Living in a structurally regulated Christian environment can cause an occupant to sacrifice freedoms for a relationship-dense community.
The kind of housing that Azusa Pacific provides is foundationally based upon intentional close proximity and a community fostered through consistent, daily interaction. Very little can be said against the mandatory on-campus residence in which freshman partake. Without this integration, a void would take the place of a healthy collegiate first year.
“I think living in close quarters is crucial to a community built on grace and love,” said Smith Hall community adviser Bryan Muirhead. “We’re living in the smallest dorm, with about 170 guys. This forces you to see faces every day. This forces you to consider leaving your door open more often than closed. Granted, close proximity isn’t the only catalyst for such community, but it certainly does help in the process.”
Dorm life blesses students with expedited social development, the discovery of personal boundaries and the realization that a theological discussion that lasts until the small hours of the night is more important than a reading quiz the next morning.
For younger students, the submission to opposite sex curfew hours, safety checks, strict wall decoration rules and essentially a modified freedom within a living environment is a small price to pay when the big picture of development is highlighted.
“It’s important for students to live on campus because they begin to get a sense of diversity and what it looks like to be uncomfortable, in a sense,” Muirhead said. “All the preconceived notions of what it meant to be ‘friends’ in high school has changed. Lives change when you start living with someone you have never met. Lives change when you say yes to a community bigger than yourself that is built on different life experiences.”
As students progresses into the next few years of their college career, they will begin to experience greater strain on their acceptance of the university housing system.
Trouble starts to arise when the morality constitution that has been mapped out for students by the APU codes and conduct becomes oppressive and begins to stunt the growth it once encouraged. While it is undisputed that, as a Christian school, Azusa Pacific strives to present a morally biblical image that is directly reflected in the behavior of students, there is also a threshold that individuals need to cross on their own.
The freedom to have the opposite sex in a house after 12 a.m. will not necessarily increase a temptation, just as an open space for consuming alcohol will not thrust an open beer bottle into the hand of a minor. What makes this opportunity for “misconduct” so imperative for growth is simply the ability to choose, and to deal with the consequences as an adult. It would be juvenile to believe that morally questionable conduct does not occur in on-campus housing, but when the fear of being chastised by an RA or written up by an authority figure is removed, the character of an individual is revealed, for better or worse.
“If I am of age and I want to have a glass of wine in the comfort of my own home or if we want to drink sangria while watching ‘The Bachelor,’ I do not want to have to worry about it,” said senior sociology major Isabella Silva.
“If we are of age, we should have the opportunity to make our own choices,” Silva added.
A lack of restrictions comes with responsibility and personal discernment, yet alcohol is by no means the only challenge of the freedom granted by off-campus living.
“It has forced me to become more deliberate when it comes to investing in the ones I love,” Silva says. “I’m having more meaningful conversations since I don’t have the ultimate convenience of dorm life, where I could just walk downstairs or knock on doors when I wanted to talk. That is huge for me, especially for my senior year.”
Outside of the issue of controlled substances, men and women who live off-campus get a glimpse of how much more difficult it is to keep in touch with friends who are no longer a 30-second walk away. Friends will fall away as a clear picture of which relationships will last after college begins to appear. This article is not meant to infringe upon your perception of community or cause you to become cynical when it comes to your friendships.
Instead, view it as an inside look from someone who has been away from campus for more than a year and is just now realizing the truth behind the influence of housing. As you grow older, the distance of off-campus housing will ultimately separate your buddies from your brothers and your sisters from your schoolmates.