A bit on my time at Pensacola Christian College. PCC is a small Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) college. Though for an IFB college they are rather large. They advertise often as being non-denominational, but their history and beliefs line up with the IFB.
Why did I attend, and how in the world had I even heard about it? I had seen a number of promotional materials for the college. Most of my homeschool materials came from Abeka. Their promotional singers (Proclaim Ministry Team) had come to visit my church at one point. And my junior year of high school I even went to tour the college.
Abeka was founded as a fundamentalist textbook company for Christian schools and homeschoolers.
In 1954, Dr. Arlin Horton and his wife, Beka, started a Christian school in Pensacola, Florida. But they soon discovered a problem. Textbooks and curriculum based on biblical educational philosophy were starting to disappear. Burdened to give their students the best education possible, they stood in the gap and began producing their own materials. When administrators and teachers from other Christian schools saw how these materials could help their students and asked if they could buy these materials, A Beka Book was born.https://www.abeka.com/AbekaDifference.aspx
Arlin and Beka then went on to found an institution of higher learning: Pensacola Christian College.
When I attended the college they reportedly used income from the the Abeka book curriculum sales to help supplement costs for the college making it a very enticing offer. When I initially enrolled it was around 8,000 a year to attend. This included room and board for students. They also had an offer that your last year would be “free.” Or in all practical terms $7,500 towards your last year of college. The college also had a work program to help supplement costs as well.
As for beliefs from a cursory glace they seemed to match up with what I was taught about as a kid. The only main thing that seemed to stand out was their belief that the KJV was the most accurate translation of scripture. They believed in a young earth – literal six day creation, verbally inspired word of g-d, the trinity, pre-tribulation rapture of the saints, and many more.
I had heard my family talk often on how “liberal universities” would lead me away from g-d. How they would mock me for my religious views and tear my faith down. If you want an idea of what my mentality of a “secular” college would look like, watch the movie “God’s Not Dead.” The portrayal of the atheist professor was exactly my mental picture of “secular college” at the time. (I’m not at all arguing for the theology or actions of the main character in the movie. In fact I find the movie a sad satirical comedy at this point in my life.)
My mom was a heavy proponent of “Christian College” as she had several poor experiences with one of her psychology professors at her time at college. She withdrew and eventually attended a small missions focused bible college (were she met my dad). I know there was a lot more to it than that, but suffice to say she was not a proponent of modern college living.
When I visited the college I found a welcoming student body. And I had many good experiences during the week were students took time to talk often with me. So I applied during my visit there, thinking I could always withdrawal if I found a different college my senior year. I will given PCC one thing. Their “college days” format works well, and allowing a student to live in the dorms for two days creates a connection to the college.
I toured several other campuses, but found them large and overwhelming. I was homeschooled my whole life, and I grew up in a small rural community. The large campus and student body of Liberty University was overpowering and I felt lost. Cedarville University was smaller, but I never felt any connection to the place. And it was a lot more expensive than PCC.
If you are noticing a similar trend among the colleges I toured it should be that they all have strong “christian” conservative baptist roots or affiliations. As a side note I will add that they now they all share some type of sex scandal. (PCC’s came out while I was attending the college I might add.) Most of the time Liberty makes it into the news it’s because of something Jerry Fallwell Jr. has done or said. But unfortunately Cedarville‘s and PCC’s scandals involve sexual abuse.
They all also heavily support the use of religion in government. And would be all grouped together under the “religious right” as I now call it. A movement of evangelicals that support the use of religion in politics to further their own causes. If you don’t believe me search “trump and Liberty university” on google. The other may take a bit more looking, but I can point you in that direction for PCC.
“Indeed, the Moral Majority, led by Falwell and other venerable Christian leaders, was central to placing Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980.… At the time, Falwell gave a rousing call to arms: “What is wrong in America today?” he asked. “We preachers—and there are 340,000 of us who pastor churches—we hold the nation in our hand. And I say this to every preacher: We are going to stand accountable before God if we do not stand up and be counted.” Falwell’s words ring no less true today.…Christians, in fast-growing numbers, are beginning to say, “Not on our watch.”PCC Fall Update 2011 – “Onward Christian Soldiers”
Enough on that rabbit trail. These are all ideologies I was taught as a kid. Minus the sex scandals of course. And I felt like I could do well in a college environment that believed that same as me.
So I went forward with my decision to go to PCC. One of the things that I never experienced as a visitor became apparent the moment I received the moment I got the pre-college materials from the college. The college had a lot of rules. The ones that stood out to me at the time were the rules no video games and clothes.
I was going to Florida the “sunshine state.” So I would be mostly packing shorts and tees, right? Well I was dead wrong. Men were to wear what I would have considered dress clothes at all times. All the jokes I got about “getting all that Florida sun” when I came back on breaks fell on deaf ears.
- Day to day attire was
- Long casual/dress pants and belt
- Collared shirt
- Shoes and socks (no sandals)
- Church Attire was
- Complementary long dress pants and belt
- Dress shirt and conservative tie (top shirt button buttoned and tie pulled tight)
- Dress shoes and dress socks
Women had it worse. Dresses or skirts with a length that came to the knee at all times. Pants or shorts were never an option. And “no hint” of cleavage on any shirt or dress.
Video games, movies, and music were also restricted. As for music pretty much anything that wasn’t classical or instrumental only (no guitars or drums though) wasn’t allowed. Movies were expressly forbidden. Video games were limited to E-10 and under. Video games were my life at the time so this came as a bit of a blow to me.
I pushes my worries aside, packed up, and started my life at PCC. I initially had a bit of a rocky adjustment. But eventually I was able to settle into a routine. After I learned all the rules of course.
What wasn’t clear to me on my first read of the “Pathway” was how segregated by sex the college was. I was expecting separate dorm rooms. But I didn’t realize that there were a lot of rules regarding interaction with the opposite sex.
You could only “hang out” with a member of the opposite sex in an area that was considered to be chaperoned. Initially this only included one area of campus – the commons area. With an ever vigilant chaperone patrolling the area. But they did expand this area to be a bit larger towards 2013-2014.
Women and men had their own elevators and stairwells in every building, and as I discovered embarrassingly as a freshman it was not accepted to use the “women’s” stairwell. Men and women could attend classes together, but you couldn’t linger together after class in an academic building. We also had separate parking lots, gyms, and sports fields. And of course separate swimming facilities. Tisk, tisk don’t you ever dream of seeing a woman in a one piece swim suit (they weren’t allowed two piece suits).
Touch with a member of the opposite sex was expressly forbidden. Even normal casual contact like a high five or handshake could get you in trouble. And any “sexual” contact such as a hug or kiss could result in expulsion.
In every way the college treated you as if you were a child and PCC the authoritative parent. Every teacher and person in authority was to be referred to as Mr. Mrs. Dr. Lastname and so forth. No first names were to be used, and reverence and respect were expected.
Students were required to attend classes under heavy penalty. If happened to miss more classes than the allotted number (one skip per credit hour if I recall correctly) you would automatically drop a letter grade (regardless of your actual in-class grade). Attendance was also required for any student activities such as class meetings, student body gatherings, and collegian events (PCC’s version of sorority groups).
Religious events were also mandatory. And yes there were a lot of them. Sunday there would be at least three services you were required to attend. I should note that when I say attend; attendance was often counted. By use of slips or cards that you had to hand in at the beginning of the event.
The first service on Sunday would be Sunday school which I believe started around 0950. Sunday school was segregated and most college students were not allowed to chose which on campus Sunday school to attend. After that, Sunday morning service would start some time just after 10am in the Crown Center. You were not allowed to attend any other church service other than the service offered at “The campus Church.” After that there would occasionally (normally once a month) be a vespers service around 2-3pm. PCC’s version of vespers was a biblical play or allegory centered around song. Then at 7pm the evening service would begin. Once again this was not an optional service.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday all had mandatory chapel services. 95% of these would just be a 30-40 minute sermon. The other 5% would be various announcements and political speeches. At the end of the day we would also have prayer time 10:30pm for about 15-20min. With most “prayer groups” sharing things to pray for then going around in prayer. This was a required event and attendance was taken each night.
Oh look you missed two days – Wednesday and Saturday! Nope, we also had church on Wednesday night. But we did get a day off of prayer group on Wed. Wednesday night service would have been from 7-8pm. Saturday was our only truly “free” day; with no required services, chapel, or prayer group on Saturday.
Another way students were treated like children were the mandatory in dorm times and then “lights out” times. You were mandated to be in the dorms by 10:25 pm. If you remember from my previous paragraph prayer group was 10:30 pm – 10:45 pm. Then after that you had to be back to your own room by 11:00 pm. With a residence assistant (RA) checking in your room to see if you were in bed with the lights off at 11:15 pm. After that time you were not allowed out of bed. You would be given demerits if you were not in any of those places at the assigned times.
The Demerit system was the way the college would discipline their students. Minor rules that were broken were allotted a single warning. After that point you had to attend “student court” and receive your demerits. Yes, you had to walk up to a group of old men and apologize and receive your punishment. You couldn’t not attend or “student life” would increase the number of demerits recieved.
“Student life” or a “RA” had the ability to enter your dorm room at any time. And they also had the “right” to look through your belongings, computers, or phones if they suspected you had something that violated the “code of conduct.”
“Students are prohibited from electronic content rated teen, mature, or adult, and any content regardless of rating containing graphic violence, sensual or demonic themes, suggestive dress, foul language, or gambling. PCC reserves the right to check any electronic device if it is reported or suspected that e-mail messages, file or media may be in violation of the policies and standards of the College. Devices may not be used to watch movies or TV.”PCC Pathway 2013-14
If you are interested in the specifics, just take a look at the attached file. It’s the Pathway. The student rulebook for one of the years I attended. This one is 2013-2014 so some of the rules may have changed since.
The college also regulated your off campus life as well. You were required to check in and out as you left campus. And women were only allowed to go off campus in groups of two or more “for their safety.” Men and women were never allowed to be off together in “mixed groups.” And in fact many college students would intentionally ignore the other sex off campus as to not get in trouble with the college. Any interaction with the opposite sex off campus would result in immediate expulsion.
After I settled in I pretty well faithfully followed the rules till around summer 2014 (in between my Junior and Senior Years of College). It didn’t help that me and my wife had been engaged for a year at that point. And we both spent our summers working at the college. I worked as “dinning services” and she worked as a housekeeper. We were cooped up and wanted a break; so we snuck off in the chaos of the last day of college (Junior year). Driving all the way to Mobile AL to get away from prying eyes. You can read how that story went in my purity culture post.
Anytime I open up about my college I get questions as to why we didn’t leave at that point. When it started to feel like the rulers and legalism were getting overwhelming. Well a number of reasons. The college was unaccredited so all of our credits wouldn’t have transferred to another college. They claim accreditation now but the accrediting body is a Christian focused group (TRACS), and you still may have issues with transferring to a non-Christian college.
Also our college year that was upcoming was our “free year” so between our summer work and our $7,500 scholarship we wouldn’t have had to pay in any additional money. In fact if I recall correctly the college owed us $200-300 after graduation. An odd tidbit about the “work program” you were never granted any of the money you made during the year (minimum wage of course). It was put towards your next years school fees.
Her parents were also very manipulative regarding the wedding that “we” were planning. I say that sarcastically because in all reality her parents planned every detail of the wedding. They would have been devastated to learn that we eloped and “threw away” their gift of paying for our wedding. She would have also never been allowed to leave her house if she wasn’t married. Yes, I know this is ridiculous, but we had asked at one point if she could live in MI before our wedding for a few months. And we received a hard “NO” to that. So we felt compelled to oblige her parents. As in this particular mindset you are to always “respect your parents.”
So we powered through our senior year. Honestly, we were both in a lot of misery. But we unfortunately took it out on each other. She was in a lot of pain related to her history of sexual abuse, but she had no outlet for it. The college claimed to offer counseling, but the college was notorious for victim blaming during those very same counseling sessions. We fought and suffered on in misery. Following enough rules to get by, but not going above and beyond to hold ourselves to the college’s standards. I already linked it early, but if you are reading this first go back and read my purity culture post. As that is where the story continues.
I would honestly advise anyone looking at PCC to consider another college. They look opening and friendly, but in order to receive that open friendship there are a lot of rules and standards you have to keep. I would even go as far as to call it cult-like. If you think I’m being drastic look at the BITE model. PCC fits all aspects of the model. I’ll have to make that a separate post as I feel I’ve rambled on long enough anyway.