From Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to Doane Hall

It was 10:00 p.m. Clad in shower apparel, I made my way cautiously down the hall.

It was then I heard it: the sound of male voices. My heart skipped a beat as my feet picked up speed toward my dorm room. Slamming the door behind me, I breathed a sigh of mixed confusion and relief. It was in that moment that I realized: I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Actually, I’m not in Lynchburg, Va., anymore, attending Liberty University, the school founded by controversial conservative Jerry Falwell.

I attended Liberty in spring 2005 and enjoyed the experience. At the time, I didn’t notice the rules. I never found them stifling or excessive. But after coming to Eastern, I often wonder how I never thought the rules to be restrictive.

A typical week at Liberty consisted of required chapel attendance three times a week. A late arrival to the hour-long service resulted in demerits. One’s only way around that policy was to be on good terms with–or possibly related to–the RA.

What followed the frantic hustling for limited seats was what seemed like an endless hour of singing and listening to the speaker of the day. These speakers included much of the faculty, a few guest speakers and even Falwell himself.

When he spoke, the student body leapt to their feet in cheers and thunderous applause. At times, the chant “JERRY! JERRY!” was so loud it would have made a different Jerry proud.

Liberty’s dress code demands collared shirts for men and nice slacks or skirts for ladies. No jeans or tee shirts with logos are permitted. However, as of fall 2005, LU students are allowed to wear jeans and flip-flops that are in “good taste.”

But the dress code never seemed to dampen the students’ spirits. In fact, every morning on my way to class I could have sworn there was a beauty pageant of which I had not been informed being held on main campus. Young men in their crisp, collared shirts sauntered by or hung on the arms of equally starched and painted young ladies.

Liberty’s curfew is 12:00 a.m. every night and 12:30 a.m. on weekends. Eastern’s curfew is, well…not. My first night on Eastern’s campus I stayed up almost all night and even walked around Doane at 2:00 a.m., simply because I could. I’m sure the smile of glee on my face would have earned me a few demerits at Liberty.

And co-ed visitation? There was no such thing! Not in the dorms anyway, unless the prospect of sacrificing a limb as retribution seems appealing.

In fact, any student caught inside the gated area of the campus apartments of the opposite sex would promptly receive demerits and face the prospect of visiting the…gulp…dean.

Some students compensated by standing outside the windows of their love interests. The floor level at which the window was positioned didn’t matter. Sound does indeed travel vertically, as was evidenced by the loud voices below soaring upward to the intended ears. It’s science. So is gravity, which many a young man has experienced as various objects fly out of random windows at him.

In retrospect, while the rules were not truly excessive, they were a bit irritating.

Eastern treats its students as young adults who must make their own decisions and grow from experience. The open interaction between those of the opposite sex has made it more comfortable to communicate openly and often. It has been amazing to have such freedom and know it is my choice.

Actually, I have had a few opportunities to exercise these freedoms. I wear jeans everyday to make up for lost time. I usually make it point to step outside my dorm at some point after 12:00 a.m. I’ve even had a chance to kick a boy (yes, a real boy) out of my room when he decided he would rather lounge around for awhile.

Liberty creates its rules based on the convictions of its founder. They are no more in the wrong than Eastern is right on their policies. Liberty is a good school–it’s just not a good place for me.

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