I recently visited with a guest to the campus at which I work. He teaches at another college which is known for being conservative. I asked him if he noticed a difference between the students from our two schools, like in the way they dressed, and he quickly responded that there was a marked difference.

Students at his school couldn’t wear jewelry, couldn’t wear tank tops or shorts (unless in the gym, etc.), and couldn’t have bare midriffs. This didn’t surprise me, however what he said next got me to thinking. He went on to describe how last summer, at faculty meetings held before the school year began, the president of the college affirmed these kinds of behavioral standards, but reminded faculty that they were not to confront a student if they saw him/her “breaking” one of these rules. It wasn’t just any faculty member’s business to go around policing just any student. A student may need to be spoken to about a behavioral issue, however a talk like this should always come from a faculty member who had a positive relationship with the student. I suppose we could interpret this as saying that “only a teacher who was in a student’s quality world should talk to or confront that student about a behavioral problem.”

So what should we think about this? I suppose there are two parts of this worth considering. The first part has to do with the rules themselves. Could a school be a Glasser quality school and have a rule not allowing ear rings? Is it possible to be restrictive and still be a choice theory school? The second part has to do with the president wanting only teachers who had good relationships with non-compliant students to talk with them about their non-compliance.


Regarding part one, I think it is possible to have a few restrictive policies and still have a choice theory environment. It would be important to be very up front with a student applying to your school, for instance, about the school’s expectations, and especially about any policy that prohibits a common practice and that would come as a surprise to students. It seems reasonable for a school to explain why they have rule that prohibits students from wearing jewelry; that they are basing this rule on Scripture passages that encourage women to focus on inner beauty rather than on costly external accessories; and that their community expects a no jewelry policy to be in place. Applicants would then be asked if they are ok with not wearing jewelry and asked if they could support this rule.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with jewelry, even though I grew up in a church that made it a club rule not to wear certain kinds of it. (There is joke that you will be able to tell who the Seventh-day Adventists are in heaven because they will have watches in their crowns. SDAs supposedly would never wear anything that was just ornamental, but the watch at least makes the crown functional.) I don’t see wearing jewelry as a moral issue, but an organization could still have such a rule. I have heard that when Disney set up shop in France, Parisians were outraged that Disneyland employees could only wear one ring per hand and one earring per ear. Disney wants their employees to look a certain way and they review all these details during the hiring process.

Regarding part two, I appreciate that the importance of relationships is being emphasized, although it seems that positive relationships between faculty and students could be damaged in this confrontation process. Also, in this set-up it would be easy for a faculty member to assume someone else will talk to the student who knows him/her better than me. I wasn’t at the talk the president gave, but maybe he was trying to emphasize the importance of every faculty member trying to have a positive relationship with every student with which they came in contact.

A choice theory school or home needs organization and structure, which can include specific rules. I think rules should be kept to a minimum, however if we believe a rule is needed we should be up front about why the rule is important and consistently expect students to cooperate with the rule. The important thing is not to get caught up in a power struggle with students. Enforcing rules shouldn’t be seen as a win/lose situation.

As always, I would love to hear what you think about this.


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