Off-campus housing and the libertine lifestyle

This article was originally posted here.

Imagine attending a university that places at the helm of it a man that distrusts the choices of his students. Such was the story of the students at Duquesne University last October.

Charles Dougherty, the then-president of the Catholic university in downtown Pittsburgh, attributed a 304-bed vacancy in campus residence halls to an increase in off-campus housing requests for upperclassmen. To the town hall, which was filled with staff and faculty, Dougherty reportedly said, “They flout the state liquor laws, and they live a libertine lifestyle that is not allowed on campus.”

Libertine is defined as a person who lives an immoral lifestyle, typically saturated in sex.

The president (who retired in June) received a large amount of criticism from students, parents and the public. Many Duquesne students choose to live off-campus because it is much cheaper. Duquesne housing on average costs a student over $11,000 a year. Dougherty was forced toapologize.

This situation is relevant to Oklahoma Christian students because Duquesne’s housing regulations are very similar to ours. All students are expected to live on campus unless they meet one of several criteria that entitles them to live elsewhere. At Duquesne, a student must reside with a parent or guardian, be enrolled as part-time, be married, have one or more children, be active-duty military, be over the age of 21 or have physical or psychological conditions that render campus housing inappropriate.

However, upperclassmen are free to pursue off-campus housing freely.

At Oklahoma Christian, a student must have more than 124 credit hours, be enrolled as part-time, be over the age of 23, be married or have children or be living with a parent or guardian. There are some strong similarities. This may beg the question: What does our administration think of those that pursue off-campus housing?

Many students seek off-campus residence, as there are many cheaper (and more luxurious) offerings throughout the Oklahoma City area. However, unless a student meets one of the above criteria, it’s certain that the petition will be denied. (Disclosure: I am one such student whose petition was denied.)

While some studies can attribute on-campus housing to more positive degree attainment, why are students not free to make the decision themselves? Some may argue that more students living on-campus is an attractive marketing statistic and can contribute to a more positive residence life experience for new students. Another argument is that a university makes a large amount of money from student housing and therefore it is in the institution’s financial interest to force students to live on-campus. And still, some may argue that a Christian institution simply wants to control the choices of its students.

Let’s be straight here. Oklahoma Christian mandates that its students must go to chapel. Oklahoma Christian mandates that its students abide by restrictive alcohol rules. Oklahoma Christian forces its students to abide by rules regarding members of the opposite sex in each other’s apartments and dorm rooms. Oklahoma Christian prevents its students from dancing on campus or at campus events. Oklahoma Christian censors its students who prefer to use more course language or prefer to watch more suggestive movies or television shows in public areas.

Oklahoma Christian prevents its students from possessing something as innocent as a Nerf gun. Oklahoma Christian reserves the right to threaten a student with disciplinary action, should the university be made aware that a student participates in an addictive lifestyle and doesn’t wish to seek treatment. Oklahoma Christian enforces a strict dress code. Oklahoma Christian reserves the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Oklahoma Christian reserves the right to search our living space. Oklahoma Christian mandates that freshmen abide by a curfew.

Oklahoma Christian attempts to control many things about our lives as students. Housing is just one of the means that ensures its ability to do just that.

“A big part of the OC experience, for us, it’s being in a community,” Dean of Students Neil Arter said. “You don’t really gain that by having the upperclassmen live off campus and not being in the community. I believe if you won’t live on campus and gain that whole experience, you might ought to just go somewhere else.”

Neither Arter nor Director of Housing Curtis Smith said there is a sense of mistrust in the administration towards those who pursue off-campus housing.

“Truthfully…I don’t feel like there’s a culture of being overly suspicious of students. Its policies reflect its core values and OC’s not apologetic about it,” Smith said.

I’m not saying I disagree with every rule in the Oklahoma Christian handbook. I’m not saying that I hate attending or living at this university. I recognize that I chose to attend this university. However, in principle, humans must reserve the right to make their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

Oklahoma Christian attempts to prevent us from making mistakes, and some students come to expect this for the rest of their lives. They never learn to take responsibility for themselves because they never had to.

I ask that Oklahoma Christian open up its current housing regulations. I may not agree with the libertine lifestyle, but it’s our decision, not our university’s, to make.