Everybody Dance Now
February 21, 2003 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Wheaton College (IL) Lifts Dance Ban. The small evangelical Christian liberal arts college in the suburbs of Chicago, lifted its 143-year-old ban that prohibited students from participating in "most forms of social dancing." In its place, the college has established a community covenant that permits dancing by students, but still prohibits the use of tobacco, the consumption of alcohol, and pre-marital sex by students. It does allow faculty and staff to drink and smoke (which had previously been prohibited) but never in front of students. Wheaton grads include Rev. Billy Graham, Wes Craven, Rep. Dennis Hastert, Todd Beamer, and Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson.
posted by marcusb (23 comments total)
Now that is uptight. I mean, even Mormons bust a move now and then.
posted by oissubke at 5:41 AM on February 21, 2003

everybody cut! everybody cut!
posted by machaus at 6:09 AM on February 21, 2003

baby steps.
posted by kmel at 6:11 AM on February 21, 2003

Let's roll!
posted by briank at 6:13 AM on February 21, 2003

not too worry.

if you still want your high school graduate to attend an incredibly prohibitive university, there's always bob jones university.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:17 AM on February 21, 2003

Wes Craven? That explains some things.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:22 AM on February 21, 2003

Don't worry, they've continued the ban on free thinking.
posted by Outlawyr at 6:23 AM on February 21, 2003

I once paged through a catalogue for a Bible college in Western Canada and noted that makeup was prohibited for female students (it said nothing about the male students) and that female students could only wear skirts which had to reach below the knee.

Religion really runs into trouble when it tries to dictate specific codes of behaviour. Even if the codes are useful when first made they soon become outdated, and a matter of form, and all the original purpose of the rules becomes subsumed into a pursuit of an arbitrary form. Why not just teach the principles and let people make their own applications?

One caveat though: That's just a general observation about religion. I don't judge this school's administration as too restrictive, only as "too restrictive for this swan". The students of this school have chosen that college in full awareness of what life would be like there. Had they not agreed to the rules they could easily have gone elsewhere.
posted by orange swan at 6:38 AM on February 21, 2003

Wheaton College (IL) Lifts Dance Ban

Well, there's only one thing left to do...
posted by jonmc at 6:50 AM on February 21, 2003

My father teaches at a small private baptist university, where they still will not allow the students to have a school sponsored "dance". This however has not deterred numerous "foot functions" (scroll down to Blast from the Past or Mad-Hatters Ball) by various student organizations.

Of course, it could be worse...one of the other (more conservative) universities across town doesn't allow boys and girls in the pool at the same time.
posted by darainwa at 7:03 AM on February 21, 2003

The whole premise of Christianity is that God changes a person from inside to out. It seems that this school has tried to make people change from outside to in, which is impossible.
posted by grehy at 8:03 AM on February 21, 2003

My favorite story about Wheaton College is that some professors went on a trip to a Latin American country, at which you should not drink the water...everybody drank beer instead. Since the Wheaton professors were not allowed to drink beer, they drank the water, and got sick.

It could well be apocryphal, but I still like it.
posted by goethean at 8:04 AM on February 21, 2003

Don't worry, they've continued the ban on free thinking.

This is silly. Do you know anyone who has attended Wheaton? Several of my high school friends did, and while some of them (but not all) could be described as being further to the right than the average MeFite, I don't think any of them were lacking brains or the ability to form independent opinions. The main reason for going to this school is that it is an excellent school, one of the best evangelical liberal arts schools in the country, with an equally excellent Religion program. The people I knew did not attend because of the rules, they attended despite them (and how hard is it to give up smoking/dancing/drinking for a couple of years?).


Orange Swan, you are correct in your analysis about codes of conduct like this. The high school I went to had a code very similar to this, and also had a dress code that had been instituted as a reaction of "responsible adults" to popular styles in the late 60s and 70s (I attended in the 80s). While our student body probably looked more presentable than the average US school's student body, the dress code did very little to police the brown matter between people's ears, and those inclined to do so spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to bend, twist, spindle and mutilate the dress code without actually getting a "blue slip" (written violation warning).

In addition, the alcohol ban did very little to stop those inclined to do so from drinking - it just made them do it as far from campus and as secretively as possible. My freshman year, a group of kids equaling to about 10% of the high school student body got suspended for violation of the alcohol policy - and those were just the ones who got caught, I personally knew several others who didn't get caught. Even at the time, the amount of effort the school administration was putting into finding and punishing these kids seemed silly to me; things which were in my opinion more serious (like cheating) didn't seem to be as important as the alcohol thing. So this code indeed became a matter of form, needing to be enforced not because of any real benefit to anyone, but because IT WAS A RULE. The means to an end became the end itself, and the process actually encouraged those who didn't agree with the policy to become dishonest.

I think the crucial difference here, of course, is that my this situation happened in a high school (where I presume most of the kids had no real say in whether or not they attended there) and Wheaton is a college, where presumably most of the people attending do have a say in being there or not.
posted by deadcowdan at 8:09 AM on February 21, 2003

Everybody cut footloose!
posted by Foosnark at 8:11 AM on February 21, 2003

BTW, if you are ever near Wheaton, stop by and see their Mastodon.
posted by goethean at 8:15 AM on February 21, 2003

dammit foosnark, beat me to it.

the scary thing here is that anyone really can equate things like dancing with some sort of moral degredation in this day and age -- ah, the chickens of the Reformation, come home to roost!

another thing i find scary about post-christian western society -- the constant attempts to fight against the natural impulses of the body. there are certain biological imperatives, reproduction being pretty much number one, and most people will never be able to beat that out (at least not without serious psychological damage).

but then again, i grew up in nightclubs, so i am definitely biased. disco fever all the way, baby.
posted by badzen at 9:04 AM on February 21, 2003

Funny how ancient Israel would party down and dance, Jesus' first miracle was turning water into quality booze (at a wedding party no less), yet this Christian college allows neither.
posted by Tacodog at 10:20 AM on February 21, 2003

Wheaton is a strange little town itself. It was a completely dry town until about the late 80s/early 90s when the pressure from restaurants became too great. It is also know as the town with the most churches per capita in the national and maybe the world. There's been a saying "Wheaton, city of churches and single women." that I've heard for some time. Wheaton also has one of the most anal police forces I know. I've been pulled over for completely made up charges before and argued my out of tickets. It's not even a driving while black thing, since I don't qualify, but driving in anything out of the Wheaton norm. Now I don't mean to plaster the whole police force there, but they have quite a few officers for a small town and more than their fair share of jerks. The good ones are actually quite exceptional.
posted by john at 11:02 AM on February 21, 2003

I'm wondering if this is due to any pressure from the media's exposing to the conservative climate there back when Bono and Judd visited there. Here's a excerpt from a Daily Herald article about it.

"Even in the most bizarre worlds, self-described spoiled rock stars don't make appearances at campuses so conservative students are forbidden to dance on campus."
posted by john at 11:18 AM on February 21, 2003

Wheaton, the home of all things C. S. Lewis, has a serious academic reputation; there's no need to knock it on that score. Some Christian colleges are, well, problematic as centers of learning, but Wheaton isn't one of them.

I'd also add that students (and, often, faculty) at Christian institutions are often far to the relative left of the administration--by which I mean not that they're all nascent "liberals," but that they can be strikingly unwilling to follow the official line. A case in point would be one Calvinist college in the Midwest, which, a few years ago, had students and faculty demonstrating in favor of showing a pro-gay rights film, much to the fury of the administration.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:08 PM on February 21, 2003

It seems that this school has tried to make people change from outside to in, which is impossible.

The purpose of the behavioral codes is not to change the person subjected to the codes by making them behave a certain way, but to change them by surrounding them with people who behave a certain way, thereby creating social norms that reinforce the desired behavior.

A subtle distinction, to be sure, but saying it's "impossible" ignores the fact that the strategy works pretty damn well in the military, monasteries, athletics, and many other subcultures.
posted by kindall at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2003

Wheaton to allow dancing?......

The End is near!
posted by troutfishing at 2:40 PM on February 21, 2003

Crazy as Wheaton's policies may have been (and may still be), I frequently made use of their excellent Christian Classics Ethereal Library that was hosted there when I was looking for writings of the Early Church Fathers.
posted by deanc at 8:09 PM on February 21, 2003

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