What happens at a place is made more dramatic by the expectations we bring into it.
I went to college at a small, private, liberal arts school called Lipscomb University. Two theologians, David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, founded it in 1891, and over a hundred years later, many of the doctrines defining the Restoration in general and Stone-Campbell Movement in particular were still evident in its rules, practices, and traditions.
Students attended chapel every day. Boys were allowed in girls’ dorms only during designated hours, and vice versa. We were prohibited from using any form of tobacco on campus and from drinking while we were enrolled in classes, regardless of whether or not we were of age. Curfew for weeknights was 12am, but the administration graciously extended it to 1 on the weekends.
For the most part, it was a wonderful place to get an education. I’m convinced that the rules forced us to be more creative—in how we broke them.
On weekends, I’d sign out of the dorm to my parents’ house, fifteen minutes down the road, and on Friday and Saturday nights, I’d sneak back into the dorm through a first-story window left open by my friends Justin and David for that purpose.
Both semester of my freshman year, which was the only year I lived on-campus, I lived on the second floor with another alum of David Lipscomb High School, David Binkley. We’d played football together. On some Friday nights, my mom would cook dinner for five or six of us sophomores, then full of spaghetti or Taco Ring or another one of her delicious recipes, we’d put in the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack and speed to the field to get dressed out.
A few more of my high school friends were on the second floor of High Rise, and others were scattered throughout. We had a good mix of locals and out-of-towners, so that those of us who had grown up in Nashville could show the newcomers around. They could return the favor on weekends when we’d take road trips to their parents’ houses.
All in all, I’d say Lipscomb University fostered a wholesome environment. The professors were required to be members at churches of Christ, so if we went to church, we’d see them in worship on Sunday mornings.
No matter what faith or code of conduct the faculty and administration endorsed and enforced, one variable was always outside of their control—students.
This became clear one night in the commons area of the second floor. Our RAs, Kyle and Sean, called a floor meeting on a Thursday night.
When I walked in, many of the guys were already standing around in clusters, talking and cutting. Two of them were shooting pool.
“Does anybody know what this is all about?” I asked no one in particular.
No one had a clue.
More guys drifted in, and at 7pm sharp, Sean walked in with his clipboard and took roll. He was frowning.
A couple of people were missing, and he made a note of this.
Kyle was about 6’8” and played Center on our basketball team. We’d just gone Division I that year, so our chances of a long season were slim. He was leaning against the hand railing. You could see down into the lobby where two guys were watching SportsCenter and playing ping-pong.
“Okay,” Sean began, “I don’t know which one of you thinks he’s an artist, but this is not cool.”
We all looked around the room. What was he talking about?
“Kyle and I—“ he nodded at his fellow RA, who hadn’t yet spoken a word, “had the pleasure last week of cleaning up your crap. By crap, I mean crap, literally, feces. Was it on the floor in one of the bathrooms? Oh no, you freaks, that would be too predictable. No, one of you decided to smear it on the wall like a chimpanzee.”
He scanned our faces while shaking his head in disgust.
“Did the culprit stop there? Oh no. He decided that once wasn’t enough. Kyle and I thought that perhaps this was an isolated incident, so you can imagine our—how should I say it?—irritation when we discovered that the bandit had struck again. I mean, seriously, whoever you are, what is freaking wrong with you? That’s just messed up. We don’t really expect that you’ll turn yourself in because the kind of person who does this sort of thing in the first place probably isn’t the kind of person with that kind of balls. Be that as it may, if it happens again, we’re going to make it rain. Does everybody understand?”
We all said yes, then the meeting broke up.
I don’t know what kind of childhood causes someone to make a magic marker of a turd, but as a group of us walked over to the cafeteria for dinner, I think we were all secretly impressed. That’s really sick, and I kind of wish I’d thought of it, albeit with the appropriate tools like a face mask and yellow dishwashing gloves.
You never know what to expect at a Christian school. You could be un- or pleasantly surprised, depending on how warped your sense of humor is.