In defense of “community standards”

ResLife’s movement away from the term “contract” goes deeper than wordplay.

Andrew Oxenham, Writer

Turn on any TV and you’ll immediately be hit by a ton of words. Often they are words bearing meaning, words that convey messages and feelings. Redefining of words happens at times, and when it does on a campus like this one an uprising could occur. So when Res Life decided to redefine the word that every student on Biola’s campus knows, “contract,” such suspicions did arise.

In case you’re one of the few Biola students who isn’t aware, the Biola contract is a document which every student signs, promising to abstain from the drinking of alcohol, drugs and engaging in sexual activities. This safeguard of well-being has often been cast in a negative light due to its perceived hindrance of “good times.” In the past couple of years however, ResLife, the university’s staff in charge of campus life, has sought to redefine the negative perceptions of the Contract.

ResLife’s first move was to adopt a more soothing term, choosing instead to call it the “community standards.” These standards, coupled with the vision of “developing neighbors” provided the foundation for the redefinition. At first glance this appears to be more of a public relations move than anything else. The question then becomes, is this just a little bit of redefinition? Is this new terminology just a little wordplay to take away the negative connotations of the contract?

According to AS President Mark Heath, the motivation behind the new term “community standards” was one of unity.

“In community, the choices we make matter, they matter in Christian community in particular because we are one in the body of Christ,” Heath said. Thus instead of a contract which each individual signs, the community standards Biola upholds are meant to bring students together.

“After all,” said Heath, “we are all members of the body, and our actions effect one another as members.”

The second point that Biola is hoping to stress is the fact that these standards help both individual and community growth. By using different terminology, the hope is that the negative connotation, held by students about the contract, will be eliminated and students will instead see how the standards help to create an atmosphere which is best suited for healthy growth.

“They are standards that this community abides by in order to place ourselves in the best position for growth,” Heath said.

Heath touched upon his own personal experience as a cautionary reminder: “There was a point, in my time here at Biola, where I chose to cease upholding the community standards, and in so doing distanced myself from the community and all benefits of it. I suffered from these choices.”

This seemed characteristic of objections to the contract; often times the disgruntled complainers forget that, for the most part, when one engages in activity contrary to the standards, it pushes them farther and farther from true community.

Upholding the community standards is not always without its challenges. Thankfully, these challenges result in stretching us, and in the midst of that stretching is where one experiences the most growth.

“The reason we set forth this challenge (of upholding the standards), is for the benefit of you,” Heath quickly pointed out. Tough times are often where the most growth happens in our lives, so we ought not be afraid of the challenge of upholding the community standards.

At its very core, the move to encourage upholding community standards is more to change the mindset behind the contract, merely a nice way to repackage a bad term. Encouraging students to adopt these community standards are meant to have substantial benefits both to the individual and to the community, fostering growth and obedience among the student body.

So next time you hear someone say that they’re under a contract, remind them that instead we choose to uphold the community standards. By changing the name, we can change the mindset, and the campus.

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