Myth 1: Everyone at JBU is a Christian.
“While most students at JBU claim to be Christians, approximately 3 to 5 percent claim another faith or no faith at all,” said Rod Reed, University chaplain.
That’s right: as many as one in every twenty students does not lay claim to Christianity.
And how should students respond to non-Christian classmates?
“I think one of the most important things is to see your classmates as people, not objects in a category,” said Reed. “Obviously, we want people to know Jesus, but when you see them as an object or a project, you devalue them, even if it is for a good cause.”
Myth 2: Nobody ever messes up at JBU.
While statistically our crime rates are much lower than other universities, students here are by no means perfect.
“We live in a community of broken people,” said Steve Beers, vice president of student affairs. “Broken people mess up every day.”
Beers is the first person to talk to a student when he or she steps out of line. He says he talks to a few people each year for issues like drug and alcohol abuse, relationship issues and, in some cases, burglary.
Still, Beers has a lot of confidence in the safety of the students.
“In the world’s eyes, we’re actually quite safe,” he said.
Myth 3: If you mess up at JBU, you’ll get kicked out.
Every year, at least one student is asked to leave the University.
“There have to be some expectations for living in the community,” said Beers. Talking to students is only the first in a long process to determine if wrong has been done, and if so what the penalty should be.
However, the faculty on the disciplinary board, known as the J-board, work hard to make sure the process is fair and deliberate. Students can even appeal their decisions and work with another faculty member as a sort of neutral party, ensuring fair play. Plus, Beers says, discipline is never pursued vindictively or with an attitude of necessary punishment.
“We’ve never told a student they can never come back,” Beers said. “The student development process tries to be super redemptive.”
Myth 4: Everyone at JBU has their life together.
Sometimes, when going through hard times, it can seem like everyone else has things figured out.
“While JBU has a culture that provides a lot of support for students’ spiritual life, it sometimes communicates to students that it’s not okay to struggle here,” said Reed.
However, Tim Dinger, director of the student counseling center, reports that 20 percent of students report distress in their lives from school, life, or their walks with God. That’s one in five students.
“Being at JBU is not a marker for ‘having life together,’ but a decision to study and live in a community that supports individuals to develop,” said Dinger.
“It pains me to see students struggling, thinking they have to pull their lives together in order to be accepted,” said Deborah Raiees-Dana, tutor coordinator and academic advisor for Student Support Services. “The very heart of our faith is based on a community of sin-broken people coming together in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.”
Raiees-Dana recounted her debut at the University, when she had just lost a child to cancer and been through a divorce.
“I have been at JBU since 2003, first as a student, now as a staff member,” she said. “I found people here who accepted me in my mess and helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible.”
Myth 5: You have to do college by yourself.
“While we earn our grades individually, very little of the rest of our lives are graded on individual performance,” said Reed. “And it’s hard to get good grades without support from a lot of people, even for the smartest individualists.”
No one at the University wants to see a student fail. It’s scary to let someone help, but there are many resources available when you decide to take the leap.
Student Support Services provides help for students who are struggling with disabilities, with grades, and in some cases, with finances. The Student Counseling Center provides eight free sessions each semester to every student on campus for those going through emotional trouble, mental health issues, or struggles in faith.
Friends and professors are also good resources. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As Reed put it, “Life is so much harder and lonelier and less satisfying when we try and do it alone.”