As my four years at Bryan College come to a close, I’d like to share a few thoughts about my time here.
I do not write out of anger, nor do I write out of bitterness. I think there are some great aspects of this college; I have stayed for the opportunities and passions that I have gained. However, I am not writing this to explain the good, but to challenge what I think has been truly bad.
I am writing this letter for the students who have graduated feeling as though Bryan College did not provide what they needed and for those still here struggling to find their place within a system that has been designed to prepare us to make a difference in today’s world.
On this campus which provides us the beauty of God’s creation through the wondrously changing colors of fall and the fresh budding flowers of spring, I have witnessed a mentality which takes pride in appearance over reality, that praises the sound of a community’s voices raised in unison in chapel, but does not actively recognize the disunity that pervades our dorms, our classrooms, and our daily conversations.
The natural divide of friend groups should not come with the perspective that your group is superior to or more valuable than another’s because of personal philosophy. However, the Bryan environment feeds this mentality through constantly praising those students who choose to live a certain way, those who speak in terms of worldview or theology, who choose to fight social injustice, or those who leave Bryan College with a promise of marriage. This encourages discrimination among some groups and alienation among others. Unfortunately, I have been guilty of engaging in much of this discrimination as well.
The mentality that appearance trumps reality invades everything that we do here at Bryan: from how we discuss issues in chapel to the way we administer disciplinary issues. Speaking to a member of the administration about the fact that some people do not stand in chapel, I explained that simply because people are standing does not mean that their hearts are engaged in the worship. However, those sitting are simply not pretending to care or not pretending to show respect for something they don’t believe in.
Unfortunately, the response I got furthered my belief that appearance is key, as he replied that if these individuals choose to come to our college, they should also respect the time of worship by standing. However, it is difficult to expect them to stand when those who stand despite of a lack of belief have gained no respect in return.
The way people respond to the rules at Bryan also further my belief that appearance will ultimately prevail. Many of the rules in the Handbook are ignored because when we ignore them, it fosters a more unified and healthier community. If the community functions best by ignoring the rules, the rules should be changed to match what is actually helpful for the community.
For example, if the community is served best by allowing people to keep their rooms clean only if they want to, RAs should not have to choose to not enforce strict room, as they frequently do, for just this reason. Many individuals in authority choose to turn a blind eye to the thwarting of some rules because, quite frankly, the rules are not necessary and frustrate students who already live in a highly regulated environment. They are merely for appearance, to make the school appear different than it truly is.
Even on an everyday personal level, Bryan College has not only created a bubble that hardly looks off the hill except for international and community outreach, but many conversations that would foster healthy and meaningful discussion are shunned. While campuses across the country wrestle with different, powerful social issues each day, we give overwhelming focus to specific issues, such as human trafficking, and often ignore other important issues, like the injustice found in the recent case of Trayvon Martin. Even when we address important controversial subjects, like homosexuality, we present and discuss only a variety of opinions that we can agree with from a Christian worldview. We shy away from voicing opinions that could garner negativity from others.
Four years ago, a fellow senior came to Bryan College as a non-Christian, listened to the rules he had to follow, and held these up against Christianity to see if Christian principles were mirrored. Unfortunately, he found that they did not.
Many students love this place, and for those people, I am glad. However, for those of you who feel out of place here, you may continue to wrestle and to question throughout your time here. Know that you are not alone and that even though others will simply respond that you must get over it because you chose this place; never settle for appearances, but continue to seek and live in the light of truth.
Jesus did not fear going against appearances; He called it hypocrisy. Likewise, I challenge you to continue to stand for truth, in a system that legislates uniformity and only looks at the surface. Change may not happen quickly, or at all in you’re time here, but it’s possible.
– Senior Vincent Smith