An open letter to FHU President Dr. Joe 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.