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Alcohol restrictions stir up conversation

A local Siloam Springs home was trashed last spring, its occupants littering the house with liquor bottles and narcotics before leaving the premises.

John Brown University Athletic Director Robyn Daugherty uncovered the reality of the situation.

“This is all rooted from the All Athletic Meeting I had at the beginning of the year,” Daugherty said. “The goal was to challenge them to think about how what we do affects all of us, as far as making bad decisions.”

She uses the mistakes of the past as learning lessons and as teaching guides.

“At my church we have a prayer chain,” Daugherty said. “At one of the meetings a woman gave a praise report about how she found a nice apartment to stay in. Afterwards I was talking to her and she was telling me how the landlord in the past rented to JBU students, but he had to stop. The last group of JBU students had trashed it with alcohol bottles, drugs, and had overnight guests. This made me sad.”

Daugherty said the situation built a bad reputation for JBU students in the community. The goal was to teach her athletes that their decisions are bigger than just them.

On campus alcohol is a controversial issue, concerning the John Brown University Community Covenant. The debate concerns whether the covenant is so strict that it causes students, like the ones who trashed the house, when they are out of the eyesight of JBU authorities to binge on bad behavior. Or is it a document that JBU based off of Scripture and rooted in religious traditions to help guide and not restrict?

When asked about the Covenant, Daugherty felt that it is a sound document.

“I have no problems with the Covenant. As Christians and believers we are held to a higher standard,” Daugherty said. “Students don’t understand when they sign the Covenant they are signing their integrity.”

Daugherty said that the Covenant teaches JBU students about integrity and maintaining it.

Daugherty holds an interesting perspective on the restriction of alcohol in the Covenant. Daugherty has seen the effects of drinking as she was raised in a house with an alcoholic.

“I’m sure my dad did not know when he was 14 and had his first drink the effects it would have later on,” Daugherty said. “There is a bigger picture the Covenant is getting at that students can’t see right now because they are living in it.”

Students who live on and off campus have varying opinions about the document.

“It gives us a common ground to follow,” sophomore Annie Brown said.

“You don’t have to agree with it, but since you chose to come to JBU you should respect it,” junior AnnaClaire Chin said.

Peyton Weaver, a JBU sophomore, said the alcohol ban positively shapes and forms common thread that go unnoticed in the JBU environment.

“Students do not realize how much it shapes our community,” Weaver said.

JBU junior Alex King has a different opinion.

“The Covenant is suffocating and does not allow us to make our own decisions,” King said. “It encourages a cookie cutter form of Christianity. How faith manifests to everybody looks different and as a result everyone’s relationship with God looks different.”

King went on to say that students should not be forced to sign the Covenant and compromise their own integrity if they do not intend to follow it.

Junior Allyssa Westerfield said, “We are a religiously, economically and ethnically diverse campus being forced under a fundamentalist umbrella.”

Junior Cade Blush holds a two-fold opinion on the Covenant and its alcohol restriction.

“I agree with the Community Covenant based on my own experience,” Blush said.

Blush attended a public university before coming to JBU. While at the public university he once consumed enough alcohol to be sent to the hospital. JBU’s Covenant has encouraged him to live a healthy life style.

Blush differs with the Covenant on its restriction for those over 21 and living off campus.

“Seniors and those over 21 should be allowed to drink off-campus,” Blush said. “By not allowing students of age to drink, the Covenant causes students to become anxious to drink when they graduate.”

Blush is not the only off-campus student who feels the restrictions of the Covenant should not apply to commuters.

Sophomore Chris Ellis, who is 34 years old, believes that the covenant is too strict for students who live off campus. “I believe that there is no problem with drinking socially or just having a beer with my dinner, but that should be my decision to make not the school. The Bible does not say drinking is a sin, it says becoming a drunken fool is wrong.”

Ellis brings up an issue that students question, does the Covenant stand on Scripture alone?

Chad Raith, biblical studies professor at JBU said, “The covenant is pretty clear that the position on alcohol consumption is not a biblical mandate but a ‘prudential’ decision, which means that unlike a clear mandate from Scripture (e.g., do not steal) JBU’s policy on alcohol consumption can be discussed, debated and even changed without JBU necessarily becoming less ‘Christian.’ I think it’s perfectly legitimate to question the position as long as it is done with a spirit that is seeking to move more deeply into the Christian faith.”

“The intent for the University for the Covenant arises from Scriptural principles. Some of the rules look different to people due to cultural differences,” said Chaplin Rod Reed.

Reed commented that the restriction of alcohol has a more biological reason than a spiritual one. “The human brain does not fully develop until the mid-20s, and the last part that develops is judgment. When people consume alcohol the first part of the brain that is affected is the ability to make good judgment.”

Reed said he understands students’ frustrations with the Covenant, but he offers students a different way of viewing the restrictive document. “The Covenant challenges students to something deeper than behavior. Are we willing to set aside our own rights and self-centeredness for the community?”

“American rights to individualism are not biblical and are not a part of our Christian beliefs. The right to individualism is a reflection of American ideas. The Covenant forces us to critique those ideas and our own.”

Brad Gambill, chair of the English Department, said, “the covenant is a dynamic document that we should continue to talk about and make changes to.”