Liberty Way revised

Changes in wording have been made to the university’s Student Honor Code

As students returned to campus to begin the 2015-2016 school year, discussion immediately began about the alterations to the Liberty Way, Liberty University’s Student Honor Code.

DISCUSSION — New changes encourage mentorship between students. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

DISCUSSION. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Dr. Mark Hine, senior vice president for Student Affairs, and Robert Mullen, dean of students, said there was one main reason for the adjustments in the wording of the document that every student agrees to abide by when attending the university.

“There are some things that we took out of the list because where we are trying to go with the Liberty Way is more of a principled approach to life such that you don’t need a whole big … list of things that say do this and don’t do this,” Hine said.

The changes in wording include a new entertainment policy in which students are instructed to use caution when watching movie content rated R or PG-13 and video game content rated M.

In terms of relationships, the revised Liberty Way encourages students to make wise decisions on how to conduct themselves. According to the document, students “are encouraged to know and abide by common sense guidelines to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” Hine said there is a standard of appropriateness against which couples need to evaluate their actions.

In addition, the wording for the dress code sections for females was adjusted.

Mullen said the dress code was simplified in terms of “modesty, appropriateness and neatness.” Different schools within the university are still allowed to implement their own dress code.

Hine and Mullen said the goal of changes in the Liberty Way is to encourage discussion between students.

“The Liberty Way is an old document that has been updated from time to time,” Mullen said. “The way it has been enforced and applied has changed over the years, but what was written hasn’t changed necessarily in style and approach. So our student leadership is being taught to have conversations about issues …”

Mullen emphasized that some of the rules in the Liberty Way are intentionally ambiguous so that students can have conversations to help each other make decisions.

“We still want there to be engagement and conversation if someone is wearing something that is not appropriate,” Hine said. “If an RA goes in a room and sees (students) watching an inappropriate movie, (the) goal is for conversations to happen. …”

Mullen said the plan is also to empower student leaders to have the necessary conversations that induce life transformation.

“We wanted to put the tools into the hands of student leadership so (those students) wouldn’t come across like cops but more like coaches,” Mullen said. “ … They (can) help students walk through (and) think through (making) good decisions. If (students) happen to make a really bad decision, there is still enough there to help guide them back into a safe place for them during that time. It’s putting into the hands of student leadership the tools they need to do what they already want to do.”

Hine and Mullen said the adjustments to the Liberty Way wording are also to help students grow to become young adults who can make godly decisions in the future.

“I think what we are trying to do is equip students for the next step,” Hine said. “If there’s this great big, long list and all (students) know is if (they) follow this list (they) don’t get in trouble, when (they) get out in life (there are not) a lot of lists. … But, there are a lot of decisions that will be made that there’s no list that they can refer to.”

Mullen reiterated Hine’s sentiments.

“Students can begin to make these decisions,” Mullen said. “If we are just telling them do A, B, C and don’t do X, Y, Z, they’re not going to learn to think when they leave here.”

Even though the wording of the Liberty Way may have been adjusted for the upcoming school year, Hine and Mullen said Liberty is not changing its goal to train Champions for Christ.

“We went at (the changes) with the approach that we wanted to stay mission true,” Hine said. “We did not want to touch in any way things that make Liberty distinct because Liberty is a special place. It is a life-changing place. If anything, we are taking it in a better direction to do what we really want to accomplish.”

RODRIGUEZ is the news editor.

Note from Dr. Mark Hine, senior vice president for Student Affairs:

Students returning to campus this fall may have noticed several changes to Liberty’s Honor Code, the Liberty Way.

This summer we carefully studied the Liberty Way, listened to feedback and input from students and observed how enforcement was actually taking place. We found that both our students and student leadership were desiring an Honor Code based more upon a personal discipleship relationship than on rote rule enforcement. That is the same approach Jesus took with his students.

As a result, several areas of the Honor Code were revised and updated to focus more upon principles than hard and fast rules. The goal of the revision was not to lower standards, but to elevate our students to a position where they can learn to apply principles to particular life situations and make wise decisions.

While there are still certain, clear-cut rules and community expectations, we believe that the process of our students learning to apply life principles will effectively equip them for future life decisions. You may notice that some of the revisions leave open room for discussion.

This was intentional and designed for students and student leadership to enter into discussions about how to make good decisions.

Liberty’s Office of Student Conduct is also available to clarify any issue that may be unclear.

Additional revisions and clarifications are under consideration, and the administration welcomes feedback from students, faculty and staff.

21 comments

  • Because you no longer have hard and fast rules the University has lowered its standards and has become just another University. So sad! I have watched over the past 10 years the University be built up and the standards lowered. I really do not think that was Jerry Falwells dream. He set standards so that Liberty would be different, shame on you all for changing them.

  • I, too, am very disappointed in the revised Liberty Way. College is still a time of young adults being trained. Liberty has always had the goal of raising Champions for Christ. Champions are not made with low standards. Low standards result in mediocrity. I understand the idea behind encouraging discussions to promote students making Godly decisions in life and this, absolutely, should be done, but I do not agree with rules being written in an “intentionally ambiguous” manner. There are rules in all walks of life. Employers can and often do have dress codes and rules of conduct that are clearly defined. Why can’t Liberty have the same thing? The discussions on why we do things the “Liberty Way” can and should happen if and when students balk at the standards set forth. Even with clear standards, there will be those that chose to disregard them, but now those attempting to encourage wise and moral choices cannot enforce them, because the standard is “intentionally ambiguous.” Our family has been blessed to have two of our children graduate from Liberty University. They never had a problem with the “Liberty Way” and appreciated the higher standards. Their friends felt the same way. They are disappointed with the New Liberty Way, as am I. “If it’s Christian, shouldn’t it be better?” We now have a freshman at Liberty and it saddens me to see Liberty lowering their standards. Too many Christian Universities are lowering their standards and becoming more and more like the world – it saddens me greatly to see Liberty heading down this same path.
    Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

  • Tamara – You do yourself and the university a disservice when you speak without specificity. Many thoughts come to mind: the Pharisees had a long list of hard fast rules and where did that get them?

  • I totally agree with Tamara! I am sure Dr. Falwell would not approve. Things have really changed since my daughter went to Liberty. If you keep relaxing the rules, there will be no distinction from other universities. Very sad.

  • This is a great idea in theory, but not practically. First, The Bible isn’t afraid to give clear standards on many issues, and LU shouldn’t be afraid to do the same, at the very least on moral issues (ex. discretion may be permitted for some R rated movies, but not those including nudity). Second, In fair justice systems, ambiguity in laws or rules always benefits the one that seeks to stretch the limits. This standard is in favor of rule breakers, and without clear expectations to enforce, you are in fact making the student leadership jobs harder for those wanting to make a positive impact. Having a rule to fall back on gives your leadership an easy starting point to begin discussions. Third, You say this helps them better prepare for making decisions in the future, but just as hands off parenting throws a child’s moral character to the world, while set standards gives them a basis to glean from later in life, the same is true here. Finally, Clear expectations are always best, while fuzzy standards are frustrating for all (ex. a girl without clear guidelines in place isn’t going to know how to dress modestly, and anyone approaching a girl about immodest dress isn’t going to feel comfortable without clear expectations to reference). I think what Liberty is really doing here is making it easier on themselves to not have to enforce such standards. However, Falwell Senior didn’t shy away from the challenge, because, although training requires intentional focused effort that will likely be challenging for both the trainer and the trainee, he seemed to think the challenge was worth it, so much so he made it your slogan: “Training Champions for Christ.” This no longer sounds like training, but simply hoping for champions.

    • Mother of 2016 college freshman

      Its about time. These are young adults not children. If they don’t learn to make wise choices in the safety of a Christian college? Where will the learn?

      I do not believe standards were lowered any more than Jesus lowered the standards when he fulfilled the law by enhancing a list of rigid rules with personal accountability and decision making.

  • The Pharisees crucified Jesus because they thought He did not meet their specifications of Jewish law. We as the body of Christ must understand that adding to what God Himself has already commanded is incorrect Theology and must be rebuked as Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. Also sanctification is a partnership with the Holy Spirit in making Holy and Godly decisions within the individual Christian and the Christian Church (Body of Christ as a whole). I was raised as a Mormon and when I left the Mormon church I realized I had no idea how to govern my actions or properly seek God. Too many regulations limit a Christians need to literally flee from sin and run to God and too many regulations limit the Christians worldview, as in, limits their understanding that the world is out to destroy them and they must learn to live in the world and not be a part of it. The revised rules give freedoms to the often “forced to be Christian” allowing a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior to blossom. These students can now leave Liberty University with a better grasp on genuine obedience and a true desire to live Godly principles rather than forced robotic and ungenuine rule following. We show the world we are different by loving God and His ways in a world that doesn’t with the help of Jesus and Jesus followers, NOT more rules. I thought we as the body of Christ would be past trying to play God by being overseers in the micro-decisions of an individual Christian.

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