Each year members of the Student Life staff discuss and update handbook policies that the previous academic year proved no longer functional or clear for the students at Bob Jones University.
The staff form a committee and read through the handbook to observe the policies they noted are in need of attention with the goal of making the policies as clear and functional for the current student body as possible.
A member of this committee, Jon Daulton, the director of Student Life, said the questions the committee asks during the process target the purpose the policy is achieving, if it is accomplishing its intended goal and if it needs reevaluation.
“And as a result of that, we either maintain the policy, we might tweak it slightly or might get rid of it entirely,” he said.
One policy changed this academic year is jewelry. Men may now wear rings on their fingers, wristbands and a necklace tucked under their shirt.
Additionally, women may have a nose stud. The policy adjusted for these changes after reviewing the line between professionalism and personal expression.
“Personal expressions like piercing and jewelry have differing cultural perceptions that change over time; this has a bearing on their relative value professionally,” Daulton said.
“In our revision process this year, we determined that a small stud in a lady’s nose and a necklace worn under a man’s shirt are a more acceptable practice in the work environment.”
Junior media technology major Alicia Cannon shared her thoughts on the updated jewelry policy.
“I think that was a good change because I believe jewelry such as nose rings shouldn’t dictate what makes you a ‘good’ Christian or not,” she said. “Jewelry is a simple way to express yourself.”
The committee does not leave students out of the process of changing policies. While the committee is entirely composed of Student Life staff, student input is heavily used and referenced as they look through the handbook for less effective or unclear policies.
The members of Student Life are careful about the input students give. To make sure that no student’s comments are forgotten, Deneen Lawson, the women’s director of Student Life, writes notes in red ink directly onto a copy of the handbook so she can easily reference students’ comments at the policy meeting and remember their exact ideas.
Student input comes through a variety of channels. “Students will oftentimes express things either through letters to Dr. Pettit or conversations with their supervisors or Student Life officials,” Daulton said.
These suggestions have their own vetting process to filter the ideas that make it to the committee. But Daulton stipulated that not all the ideas go through formal vetting.
“What we do sometimes after receiving those suggestions— we’ll vet them with some students,” he said. “That isn’t a formal process that we follow every time. It’s more of an informal process.”
One policy that went through the informal process is the new earbud policy. Students may now wear earbuds or headphones around campus as long as they are not worn during class, chapel or other public assemblies.
“While we still strongly encourage students to engage with each other rather than isolating themselves in their own world via technology, we chose to focus the restriction on those events which are crucial to our mission such as chapel, concerts, campus assemblies, etc.,” he said.
Sophomore graphic design major Alana Stonewall already sees the benefits in the earbud policy change.
“I like it because it makes my 8 a.m. walk to class more enjoyable,” she said.
Sometimes clarity affects how functional a policy is, such as wording in the handbook being up for more interpretation than anticipated.
Lawson pointed out that some policies are reworked for clarity once Student Life realizes they are not as clear as previously thought.
“If somebody comes in, and they ask something [such as] ‘Well, I don’t think this is very clear,’ and I read it from their perspective, … I can see that, so I’ll circle [the] certain words [in the handbook] that make it unclear so that the process is easier,” she said.
The continued involvement of students in policy alteration gives them the opportunity to ask questions and give their suggestions.
Cannon commented on the student participation in the process. “If I had an idea, and I think it should be heard by [Student Life], then I would definitely say something about it,” she said.
Daulton echoes the sentiment of freely speaking to Student Life about policies. “Don’t be afraid to come and talk to us about why we have a policy,” he said.
“Maybe [the policy is being changed] because the policy has been there for a while and has served its purpose but is no longer necessary,” he said. “And when we talk with that student and convene and discuss it together, it becomes one of those [rules] that we do away with.”
Lawson is passionate about sharing the mission of Student Life: love. “We truly love the students,” she said. “We’re truly trying to help them for life.”