An open letter to FHU President Dr. Joe Wiley

Dr. Wiley,

As an alumnus of Freed-Hardeman University (B.B.A., May 05′), I am writing you today to express my concern over a recent decision made by the university supposedly in the interest of protecting the hearts and minds of students at FHU.

Freed-Hardeman University educates young adults in a system where faith plays a significant role in the day-to-day curriculum. The goals of FHU are made clear on the History and Mission portion of the website where we read that,

“Freed-Hardeman University will be the preferred academic community for students who seek to grow in faith, knowledge, and service in a changing world.”

A lofty goal, no doubt, considering the competition. I want FHU to be the best academic of the Christian universities in the nation. This is a mission I want to support, mainly because I hold a degree from FHU. Yet I cannot begin to understand why FHU continues to make this such a difficult thing to do.

Earlier this week, a mother connected to FHU announced via blog post that university Cheerleaders would be wearing pants next year. This appears to be a decision that originated with you, Dr. Wiley. That may not be the case, but as the public face of the university you need to respond.

I am interested to hear how this action serves to spread the message of Jesus, the son of God, Messiah to the nations, as Christians are called to do. How does requiring women to wear long pants while cheering for university sports teams promote the message of Jesus’ love and salvation? Exactly where does this fit in with “teaching students to become effective citizens of the local and world communities.”  This is the opposite of teaching students to be effective citizens. This does not encourage an open and honest discourse about the direction FHU is taking. What does this accomplish for His kingdom?

I understand the desire for men and women to dress appropriately. Modesty is a worthy goal of Christians, without question. However, it is incredibly hypocritical to mandate that Cheerleaders wear pants if Women’s Volleyball players will continue wear spandex some form-fitting fabric shorts. Or should we expect Men’s and Women’s Soccer to be wearing pants on the field next year? What about Men’s and Women’s Basketball? Will the Men’s Baseball and Women’s Softball teams be required to wear loose-fitting uniforms on the field? Will the FHU Cross-Country teams be required to run fully covered? Will fans at athletic events be turned away if their clothing is deemed immodest? Who will serve as the modesty police? Should we expect new dress code rules for men and women in the gymnasiums while working out, running, etc? The elimination of shorts or skirts on campus? If we are going to interpret the scripture literally as it relates to modesty (mainly 1 Timothy 2:9-10), should we expect a ban on gold jewelry, pearls, designer clothes and braided hair?

If all of these considerations sound absurd, it’s because they are absurd.

We live in an open society. That sometimes means individual preferences are ignored and we move on through this world together. In this case, a small (yet vocal) group of people sought to change something that didn’t need changing. This is the wrong direction for FHU, especially with the documented decline in young people maintaining any commitment to the church or a personal faith.

The mission of Freed-Hardeman University should be, above all things, to prepare the young men and women educated within those walls to enter the world ready for the challenges ahead. They should be well-prepared for academic, cultural, social, economic, and other challenges specifically related to the realities of living in a world where not everyone believes the same thing. Freed-Hardeman University is not the church, but exists to “serve the church and society.” It is a place where critical thinking and open discourse should be encouraged, even if within the confines of a faith-based dialogue. This is not serving society, and it certainly will not serve Freed-Hardeman students well.

I hope you will reconsider this change in policy. We do live in a constantly changing world. For students seeking a place to “grow in faith, knowledge, and service in a changing world,” this works in opposition of that vision.

This is not growth, but essentially a circling of the wagons. That’s not the message of Jesus. It shouldn’t be the message of FHU, a place that aspires to educate young Christians and send them out into the world to live lives that reflect Jesus.


Wes Hartline


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19 responses to “An open letter to FHU President Dr. Joe Wiley”

  1. Liz says :

    Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the skirts that the cheerleaders are currently wearing actually go against the dress code. They could have gone with shorts, of course, but for whatever reason, they chose pants! Freed doesn’t want to look hypocritical by allowing something that is against the dress code that was already laid down.

    • Wes Hartline says :

      Liz, that’s a fair point. Do any of the uniforms (tennis, volleyball, soccer, etc) meet the codes? I don’t think so. It’s disingenuous to pick and choose which uniforms don’t meet a standard and ignore the rest, especially if it happens to be male/female.

  2. Kristen says :

    Modesty is a huge problem in our culture and the importance of being a light in this dark world is great. By setting ourself apart in the way we dress, we will be different – but that difference will allow others to see Jesus in us. If we are not willing to guard our hearts and minds, how can we be a light to others?

    I am thankful for Dr. Wiley’s decision and I hope there will be more decisions like this in the future. However, it won’t happen overnight. If we are positive and support this decision, more will hopefully follow. I don’t think that complaining and attacking the decisions at FHU will allow for that.

    • Steve says :

      I don’t think the difference of wearing shorts vs. pants is going to be the cause of others to see Jesus in our cheerleading squad. How about we focus on our conduct and our own spirituality, seeing is that is what Jesus CONSTANTLY preached in his time on the earth.

      “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

      I wonder how much love for one another is being displayed during this situation. From what I’ve observed, not much. And yet we’re worried about the length of skirts being “Un-Christian”…

  3. Karrie says :

    Thank you for your comments. I was very concerned about some students while I was at Freed. If sheltered students can get bent out of shape over something like the length of a cheerleader’s skirt, how are they supposed to handle the world when they begin their careers and deal with co-workers or make friends outside of church? Some students have a hard time adapting to a workplace where explicatives fly and people are sexually promiscuous. Or are they supposed to set their foot down and tell the world how inappropriate they are? That’s how you really win people over with the gospel. *note sarcasm*
    The real issue isn’t about modesty so much as it legalism. The atmosphere of FHU unintentionally can turn students into modern day Pharisees.

    • Chase Turner says :

      It seems as though there is a great deal of concern to make sure FHU is as similar to the secular universities around them as possible. I agree it will be difficult for some students to leave FHU and face the “real world” because of lack of exposure to worldly things. However, as a Christian university, I think FHU has a responsibility to expose them to as little worldliness as possible while they are there. People who choose to home school their children (like I plan to do) have less and less faith in sending our children to a Christian university like FHU because of the moral decline that has taken place over the last several years. Isn’t that why people send kids to FHU, to recieve a “Christian education”? I graduated from Freed several years ago and saw several people become Christians while they were attending this university. I don’t believe it happened because of an overwhelming exposure to worldly things. It may not be because, at that time, the school seemed to enforce more strictly the rules they had in their handbook, although that didn’t hurt. What’s the point in having any rules if they aren’t going to be followed? The issue behind the article posted related to the cheer pants was not condemning of anyone, however, it was an attempt to promote possitivity in enforcing rules that were not being forced. I agree with the many who have mentioned the need to enforce these rules to the other groups who may not be abiding by them as well. I do hope the rest of the rules (not just clothing related) will also be enforced. I don’t think we should attack Dr. Wiley for attempting something positive because he wasn’t attacking anyone with what he is doing.

      • Karrie says :

        I apologize if I sounded like I was attacking Dr. Wiley or Freed-Hardeman. FHU was my first home and family, and Dr. Wiley was not President while I attended. I have heard about some of the good things he has done.
        Actually, the hyper-sensitivity seem to come from the student body while I was there. And it seemed to grow and feed off itself. I remember I had a roommate once that was telling me she was getting her hair done by a homosexual man. She made some rather snide remarks to him and seemed proud about it as she was telling me this. I was very disgusted with her. He was not living a Godly life, and he needed God in his life. But her snotty attitude toward him would turn off anyone to the idea of being a Christian.
        I think Freed is a great place to develop faith, but in some ways can cause one to develop an immature/weak faith.

  4. Beth says :

    I would like to comment since I was a cheerleader being referred to in the woman’s blog and a coach of the cheerleaders after that. Never once did I feel that we were misrepresenting Christ in the way we acted or dressed. In fact, we did service projects in the community, had our own devos, and purposely wore shorts (in dress code) under our skirts. So, yes, her blog did attack me. And it attacked those I cheered with and the girls I coached.

    If FHU wants to require pants, that’s fine. But saying that those in the past were “scantily clad” (seriously, who talks like that anymore…) and weren’t representing Christ is wrong and it doesn’t build anyone up. I am so tired of Christians using God’s word to condemn other Christians in a hateful and passive aggressive way.

    Believe me…I think modesty is important but I don’t think this was the way to approach the issue. I just want FHU to be a place about showing God’s love and bringing other to Him…not pointing fingers and placing blame.

    (Side note and completely unrelated: Wearing pants when cheerleading, tumbling, and stunting is actually dangerous. Unless the pants are skin tight…which would probably start a whole new uproar.)

    • Concerned Alum says :

      There are plenty of uniforms that are worn which violate the dress code, namely volleyball, women’s soccer, and extremely tight softball pants. I never believed the cheerleaders skirts were too short. In fact, I’ve never seen cheer skirts as long as the ones that the cheerleaders wore at Freed. I think too many times at Freed people focus on the outward appearance and judge others when they have no idea who the person is or what they represent with their life. People need to stop being so judgemental.

    • Chase Turner says :

      Beth, I apologize if you felt attacked by the blog that was written. I did not read the blog. All I had read was that Dr. Wiley was enforcing a dress code issue because (apparently) the skirts were getting too short. I haven’t seen the short skirts because I don’t live in TN anymore. If the outfits meet regulations, I’m all for letting them wear them. IF they do not, then anything that modifies them to meet those standards would be fine in my opinion. I can imagine pants would make it less comfortable and perhaps dangerous as you mention. My comments were not meant to offend or attack anyone. I would like us all to keep the conversation positive and encouraging. I think it would be appropriate for someone to make a suggestion to Dr. Wiley about another way to meet the dress code standards, perhaps other than the pants if that would be a cause of danger to the cheerleaders.

    • Tammy says :

      Thank you,Beth, for your response. My precious daughter had the privilege of cheering under your instruction. I love and appreciate you, even though I only met you once. Upon reading the woman’s blog, my daughter also felt attacked and wrongly accused.
      I wish that FHU would see the overall situation: We are called to be the Light of the World. How will we ever be viewed as such if we don’t stop with the criticizing and biting comments. The world is looking for Jesus and we just keep getting in the way.
      I love Freed and am an alum. Hopefully they will learn to speak the language of their mission field (the world).

  5. Susan says :

    I agree with everything you have to say except that you are misinformed on volleyball. They do not play in spandex. This is where many people get in trouble at the university; they assume things that are not so, or they go by what other people have claimed to be so. If they went to the matches, they would know that they do not play in spandex shorts. Everything else you have to say is right on point.

    • Wes Hartline says :


      I should clarify that I haven’t seen an FHU Volleyball game since my senior year at FHU (2004-05). I can’t speak to which fabrics they use today (or even then for that matter). If we can put aside which fabric makes up the Women’s Volleyball uniforms, the question is whether or not they meet the dress code guidelines for FHU students and modesty. Better yet, should they be required to meet that standard? If modesty is the goal, then requiring everyone to be fully clothed, all the time might seem the most modest of all possible outcomes.

      I don’t think it matters one way or another what the athletes at FHU wear when they compete. But I do think singling out one particular group does matter.

    • Actually says :

      They do not play in spandex shorts, however their shorts are not long enough to be considered appropriate for the length required in the dress code. I know this for a fact, because I was friends with several volleyball players and went to matches. They can’t wear basketball shorts, because that would hinder their movement on the court which would prevent them from being able to compete.

      • Proud of This Change! says :

        Hmm… Then why isn’t it a problem for basketball players to wear basketball shorts? They move even more than volleyball players and don’t seem to be hindered…?

  6. Meghan says :

    Wes this is great. You are so articulate and the points that you made are spot on. Thanks for sharing and bravo.

  7. Wes Hartline says :

    I’ve updated this to show that the Women’s Volleyball team apparently does not wear spandex, but some other form-fitting fabric that doesn’t meet the dress code requirements (which was not the purpose of the article but nonetheless became a sticking point for some readers).

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