desk drawer well hidden from my still unfamiliar roommates.

    I was joking around with one of my roommates about something or other, when he replied “at least I don’t listen to Jerry Mathis.” I stood there silent for a moment unsure of what he would do next as well as a bit upset that he would go rifling through my stuff.

    “Why did you go through my things?” I asked. He gave me a look as though he had no clue what I was talking about. I repeated my query, this time a bit more seriously. Again, he had no idea what I was walking about. Finally, I realized that he was talking about the conductor on my classical CD who had an uncanny resemblance to Jerry Mathis. By this time, I had all but acknowledged that I really did have a Mathis CD and we both had a pretty good laugh about it.

    To this day, I’m not sure what I am more ashamed of. That I as an APC was caught violating the rules or that I was found with a Mathis CD. It really was for my mom. Honest.

  38. One of my techers from the Christian School I graduated from parents(his dad) worked at PCC in the engineering department (i think). He said his dad hated the dating parlor and having to chaporone college students.

  39. When I started at fundie college there were a couple hundred students and no dean of men. So basically we did what was right in our own eyes almost like we were adults attending an institution of higher education. However halfway through my freshman year we got a dean of men straight from HAC circles. Then of course the rule book started getting bigger and bigger and bigger – helped no doubt by many of the guys in my dorm. It soon became a stereo-typical fundie college treating adults like they are high-schoolers… and having to wear suits every day to go to class.

    Still my whole college career I maybe signed out once. I never once had my music checked and regularly watched movies in the dorm or at work. Of course by the time my younger brother was there it was like a fundie concentration camp with a strong thought-police force on campus with student informants and the whole thing… unfortunately his views on fundamentalism became known and he spent a good few hours with the various and sundry vice-presidents and presidents of the college being beat over the head with how wonderful and important fundamentalism is and how his subversive and divisive talk could get him expelled (ooh no gasp). Evidently logical or independent thought is frowned on by the admin there… their only desire is robotic acceptance of their archaic old paths…

    This whole discussion comes down to the fact that the major fundie colleges have a specific paradigm… they are legalists and legalists think they are right because they keep rules. So they propagate a system of rules! They actually fear for your mortal soul if you don’t cut your hair, avoid the movies, listen only to music from their college groups and carry a big ole’ KJV under your arm on your bus route or out door-to-door soul-winning.

    I would fear for my soul if I was still a part of that.

  40. Jess, if you are an adult you may choose your own college. You don’t want to waste 4 years of your life dealing with the gestapo in an unaccredited legalistic school only to end up with a degree that is often considered questionable by secular employers.

    Even a local community college is better than that.

    If you really want to go to a Christian College, there are non-legalistic accredited ones out there.

  41. This thread is hilarious! (I have been lurking around here a while. )
    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!

  42. I’ve always thought “Animal Farm” was also a good fit for Fundyland schools. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

  43. @Jess @usedtobefundy
    I am in agreement with you. Going to a fundie school is a good way to waste your life. I did but did not know any better at the time. Basically you spend 4 years, $40k and end up with the only place you can get a job is in the same failing system. A friend of mine who went to PCC finally got fed up and realized she was wasting her life going there. She quit and now is going to a school where she can get an accredited degree.

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