Students, admins discuss poker and gambling at forum

On November 15, the SGA held a poker forum in the Dining Commons to discuss gambling and poker issues on campus.

In attendance were Heidi Birtwistle, Shannon Hartsock, Gershwin Sandberg, John Romanski and Teresa Noye, the RDs of Hainer, Doane, NCH, Gallup and Kea-Guffin, respectively. The only RDs not present were Gough’s Brian Crawford and Pennswood’s Kevin Maness.

Also in attendance were members of the SGA, Bettie Ann Brigham, Daryl Hawkins and a small number of Eastern students.

Adam Brittin, president of SGA, opened the forum by saying, “We’re here to discuss gambling, with poker on the side.”

“We haven’t solidified all of our feelings on the subject [of gambling], 100 percent,” Brigham said, when asked if there will be a policy change in the near future. She went on to add that Eastern differs from other Christian colleges when it comes to student guidelines. She doesn’t want Eastern to have a ton of “dos and don’ts,” and allows her RDs to make policy decisions for their own buildings.

“We’re not doing this to say, ‘Oh how many restrictions can we have?’ and try to ruin students’ fun,” Hartsock said.

The residence life staff deals with student issues by talking about it, which can lead to policy changes. However, “Eastern bases residence life policies on Biblical standards of conduct,” Brigham said.

“My concern is that we’ve been interchanging poker and gambling,” Hawkins said. When it comes to him, the discussion has always been gambling, not card playing.

Junior Jan Ott, who did much research prior to the forum, brought some new light to the issue when he informed everyone that in Pennsylvania, it’s illegal for people to gamble in public places such as lounges, unless the institution has a small games license.

So what does gambling include? “Poker is the hot thing right now,” Sandberg said. “That’s why we keep having this exchange. Poker, gambling, gambling, poker.”

“My fear is that poker-playing with chips will be banned, that my right to play a game with the use of chips will be banned,” SGA member Rob Caruso said. He went on to add that playing without chips ruins the game, and that he never plays for money.

According to Brigham, Eastern has chosen not to put a ban on gambling in the rule books just yet because it’s hard to define exactly what gambling is.

“Eastern has this great radiance to see color, not just black and white,” Brigham said, and although she was previously aware of gambling on campus, the issue was really brought to her attention when a student gambled away his housing deposit.

In response to this, sophomore Jon Marcus said that it would be ridiculous to ban gambling for one student’s immature decision.

“We’re looking where we need to set the boundaries,” Birtwistle said. Those boundaries are needed to protect the few students that do have serious gambling problems.

Those boundaries are problematic to some people.

“Are we making rules so that we can’t make adult decisions?” Marcus asked. Marcus, who transferred to Eastern from a southern Baptist college, said that he was attracted to Eastern because it was a place where he could make his own decisions about what it means to be a Christian.

“For me,” Sandberg said, “the big issue is, how is this consistent with what I say I believe?” He added that words and actions are statements of faith, and he wants Eastern to be consistent.

However, according to SGA member Shawn Murphy, “alcohol, drugs and theology” are the three main concerns he hears about from students.

The RDs are also worried that poker may be an addiction for some people.

SGA member Natalie Cisternas both agreed and disagreed with this reason. “I know poker can become an addiction, but so can anything else. There were hundreds of guys last year who were addicted to Halo. If I was addicted to Candy Land, would you take that away from me?”

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