Our Student Voices series is a compilation of student stories with the intent to give voice to those who cannot speak out otherwise for fear of dismissal or judgement from their fellow students. To tell your story, send us a message through our contact form or by emailing cedarvilleinterpeter@gmail.com

This marks our second “student voices” article, where we take submissions from students that do not require a full-length article and combine them into one. Our goal for these articles is to, as always, shed light on the very real problems Cedarville students are facing every day and this allows us to do so in their own words. Today’s student voices article is particularly exciting because it includes a very real action step you can take today to make a difference at Cedarville University, some incredible insight from another student on the importance of allowing for open and honest conversation about our scars, and an all-too relatable story about the overreach of students in power at Cedarville.

It’s time for change.

The first section of this article is the text of the petition created on Change.org by Jonathan Sweetman (whose name appears publicly on the petition), a current Cedarville student who created this petition just a few days ago. We offer our wholehearted support to his campaign. Please take the time to read his words and consider his proposal for the University. This is a way for us to really make a difference.

In order to preserve free expression and the open exchange of ideas by all members of the Cedarville community, the administration ought to publicly agree to and sign the Chicago Statement on Free Speech as outlined below. Cedarville University must commit to creating policies consistent with the principles of free speech. Cedarville cannot protect Second Amendment rights by allowing professors to carry weapons while ignoring First Amendment rights by preventing students from carrying dissenting opinions. The guns that have defended our democracy are of far lesser importance than the free exchange of ideas that once invented and still preserve it.

Cedarville’s unfortunate history of censorship must come to an end and policies must be set in place in order to cultivate the pursuit of truth and academic rigor. Cedarville University has been called out by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as a hotbed of an “invisible free speech crisis” at private Universities that see themselves as exempt from Constitutional Law. (https://www.thefire.org/is-speech-suppression-at-religious-colleges-the-invisible-free-speech-crisis/ While this is technically true, any institution dedicated to freedom, academic rigor, and truth must embrace free speech.

According to the FIRE institute, “Faculty bodies, administrations, and institutional governing boards have officially endorsed the Chicago Statement at over fifty-five institutions including Princeton University, Purdue University, American University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among others.” (https://www.thefire.org/get-involved/student-network/take-action/adopting-the-chicago-statement/

It is time for Cedarville to join the fight against censorship and speech regulations inconsistent with the freedom of expression–a fundamental human right that Christians are obligated to protect.

This statement allows Cedarville to exercise its religious liberty, but only insofar as it allows the proper function of the University. Differing opinions may not be silenced simply because a student or faculty member disagrees with minor doctrines. Rather, ideas that are deemed wrong are subject to debate. Ultimately, the truth comes to the forefront in its purest form when tried by the fire of public opinion. Cedarville University must recognize this by accepting and signing the Chicago Statement on Free Speech.

In its original form, the authors wrote, “As Robert M. Hutchins observed, without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university. The University of Chicago’s long-standing commitment to this principle lies at the very core of our University’s greatness. That is our inheritance, and it is our promise to the future.”

Join us in securing the inheritance of free and open inquiry for Cedarville University:

This could be us, if you sign this petition.

The Chicago Statement:

Because Cedarville University (hereafter referred to as “the University”) is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, it fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the Cedarville University community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the Cedarville University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although Cedarville University greatly values civility, and although all members of its community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. Cedarville University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, Cedarville University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of Cedarville University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with Cedarville University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

In a word, Cedarville University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the community, not for Cedarville University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the Cedarville University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of its educational mission.

As a corollary to Cedarville University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University’s community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the Cedarville University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, Cedarville University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.

Sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/dr-thomas-white-and-the-board-of-trustees-cedarville-university-adopt-the-chicago-statement-on-free-speechhttps://www.change.org/p/dr-thomas-white-and-the-board-of-trustees-cedarville-university-adopt-the-chicago-statement-on-free-speech

Dismissed for our Scars.

This next piece written by an anonymous Cedarville student about an experience that many of us share: the fear of showing our scars for fear of judgement. It perfectly describes a disturbing culture of self-censorship, especially in the area of mental health. TW//self harm

At Cedarville, people are dismissed for their current or past scars in life. Instead of loving them, they turn them away or “hide” the truth. Scars make us who we are today and no scar is too small. People should be allowed to embrace their scars and grow from them, but Cedarville just tears them down making them think that they can’t speak up and they are left to fend for themselves. I know so many people who are afraid to talk to their friends about a mistake they made or a trauma they went through because of the judgement they will receive. Being a Christian is more than just reading your Bible and going to chapel everyday and praying 24/7.

Though we may be scarred, our Savior has scars of His own, and they are the scars that define us as loved and free from judgement.

Being a Christian is loving your neighbor and to walk with people through their struggles and love them through that. We are not called to judge someone because they made the mistake because as we all know, no one is perfect and God knows that. God knows that we are not perfect and yet He chooses to love us anyway, so why can’t we? Why are we so quick to judge people and tell them they aren’t a Christian because they put themselves in a situation where something bad can happen. We all learn from our mistakes and it is about time Cedarville understands mental health should not be dismissed, but instead be accepted with open arms. The students shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and talk to someone, they should feel comfortable walking into the counseling department without fear of dismissal.

Abuse of Power

We have written previously via our social media channels about the excessive degree of power Cedarville has given its RAs. We performed polls and asked questions and unfortunately the vast majority of students have negative experiences with their RAs abusing the authority they have been give. This is one such story from an anonymous author.

One time freshman year, I was in my dorm attempting to get water with my Brita filter. In Willetts you have to go to the kitchen to do this because the sinks in the bathroom are not deep enough for Brita filters. Anyways, it was about 8 o’clock at night when I ventured to the dorm kitchen. I was met with 3 lovely couples who were shamelessly showing PDA; and I mean *showing* PDA. I ignore these common nuisances, and go about filling up my water filter. Just then an RA comes in and I think, “Wow, finally someone will tell these people to, I don’t know get a room, (just kidding) but you know, break-it-up, you’re in public. To my surprise, the RA walks up to *me*, who just so happens to be wearing a tank top (because I live 3 feet away from the kitchen and it’s my dorm) and tells me that I am making her and everyone else uncomfortable with my inappropriate attire, and will need to return to my dormroom to put on a sweater and then come back for my filter. I was shocked, embarrassed, and confused.

Have fun getting a massive PC for getting water in that tank top, Bethany. And showing ankle too. Ugh.

This was only my third or fourth week at Cedarville and I was completely appalled by her complete disregard of the couples were being inappropriate in the dorm.
If you live in Willetts you know that couples who do not live there will come to the dorm to “chill”, because it’s co-Ed.

I was completely embarrassed and infuriated at the fact that she completely ignored the people who were actually making the residents of the dorm uncomfortable, and instead choose to talk to me, the tank-top wearer, (which by-the-way, dress code within the dorm is not discussed at length anywhere). After this incident, I had two other run-ins with this same RA, in both incidences she was extremely rude and demeaning to me over small, accidental dress code mishaps.

RA’s should not hold this type power over other students, especially when they have blatant bias towards their friends and certain rules.

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