Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Sequel: "They make take our lives but they'll never take our freedom!"

First and foremost, let me say thank you to all of you who have read or shared my blog. It received over 1000+ views between today and yesterday, which is record-breaking for me and it feels incredible. Thank you so much.

Now, some business.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, I'm not retracting anything that I said; I actually have a few more points to add. I'll try to lay off the sarcasm so people don't get offended (sorry if you were, it wasn't intentional, I promise).

Another clarification, I love North Greenville University. I believe God had great purpose behind putting me there to receive an education that was going to better my skills as a writer, which is what I believe He has called me to do with at least a portion of my life. I love the people at NGU, the students, teachers, administration, maintenance, cafeteria ladies, etc.

My issue isn't with the people, it's with the new policy and how it is being handled.

First of all, as a commuter, I was unaware of this new policy going into affect in Fall 2014, because it was announced during the on-campus housing meeting that commuters aren't required to attend. My Facebook news feed began BLOWING UP immediately afterward and I had to ask four different friends living on campus what was going on before I could get a straight answer. Since all of the students posting about it on Facebook (that I had seen) were current residents, I expected it to be something regarding room checks or a new fee for housing.

Oh, no. It was a new policy directly affecting commuters. An email was sent out the next morning for clarification. 

Here are some other arguments for and against the rule and the issues with them: 

  1. If you don't like it, then just go somewhere else. I'm sorry, it's not that simple. As a senior set to graduate in December, this new policy has the potential to wreck my college (and life) path. My parents are trying to move to the beach to pursue retirement. My mom was contemplating making the final move this summer and helping me find an apartment in Greenville. I want to remain in Greenville once I graduate because it has a great market for my field of work and my heart is here.

    But if they move this summer, I will have to go with them and then move back on campus and then find an apartment. This scenario would force me to give up my job, which I love, at Spiritex Greenville . (Not only does it allow me to support myself, but it's building my resume and allowing me to use my major of graphic design and creative writing on a daily basis.)

    Now, I could lie, get an apartment and claim that my parents are still living with me, but that's dishonest and I don't want to take that course of action. If I'm going to be honest, I would have to take a semester off at NGU, take my final electives and general education classes at a technical school and then return for Senior Seminar in the Spring after I've turned 23.

    Or I could transfer. Which poses twice as many problems. The colleges I might be able to afford might not have my current major or a lot of the courses I've taken might not transfer, so I'd have to attend for an even longer amount of time.

    Or I could take out a loan and live on campus for my final semester. But what if I'm not approved for a loan? What if I can't afford one? Do I just not graduate even though I'm one semester away from a diploma?

    I'm not the only one facing these problems, this is the case for so many commuting seniors.
  2. These rules aren't unique to North Greenville. Many other campuses just in South Carolina have very similar standards for living on campus; places like Southern Wesleyan, Furman, and Wofford.

    YES, BUT all of these campuses have apartment complexes for students to live in and places for students to meet up to study or hangout, and at the very least, visiting hours in dorms. Moreover, the students are able to continue to live in said dorms/apartments during breaks.

    Currently, at North Greenville, no male or female is allowed in any dorm of the opposite sex unless it's Valentine's Day or Halloween, which is all under strict supervision and for very short hours. We're not even allowed over the red curb, y'all.

    So, you'd tell us to go hangout elsewhere. That's the problem. There isn't an elsewhere to hangout.

    NGU's places to study or hangout are currently: the library, computer labs, the bottom of the administration building, in the game room, in an empty classroom, or in our "Stud."

    The Library: good for studying, but has an extremely limited number of chairs and tables, particularly for groups. It's only open until 11:30 on week nights, Fridays until 4, Saturdays until 5, and Sundays until 11.

    Computer Labs: Are usually locked by the last professor to leave within the department, which is usually 7:00 pm at the latest. There are two Mac Labs on campus, each housing about 16 students and a few different computer labs spread between the Admin building and the Science building. Each of these vary in size, the biggest lab being able to hold maybe 35-40 people. The empty classrooms have about the same capacity and are also locked around 7 p.m at night.

    The Stud and Game room: Is part grill and part hangout place. The atmosphere is always loud and the rooms are always crowded. The game room can hold maybe 20 people at a time, and that's getting really close to flying elbows all around you. The Stud can hold maybe 60 people, assuming that each booth has 4 people in it and every table has every chair filled.

    The current percentage of the students commuting at NGU is 22-23%.
    Our current student body is around 2400.
    So, if you take 23% of that 2400, you get 552 students.

    If you add up the carrying capacity of the library (we'll say 100 people, which is much higher than what is probable), stud and gameroom, we'll say 10 empty classrooms at 30 people per room, three computer labs at 16 people per lab, and two computer labs at 30 people.

    Your grand total is: 588 students.
    We can even throw in the few couches in the Mass Comm dept. and beneath the Adminstration building, and the few people you can fit into Einstein's bagels, and round the number up to 600 students.

    Where are all the rest of the 1800 students supposed to study or spend time together? 

    The closest coffee shop is either in Travelers rest or Greer, a good 15-30 minute drive. The closest movie theater or shopping center is even farther away. It'd be one thing if we had restaurants or were anywhere near civilization, but we're not.

    While NGU might have the land and we'll even pretend they have all the resources to build a civilization in Tigerville, it's still going to take a lot of time, particularly if it's done well. Most of us will be graduated by then.

    Since I shared my blog post with my Facebook friends, I received 10+ responses from different students saying that if this rule was implemented when they were attending NGU, they wouldn't have been able to graduate or would have been faced with crippling debt.

    On that note, I want to quote friend and graduate of NGU, Emily Bain.
"Seriously, this is a Christian university, and cutting off a Christ-filled education for those who cannot afford it . . . is extremely stupid. Christians should be meeting people where they are in their lives. I don't think it's biblical to force people to go further into debt, when there's absolutely no decent reason.   
I didn't go to BJU for the sole reason of their controlling attitude and trying to force people into being "good, upstanding Christians." If NGU can't trust their students, then they need to reanalyze what it means to be a Christian. People fail all the time, and it's in these failures that Christ works. 
You can't control people into being perfect and dictating their right to live and spend their money as they feel led to do. I chose to commute so I could be wise with my money. I didn't feel led to submit myself to servitude for years just so I could give NGU pointless thousands of dollars, for sub-par living conditions and processed, seriously-unhealthy food. I fell in that in-between where I didn't qualify for government assistance, but I was too poor to pay for a "college experience." In the end, this will only hinder Christians who want to get a biblical education and actually find a job."

We all understand that life isn't easy and it isn't fair. As humans we're going to face a lot of things that don't make a lot of sense sometimes or are difficult to deal with. That is expected.

But when it comes to this policy, there are a lot of problems. But surely a compromise can be reached. 

Here are some potential solutions:
1. Don't implement this rule for a few years so that the kinks can be worked out. It could just apply to the incoming freshmen class in 2014 and those coming in after.  This could allow for more buildings to be built or, at the very least, some funds to be raised in order to get that process started. 

2. Give us the real reasoning behind the new policy. Do you just need more money as a university? Do you just want the students to be better supervised? Did someone do something so terrible off campus that the entire student body is now being reprimanded for?

3. Keep the new policy, but give us more rights as students. Visiting hours in dorms. Better quality food options. More scholarships. More things to do on campus. 

4. Tell us more than a few weeks or months in advance about these changes. Half the professors and students and people in authority had no idea this rule was being implemented. So who's making these policies and decisions? The majority has no idea. That's a little fishy, isn't it? Not to mention, what if students have already signed leases or put down deposits on a place? Is NGU just going to excuse certain cases or expect us to lose even more money?

5. Hold an open forum for all parents, students, professors, administration, etc to voice their concerns and opinions or ask questions.

I'd like to quote friend and NGU graduate, Sara Dillingham,
"It's not wrong or inappropriate for us to have problems with decisions we feel were poorly made that will ultimately have an effect on our future. The issue comes when we communicate those problems in a disrespectful way. The majority of students (current and alumni) have so much respect for NGU, but I'm afraid that when we don't immediately accept new policies that are put in to place and question it, we are looked down upon by the same staff and faculty that we have that respect for. We are reprimanded for having an opinion that disagrees with the new policy. We are praised when we accept it without asking questions. 
I'd rather be reprimanded and grow as a person than conform and become a zombified version of myself."
I know a good bit of you have taken some form of action by sharing my blog or sending e-mails or even going to speak with people in charge, which I say thank you and good for you to. Whether you're a commuter or graduate or professor or an on-campus student, thank you for your support and standing with me.

Continue to let your voice be heard, but let it be heard out of love and kindness. Don't harden your hearts to NGU, but be firm and respectful while continuing to stand up for yourself and others.

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