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The Midwestern Baptist College Handbook

midwestern baptist college freshman class 1976
1976 Midwestern Baptist College Freshman Class. Polly is the first person on the left in the first row. Bruce is in the third row, eighth person from the left.

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

What follows are some of the 2013-14 rules and regulations for students at  Midwestern Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution. I attended Midwestern and met my wife-to-be there when the campus was located on Golf Drive in Pontiac, Michigan. The school moved several years ago to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. It is a withering ghost of what it was when Polly and I enrolled in 1976. I fully expect to hear of its demise one day. 

I give Midwestern credit for putting most of their rules and regulations out there for all to see. Many Fundamentalist colleges do not make their rules and regulations public. They don’t want to be misunderstood, they tell me. Either that or they know they will not have as many students if they let them know beforehand that they are going to a college that is like a prison. I suspect this is why Midwestern does not make their dating rules available before students arrives on campus. (See The Six Inch Rule.)

The handbook is more complex and lengthy than when Polly and I were students at Midwestern from 1976-1979. It is quite evident from the rules that Fundamentalist girls have really gotten worldly. There are SIX attire rules for men and FIFTEEN for women. Of course, the rules for women are so men won’t lust after them and be forced to masturbate in the dorm shower. Those future preacher-boys must be protected from their sexuality. How will they ever be able to someday preach the IFB moral and purity standard if they couldn’t keep it themselves while at Midwestern? (Oh, the stories I could tell!)

This is not the complete handbook. These are the parts I thought readers might find interesting. I have done some reformatting to make the text suited for the internet.

General Policies

Midwestern Baptist College, as a Christian institution, expects its students to live lives that are above reproach and to exemplify Christian usefulness and kindness in their dealings with their instructors and their fellow students. We believe that Christian young people should manifest loyalty to Jesus Christ by living consecrated Christian lives. Midwestern Baptist College does not permit dancing, the use of tobacco, alcoholic drinks, non prescribed drugs, gambling, obscenity, and other forms of worldly indulgence. Complaining, destructive criticism, and cynical attitudes are not allowed. The college expects the cooperation of all students in respect for and enforcement of the rules and regulations of the college.

Dress and Appearance

Dress standards at Midwestern are based upon the principles of modesty, self-respect, and concern for the reputation of the school. Some principles are spiritual; others are professional. As spiritual and professional leaders in the church, students are expected to set an example. In connection with the following rules and to help the student maintain a well-groomed appearance, all students will be expected to follow a healthy hygiene regimen daily. This includes showering, shaving, brushing teeth, and hair care. Furthermore, students are expected to have all of their clothing maintained in a neat, washed, and pressed condition.

Since fashion continually changes, the appropriateness of trends in both men’s and women’s clothing may be addressed, and the dress code amended during the school year as the need arises. Students are to abide by the dress code at all times, both on campus and in public.

Wearing inappropriate apparel is a demerit offense. Demerits will be assigned in proportion to the offense. Non-dormitory students are expected to follow the same guidelines as dormitory students.

POLICY FOR MEN

Hairstyle: 

Men are to be neat in appearance and dressed properly at all times. The hair is to be cut over the ears and tapered at the back above the collar. Sideburns are to be no lower than the middle of the ear. Hair must be no longer than the middle of the forehead in front. Men may not have facial hair unless approved by the Dean of Students. Such facial hair must be neatly groomed at all times. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.

Attire:

  1. Dress pants may not have patch-pockets or topstitched side-seams. Fatigues, work jeans, sweatpants, and wind-pants are considered athletic and/or work apparel. They are not to be worn on campus other than in the dormitory, in the gym, or to work. Pants with frayed cuffs, tears, or holes are not to be worn.
  2. No recreational pull-overs or jackets are to be worn to church, chapel, library, or classes.
  3. Dress shirts may be long or short sleeved with a collar and must button down the front. The top button must be buttoned when wearing a tie. Shirt-tails are to be tucked in at all times. A tie and suit coat/jacket are required for classes, chapel, and church services. We ask that men wear their suit coat/ jackets until 1:00 PM.
  4. Men must wear a belt with their pants at all times.
  5. Necklaces and bracelets may not be worn by male students unless they are of a mandatory medical nature. Men are not permitted to obtain tattoos while enrolled as a student, or body piercings, or to wear earrings.
  6. No sweatshirt or tee-shirt with inappropriate writing may ever be worn. Sweatshirts may not be worn to classes or church services.

POLICY FOR WOMEN

Hairstyle: 

Hair must be neatly cut, groomed, cleaned, brushed, and styled in such a way that it does not resemble a man’s haircut. Hair should not naturally fall over the face. Unnatural colors are not to be used. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.

Attire: 

  1. Modest apparel must be worn for all occasions.
  2. Dresses or skirts must come to the middle of the knee. When ladies are seated, the knees are to be covered. Dresses or skirts having slits must not be slit above the knee. Dresses worn for formal occasions (i.e. Banquets and concerts) must be approved by the Deans Office at least one week prior to the event. No tight skirts or dresses are permitted. NOTE: A skirt must fall freely from the hips when lifted or it will be considered too tight.
  3. Sleeveless dresses and blouses may not be worn unless a blouse or jacket is worn over them or a blouse under them. Spaghetti strap dresses may not be worn.
  4. Low necklines or backs are forbidden. Generally, necklines should be no lower than three fingers width below the hollow of the neck.
  5. Ladies are not required to wear hosiery and may wear socks. We ask ladies to wear a slip beneath their clothing except when in casual or recreational apparel.
  6. All tops must be long enough that the midriff is never exposed.
  7. All culottes of appropriate length must be approved by the Dean’s Office. These items may only be worn for approved recreational activities or work. NOTE: All items of this sort must come to the middle of the knee.
  8. Jeans, slacks, gauchos, spandex, sweatpants, and capri-pants are considered inappropriate apparel for campus wear.
  9. Undergarments may not be visible through the clothing.
  10. Shoes may not be masculine in appearance. Heels on dress shoes should not exceed 3 inches. No “flip-flops” are to be worn to classes, chapel, or church services.
  11. No recreational pull-overs, denim jackets, or fleeces are to be worn to church, chapel, or classes.
  12. Jewelry, make-up, and fingernails may not be gaudy, faddish, or unnatural in appearance. Earrings may be worn in the lobe of the ear (maximum of two sets). All other body piercing is prohibited. Ladies are not permitted to obtain tattoos.
  13. Garments having the appearance of lingerie may not be worn as outer wear.
  14. Sweatshirts may not be worn to classes or church services. Nice sweatshirts are considered casual wear and athletic sweatshirts are considered recreational dress.
  15. No sweatshirt or ladies tee-shirt with inappropriate writing may ever be worn.

RESTRICTIONS 

All students

  1. Students may not attend any church service other than Shalom Baptist Church without permission.
  2. Students must not patronize a bar, saloon or a place of ill repute.
  3. The College and church offices are not loitering places for students.
  4. The kitchen is not a gathering place for students. Students are not to eat in the kitchen.
  5. Students are not to be in the church auditorium except for services. Practice for special music is to be done in classrooms that have pianos, unless requested by the church staff.
  6. Off campus students must have permission from the Dean of Students to visit the dormitory.
  7. Men may not go to the Women’s quarters for any reason nor Women to the Men’s quarters.

Dormitory Students 

  1. Dormitory students are not allowed beyond an 8-mile radius (without permission).
  2. Dorm students may not visit homes of other students or church members without first an invitation and then permission.
  3. Men and women may not go shopping together unless as double dates.
  4. Any public performance (without permission) is prohibited.
  5. Movie theaters are off limits (no permission granted)
  6. Sports arenas (without permission) are prohibited.
  7. Dorm students may not accept invitations without permission.
  8. The guest rooms are always off limits except when students are cleaning them. Privacy for our guests must be maintained at all times. Ladies may not baby-sit in unsaved person’s homes or where tobacco and alcohol are used. Baby-sitting will be considered work and must be approved by the Dean Office.
  9. Ladies are not allowed to work in any situation where they are not treated with respect by the employer and other workers.

DATING POLICIES

Dating Regulations are available from the Dean of Students. Copies will be explained and distributed to the Dormitory Students during dormitory orientation.

I recently came upon an old Midwestern Baptist College handbook for the 1977-78 school year (our sophomore year). I want to focus on two sections: Maintaining a Christian Testimony and Griping not Tolerated.

Maintaining a Christian Testimony

  1. Midwestern does not permit dancing, the use of tobacco, or alcoholic drinks, dope or harmful drugs, gambling, obscenity, and other such forms or worldly indulgence in which young people so often engage.
  2. It is the conviction of the institution that griping, destructive criticism, and cynical attitudes grieve the Holy Spirit and they are destructive to Christian growth and Christian development. Constructive criticisms which are made to the proper authority will always be appreciated, but griping will not be tolerated. Penalty: 50 demerits
  3. The school expects the cooperation of all students in the development of the respect for and the enforcement of the rules and regulations of the school.
  4. The cooperation of every student is expected in the development of goodwill of the institution throughout the community. Therefore, each student and his family must live above reproach at all times in maintaining the testimony of Christ.
  5. The discipline committee reserves the right to issue demerits for attitudes of disloyalty, destructive criticism, or griping. The committee wishes to work with the student in a fair, helpful manner. Faculty members desired to offer advice when needs and conferences may be requested.

Griping not Tolerated

  1. Any student showing any attitude of complaining about our policies at Midwestern will be dealt with by the administration
  2. Students complaining to faculty or staff about another member of the staff or faculty will be considered out-of-line and shall be dealt with severely.
  3. Students showing a mean, insubordinate attitude toward any faculty or staff member shall be reported to the discipline committee and dealt with severely.
  4. Griping not tolerated about the dress code and standards.
  5. Griping not tolerated about the food served.
  6. Griping not tolerated comparing our school unfavorably with another.

As you can see, Midwestern had a strict policy concerning what the school president Tom Malone and administrators called “griping.” The no-griping law can be summed up this way: shut up and do/believe what you are told. Classic IFB thinking, is it not? We have the right beliefs and practices, and you are expected to happily obey them without deviation or criticism. Don’t do what you are told? You will be dealt with severely. Every year, students were expelled over griping; for daring to have an opinion of their own; for daring to challenge the school’s beliefs and practices. 

Male students who made it to graduation were ordained at nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church — the official Midwestern megachurch, pastored by Tom Malone. Ordination required students swearing before God that they believed and practiced the doctrines and tenets of the IFB faith. Students holding different beliefs would not be ordained. 

Graduates scatted across the United States to start new churches or pastor established congregations, taking four years of indoctrination with them. Is it any surprise, then, that many Midwestern graduates take a “shut up and do/believe what you are told” approach to the ministry? Midwestern was not special in this regard. All of us tend to practice and follow that which we were taught. For Midwestern students, growing up in IFB churches and four years of “shut up and do/believe what you are told ” turned them into psychologically damaged goods; who then, following in the footsteps of their pastors, Tom Malone, and college professors, inflicted psychological damage on their congregations.

This cycle of harm continues unabated unless those involved one day see the error of their ways and consider that there just might be a better way to treat people. Sadly, more than a few of the men I knew when we were students at Midwestern — over forty years ago now — are still faithfully preaching the gospel of “shut up and do/believe what you are told.” Their churches are ruled with rods of iron, with absolutely no griping allowed. Such churches are in decline, but the harm they cause is great, and often multi-generational in scope. One of the reasons for the existence of this site is to help people escape the pernicious hold IFB churches and pastors have on their lives.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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11 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    How lax! Women can wear socks instead of hose! 🙂

    I don’t think I’ve dressed acceptably for them in recent times. Bermuda shorts are my summer staple, and denim or twill pants are my winter staple. Even when I put on a skirt, my standard for a neckline is, does it cover my bra? I’m a big woman, and even with a substantial bra there’s often more than three fingers between my neck and my neckline. Oh, and my favorite foot coverings are sandals. If it gets cold enough to wear shoes, only then will I put on socks. As for hose, that’s what maxi skirts are designed to replace. Maxi skirts with sandals. Wasn’t Jesus into sandals?

  2. Avatar
    Anon

    Please doctor reverend sir can I please go to a sports arena? Are you fucking kidding me? How old are these people? They need permission to wipe their asses too? I don’t understand how an adult would subject themselves to this bullshit. It’s not boot camp.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      When you are indoctrinated in this kind of thinking it seems quite normal. The rules, even though I broke some of them, seemed quite normal to me, not much different from the church I grew up in.

  3. Avatar
    Brian

    Anon, if you had a mere clue of the experience of a child exposed to this on a routine basis, then you would not make the comment, “It’s not a bootcamp.” It is a bootcamp. That you do not see the reality means to me that you did not live anything close to what is being spoken of here. You speak disrespectfully of people who find themselves under this thumb. It is like saying to all of us who know what you do not, Geez, you guys are really stupid. What the fuck is wrong with you people. How old are you anyway!
    My response is above and also: Fuck off, asshole.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I get asked…how come you were so stupid that you stayed with Christianity until you were 50? Usually the person asking the question was not raised in a fundamentalist or a pastor, so I understand their inability to “understand.” When you drink deeply, it courses through every part of your life. I was, in every way, a true blue believer. My counselor has told me several times that it is very rare for someone to walk away like I did at age 50. That’s why some people have a hard time processing it. You understand because you’ve been there. Different circumstances, but same mind killing, soul numbing, life draining religion.

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I have to ask – what in the world happened in the kitchen that caused the administration to ban hanging out there? Did someone get aroused while heating their Hot Pocket?

    This is all about complete and utter control of the students. Take away their rights, most of the choices in what they wear, control their behavior, limit their exposure to outside influences, and punish dissent.

    Bob Jones University used to have their handbook online, and I read it a few years ago. It wasn’t a lot different from this.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Good question. In the dorm, the snack room was right next door to the dorm supervisor’s “apartment.” Not a great place to meet and make-out. ? The laundry room in the dorm basement was another place administrators feared couples would hook-up. Girls had certain days that were reserved for them to do laundry. Of course, out of sight out of mind, couples would meet and “talk.”.?? There were rumors of couples doing a lot more than talking in the laundry room. ?

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Allowing a public reading of such abusive bondage-rules is the very best way to demonstrate how deeply harmful people use the Black Book of Harm to solemnly apply their tortures. What life-crushing ignorance! What utter stupidity. It always shocks me to look at stuff like this and to know how I struggled to comply. Hurt me Jesus! Destroy me God!
    Shit-show…

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Pensacola Christian College is one of the worst. They give students A rule book before they arrive, but wait until students are on campus to give them a comprehensive rule book. It’s almost impossible to get a copy of the latter. If anyone has a copy, I’d sure like to see it so I can share on this site. ?

  6. Avatar
    Caroline

    My daughter graduated last May from the first established women’s college in the US in a very liberal state.. It has the word ‘holy’ in its name, but has no religious affiliation. It’s just what you would imagine a women’s college is like – full of outspoken, high-achieving women who don’t believe that men are superior to them. She’s a grad student this year in a large city. Her closest friend this year is a young woman from a southern state who went to a Christian college (although she sounds pretty liberal to me, and I don’t think the college was as intense as what you’re describing). When they were talking about their college experiences my daughter’s new friend heard the word ‘holy’ in the school’s name and assumed that she too had gone to a religious school. Oh what fun it was to describe to her new friend how very opposite their college experiences likely were. It also turns out that there was a lot of un-Christian stuff happening at the new friend’s school. I’m the product of a very evil state college system also in the 70’s so I felt like I had gone to college on another planet compared to the experiences of my daughter and her new friend. So funny and interesting, although every time I read something here I’m very grateful that I didn’t live the suffocating religious life you describe, especially as a woman.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You said, “It also turns out that there was a lot of un-Christian stuff happening at the new friend’s school.” Yep. I seem to be one of the few former Midwestern students willing to talk about what really went on behind closed doors. I know of several pastors who rage against premarital sex from the pulpit, yet I distinctly remember that they didn’t walk down the marriage aisle virgins. There was plenty of “sinful” sexual activity going on at Midwestern –in out of the way corners of the dorm, in cars, on dates, and in motel rooms. Polly and I were married in the summer of 1978. Affordable apartments were hard to come by, so the school permitted engaged couples to rent apartments months before they were married. As you might expect, some of these apartments turned into shagging pads. 🙂 Pent up sexual desire, hormones, and sexual frustration met opportunity. The results were not surprising. I just wish that Midwestern grads would be honest about their experiences, and stop laying guilt trips on people who are just behaving as normal, healthy people do. I know, I know, the Bible says . . . 🙂

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