I’m writing this letter to the Student Voice in the hopes that parents and prospective students may become more aware of some realities at Pensacola Christian College (PCC) prior to making the important college-choice decision.
I am not writing this letter with any sense of animosity towards PCC, even though our experiences there have been less than satisfactory.
In order that the reader may get a sense of where I am coming from, I want to say that my faith is very important to me, to my wife, and to my family. I’m not a young whippersnapper with a chip on my shoulder. Within the last decade, it has been my privilege to serve on our church board for six years, three of those as chairman. This was in a fundamental Baptist congregation of about 550 people. If I was to be described in a just a few words, those words would be fundamental, conservative, dispensationalist and pre-millennial. I offer that only to help others get a feel that I don’t believe I am a radical, nor am I out to defame a Christian college that has some solid teachers.
My objective in writing this note is simply to inform. What I say here is first hand personal information directly from myself or my daughter. It has been more than a year now since my daughter left PCC. I was angry at her leaving college, especially after having invested both financially and otherwise for three years of a college education that now has an investment value of zero! But I have since given that anger to the Lord, and He has helped me to forgive both my daughter and the college. SO I can write this letter in a calm, and hopefully informative way.
My daughter, whom I will call Rita (not her real name) chose to attend PCC after high school. After looking at some of her alternatives and at the PCC handbook, we went to visit PCC and received a wonderful escorted tour of all the major areas on campus. The young lady who introduced us to the campus was kind, courteous and graceful. We were impressed and knew we had made a good choice – a fine Christian college, a Christian teaching staff, beautiful surroundings, and precisely the course-content Rita was looking for. We did have some concerns about PCC not being accredited, but believed the Christian atmosphere was more than worth the tradeoff: PCC after all was well known, and just being able to say you graduated from Pensacola “Christian” College more than compensated for the lack of accreditation. We were delighted! And especially so since the finances were somewhat more attractive than accredited colleges. What more could we ask for?
Amazingly, it took us three years to learn we could, and should, have asked for a lot more!
At the time Rita attended PCC, a student could accumulate demerit points for rules infractions, with a total of 150 points in a semester being cause for interview and possible expulsion. During her time at PCC, Rita never accumulated more than about 8 to 12 points in any semester. In one semester, she had zero demerit points. She was for all intents and purposes a model student, even though I always felt she could have done better academically if she had pushed herself more.
We were told by others there were a lot of rules at PCC, but every school has rules. And what father would complain about a few rules when his daughter was growing up and leaving home for college? Rules? Why, I thought, that’s great! Keep those guys away from my little girl! I say that as any father would, but also recognize this is the very time when young men and women should be dating in a responsible way and fully expected Rita would meet some fine Christian man. Dating is something PCC prohibits, except in the most archaic way.
We would hear about the rules from Rita from time to time when we would call or visit, (you must wear hose all the time, no wet hair in public, boys and girls in separate elevators, no open-toed shoes, you’re socialed’ (i.e. grounded) for a week, and on and on) from her and from her campus friends, but we failed to see how the rules were chipping away at her and her faith. We understand now why it took us three years to learn we had a big problem. This was exacerbated by the fact we lived more than a thousand miles from Pensacola, and finances dictated a trip there was usually only once per semester, although the phone calls were frequent.
The rules at PCC are everywhere and they are influencing the product the school turns out. That of course, is precisely what PCC wants. There are rules for everything, and they seem to increase exponentially. Every time a rule is violated in some indirect way, it seems a new rule is established to cover a new possibility. In all of this, as a Christian I must ask where is the ‘rule’ of God’s Amazing Grace?
Shortly after Rita began to attend PCC, I was chatting with a pastor we knew giving a family update, and told him our daughter was attending PCC. I told him – rather ignorantly, I now confess – as a father I was pleased they had rules and everyone was treated fairly!
I will never forget his response! “Rules,” he said, “are useful only when grace is absent. Rules guarantee that people will be treated unfairly because you cannot create a rule for every possible eventuality. The only way to treat people fairly is to have a few basic but important rules and then treat each case on its own merits.”
Parent, son, daughter, – potential PCC student: better check out ALL the rules at PCC and be sure you can live with them before you commit! And you’d better also think about the lack of accreditation – what that will mean to your future – (Substitute the word recognition for accreditation, and then think about it).
I had the privilege of sitting in on three classes at PCC. One, a computer course, was taught by a young man who knew a little bit more than nothing about computers. I know, because I build and maintain them. This ‘professor’ was a classic case of the blind leading the blind. He did not know the difference between RAM and ROM, yet was teaching a college-level computer course. All he knew was whatever was on his overheads. The rote memorization of facts is not education!
On the other hand, I sat in on another class in advertising, and this prof was a gem. He clearly knew his stuff, he engaged the class in meaningful dialogue and brought thoughtful understanding to his subject matter.
Every Christian parent has given considerable thought to the dangers of secular education. Especially secular education at the college or university level. “The surest way to kill a Christian,” someone said, “is to send him or her to [secular] university!” That’s why we were so thrilled when Rita chose a Christian College.
So what happened to Rita? Part way through her third year, so just up and left – abandoned everything from the previous years and just left PCC. Walked out!
Was it that she couldn’t take the rules any more? No, that was not it even though the rules were genuinely oppressive and some, in my view, unbiblical. When she left, she only had three demerit points! What really caused our daughter, whom we love more than anything or anyone, to abandon PCC was what I’ll simply call “the Spirit of PCC.” What really hurts is not the fact she left PCC, but the fact she left the Lord Jesus Christ. And PCC, with whom she spent almost three years as a ‘Christian family’ bears some of that responsibility.
Rita said to me, and I quote: “You know, dad, I think I could be a really good Christian, but in order to be a real Christian you have to be sold out to Jesus 100%. He has to be your whole life: you live for Him and do His will. After what I’ve seen at PCC, – the rules, the “court,” the staff bickering, the nonsense of it all, and what really goes on and is just ignored, it’s just not real to these people. So maybe none of this is real. As long as everything looks OK on the outside, that’s what counts to them. Appearance, just appearance, that’s all. I just don’t care anymore. It doesn’t matter what you are like inside, just be sure you dress right, speak properly, keep the rules – just “fit in” and you’ll be a fine Christian. That’s not for me.”
Do I blame PCC for Rita’s decision? Absolutely not! This decision of Rita’s, heartbreaking as it is to our family (and I cannnot begin to tell you just how devastating it is) was her personal decision for which she will have to bear the consequences. Does PCC have any responsibility for a part in her decision? Based on what she told me and what I have observed there personally, I believe they do. Someone described it to me as being like one of those wooden shelves you buy at Home Depot. Looks great on the surface, but underneath there is just wood chips and glue. How I wish we had looked deeper on our first investigation!
A couple of final things…
Don’t necessarily accept the beauty of the campus, the organizational structure (it’s extensive – every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed), the campus growth and expansion, and the appearance of spirituality as a sign of God’s blessing. When money is not a major issue, man can create a very impressive structure. There are many fine Christian colleges that are the recipients of His blessing, and they struggle to survive.
I hope and pray that PCC will recognize it needs to treat young men and women like young men and women, and not like little boys and girls. SOME of the rules are good for grade school, not for college. Dare I say something everyone knows, yes – these young men and women have hormones, and some rules are important, but this is the very time in the lives of these people they are developing relationships, getting an education (unaccredited – again, read unrecognized), and it is proper that they interact with members of the opposite sex in an appropriate way. God designed it that way!
There are some fine people – Christian people – at PCC. If you choose to attend PCC, or have your son or daughter go there, be very sure – as the hymn writer says – be VERY sure your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock! Look at the product the school produces and be VERY SURE you are strong enough to live with “The Spirit of PCC.”
Finally, please pray for Rita.
Submitted sincerely for the information of others. May God guide and direct as you seek the college of His choice for your son or daughter.