Campus News

Christian schools change alcohol policies

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Two colleges in Bethel’s neighboring states have changed their policies on alcohol consumption in recent years and responses have abounded. Wheaton College in Illinois and Cornerstone University in Michigan both changed their policies to allow faculty and staff to drink alcohol, though both still ban students from drinking. Wheaton changed its policy many years ago and the school's decision to change  stems from its recognition of the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act of 1991, which states that employees cannot be discriminated against for private use of legal substances outside of work hours. The religious arguments against such practices were not nearly strict enough to allow the school to break this law considering that they found that the Bible does not make strict requirements that Christians abstain from alcohol use. Wheaton’s Community Covenant now acknowledges that “the Bible requires moderation in the use of alcohol, not abstinence . . . Thus the question of alcohol consumption represents a prime opportunity for Christians to exercise their freedom responsibly, carefully, and in Christ-like love.” Cornerstone, likewise, changed its policy for faculty and staff’s consumption of alcohol because “a three-year internal study concluded it is ‘biblically indefensible,’” to demand abstinence, according to mlive.com. Cornerstone’s study found that the Bible does not prohibit alcohol consumption in moderation. “I think it is commendable that those colleges did the study on what the Bible really says about drinking because so often people jump to conclusions, and it’s great that they took three years to study this and find out what it really says,” said Bethel junior Elaina Gillin. In an interview with the school newspaper "The Herald" President Joe Stowell  of Cornerstone defended the fact that students are still prohibited from drinking saying “as students are living in a close community environment, there are situations that the use of alcohol would worsen.” However, an article in  "The Herald” denounces this policy change as an inappropriate inconsistency in policy. The paper challenges the assertion that employees and students should have different moral standards, pointing out that Wheaton is the only other school whose policy is inconsistent in this way. “Well, first of all, I think it’s a good thing that they’re looking over their policies because there’s nowhere in the Bible that says you shouldn’t drink at all, and everything in moderation, usually, is OK,” said Bethel senior Courtney Zimmer. “I mean, I don’t think heroine is necessarily good, just because, I mean, that’s a given. So I think Bethel, especially with having a new president, should look over the policies here and just think about it and see if they should change a few things, at least for staff.” While some students think Bethel should evaluate its alcohol policy, others are fairly satisfied with the policy as it stands. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s a huge deal that we’re not allowed to drink,” said junior Tammi Kreis. “I love that we can’t have alcohol on campus because I believe it really changes the atmosphere of a campus, having alcohol.” “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the policy right now,” said senior Becca Bunch. “I think people—whether students, faculty, or staff—come to Bethel knowing what it already is. Ultimately, it is a choice, being part of this institution.” Other students lean more toward the opinion expressed in "The Herald,” though. “I would be open to a change in policy,” Gillin said. Gillin also had concerns about Bethel’s policy as stated in the handbook. According to Bethel’s website, our policy states that “Because we believe our minds and bodies should be used in ways that honor God, we agree to abstain from . . . alcohol and gatherings where alcohol is present.” “Well, I think in the Bethel handbook, they should be more clear about what places Bethel students are allowed to frequent,” Gillin said. “I think I’ve heard . . . that it’s where alcohol is the main source of income, but I would, you know, make sure that is stated clearly in the handbook because no student wants to be like, ‘What? I can’t go to Olive Garden because there’s a bar?’ ‘I can’t go to this concert because they sell Mike’s Hard Lemonade? That’s lame!’” “If I were to change something,  I think I would allow drinking off campus as long as you’re 21,” Kreis said. “However, that gets super sticky with abusing it. I don’t know how Student Development could make judgments on which students were abusing it because everyone reacts to alcohol differently.” Bunch agreed with Kreis’s opinion concerning enforcing a new policy. “It would be hard to monitor or control how much people were drinking,” said Bunch. “The reason the policy’s put in place is to not necessarily give people a bunch of rules, but to keep people safe. It is a way to guide students to help them make smarter decisions that could affect the rest of their lives.”
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