Dealing with university rules can be a pain at times. Whether you want to have food for an event, bring in a guest speaker, pass out information on your group or just about anything else on campus, there is loads of red tape.
Hoops to jump through.
Forms to sign and date.
It can be a pain. It can be frustrating. It can seem like so much waste of time, even to the point where you wonder if the university is just some sort of sadistic monster who enjoys inflicting pain.
But here’s the thing – in most cases if you work your way through all the necessary forms and red tape, the university is helpful and treats everyone fairly. I can only speak of my experience, working at Penn State Berks for ten years, but in my experience if you do what is expected of you then the university is okay with you doing whatever you want.
This was on my mind because the other day I was driving with my kids and channel surfing on the radio. I found one conservative commentator who was speaking to a college student and recommended this student go to a few websites to find community with like-minded conservative college students. Later that day I spent some time perusing one of these sites and the very first article I found was titled:
Ouch, that sounds bad. An attack on freedom and liberty! Then I read the subheading and the second bullet point states: “The group is not yet registered with the university.”
Well that changes things. Reading on:
“Hello, I work at the university. Let me just give you the low down about what you’re allowed to do when it comes to ‘solicitation’ on a college campus. This is a public space, but within our confines we are allowed to choose what can be here, and we do that through a process of applying to be in the public space,” the employee said.
After the students conceded that they did not have a form giving them permission to hold their event on campus property, they were told, “there is a system through which you can absolutely do all of this. Absolutely. But you have to go through the university policy.”
When asked if there is a reason that students should need permission to demonstrate on campus, the employee responded, “[y]es, there is. So, anybody from a student organization wants to be out on the ground…It’s known as a reservation. They’re not going to deny you, sir; I guarantee you.”
At this point, the correct thing to do is politely say thank you, walk away and work on becoming a registered student organization. What the students actually did was refuse to follow the rules and, basically, demand special treatment.
Penn State Berks has “free speech zones.” If someone wants to come on campus and hand out Bibles (as the Gideons do) or yell at students that they are going to hell (as has been done before) they can do so in a few specific areas. No one likes being yelled at, but it is allowed. Why have such zones, someone might ask? The answer is simply that students need to be kept safe and get to class. Should people be allowed to stand in the middle of a busy walkway, blocking students from getting to Calculus, so he can yell from his soapbox?
I do not know if the members of this group that thinks they are being treated unfairly are Christians or not. But as Christians, it seems clear to me that we ought to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13) and, beyond that, not expect special treatment. So my advice to these entitled students would be to do what the university requires to become registered and then hand out their constitutions. There is real persecution in the world, but not getting your way all the time is not it.