Tuesday, September 4, 2007

MAJOR change of plans

Current mood: relieved

I posted this on my Facebook profile first, so if you read it there, save youself some time!

I decided I better get this written to give an update on my always eventful life and offer an explanation for my recent bulletins like "looking for legal advice."

For starters, yes it's true; I am all but officially withdrawn from BYU-Idaho and I have transferred back to Kent State. This has all transpired in the last 2-3 weeks, so it's been somewhat emotional and VERY stressful. While this was really developing, I was house-sitting for a family in Cleveland Heights (which I really enjoyed). Basically, I have left BYU-Idaho over a major dispute involving where I was supposed to live while I student taught in Taylorsville, Utah this fall. This is much more than a case of "not getting my way" but more a case of not being treated fairly (married students do not have to get permission to live in housing of their choice) and respectfully.

BYU-Idaho's housing policy states that all single (unmarried) students must live in "approved" housing until the age of 30. In Rexburg this isn't a big deal since all the housing near campus is "approved" anyway, plus there are several complexes to choose from (like 40-50). In my student teahing case, though, we were given one choice (a complex in Draper, Utah) and were told because of numbers we'd be sharing rooms. First, I have my own room at home and have had my own room in each apartment I've lived in at BYU-Idaho. I'm someone who needs my space and a place I can collect my thoughts and relax in peace. It's just the way I am. Somehow I made it though my mission sharing a room and being "attached" to someone 24/7, but I couldn't wait for the day I could have some alone time again. In addition, the distance between Draper, Utah and my school in Taylorsville is 14 miles. While that may not seem like much, anyone who's lived in the Salt Lake area knows that the commute can cause 14 miles to take near an hour. With the price of gas on top of the fact that I wouldn't be able to work while student teaching added to my desire to find alternate housing.

I started looking for my own apartment in April after finding out my school assignment and the fact that I wouldn't be able to have my own room in the "approved" housing. I found a place just two blocks from my school that had everything I needed: my own room, furnished, washer & dryer, and Internet, plus it was rented by a member of the Church and was rented only to guys. I filled out the exception form and sent it in around July 17. The initial denial was somewhat of a surprise, though I kind of expected it. When I first started exploring the possibility of finding my own housing, I was told they didn't "approve many exceptions." Going into this I figured since this was in Salt Lake and not Rexburg, plus the fact that not all distant-site student teaching sites have "approved" housing available that getting an exception wouldn't be a problem. I was wrong.

From the first denial (August 8th) I was met with a series of cop-outs and fingerpointing. The office of Continuing Education, who oversees distant-site student teaching, claimed they were just following procedure (it was "out of their hands") and that the housing department is who I need to talk with. I spoke with the director two days later and she was one of the most condescending people I have ever spoken to. She basically said the same thing "that's the rules" and she was just following the rules and I'd have to talk to someone higher. At this point I was pretty frustrated. I had been treated like a child in talking to her and as soon as I became more assertive in my tone, she said "I'm not going to talk to you while you're hollering at me." After working at Geauga Lake for two years, I know what it's like to really be yelled at by someone who is irate, and trust me, I wasn't yelling or "hollering." I had a similar experience near the end of this fiasco when I spoke with the secretary to the University President after he denied my request too. Condescending, no logical explanation as to why following the policy would benefit me in ANY way, and as soon as I got assertive in my tone I needed to "calm down" (I told her that telling me to calm down "wasn't helping" and that "I could be ballistic right now").

Anyway, so after speaking with housing I filed a discrimination grievance against housing and the university. I was being discriminated against because of my marital status. This was responded to by the Vice President of Academic affairs. His response was probably the closest to being logical, but still wasn't quite there. Basically, they needed more "compelling" arguments to allow an exception. Me being an experienced 25 year old adult, saving gas and time by living closer, having my own room, etc. weren't "valid" reasons. I ended up saying that I had already laid my case out twice to Continuing Ed (initial request) and in my grievance, plus if I were married I wouldn't have to do ANY of this. His response was another denial, but he made it sound like he sent it back to Continuing Ed and they denied it again (which made me laugh because when they first told me it was denied and I called about it, they made it sound like they would've approved it but Housing said no). Continuing Ed made it sound like the Vice President denied it in e-mail I got the next day. I also started looking into legal avenues I may have had, but those proved to be for nothing since BYU-Idaho is a private school.

At this point I mounted my last effort, but I had little faith that the President of the University would overrule his associates. To his credit, he did respond the next day via his secretary, but as I already mentioned, things went pretty much as expected from that point. I had hoped his 35 years of being at Harvard would influence him on my behalf in understanding that the policy itself was not helping me, but alas, it didn't. Before this final denial came I had started talking to KSU about transferring back.

Only since late last Monday (Aug 27) did I make a final decision to transfer after meeting with KSU reps. The sad truth is that Kent State has treated me WAY better and much more like an adult than BYU-Idaho did. How sad but true: the heathen liberal public school with 36,000 students treats me better than the smaller church school. Basically I will change my major to a BA in Music (instead of Music Ed) and then I'll go into the Master of Arts in Teaching program so I'll student teach as a grad student. This way I'll be in school a little while longer, but I'll finish with a Masters Degree (which I really need anyway) and still be licensed to teach in Ohio.

I seriously debated whether I should just "bite the bullet" and get my student teaching over with. Believe me, I had some pressure from certain family members to do just that on top of my own thoughts. As much as anyone, I just want to graduate and get on with my life. But in the end, I decided to transfer back because not doing so would undermine all that I did the last two weeks and everything I stood up for. This was more than just not getting what I wanted. I was treated like a child and was also not given any logical explanations about the housing policy purely because I am not married. How can that be justified in any way? Out in Rexburg and many parts of the west (like Utah), people don't regard you as an adult until you get married no matter how old you are. It has nothing to do with LDS (Mormon) doctrine, but is in fact a carryover of the 19th century American culture brought to the west by the early LDS pioneers. Living in relative isolation for generations, most of these traditions have become associated with the Church and with Mormon beliefs even though they have absolutely no basis in doctrine. The most common answer I got when I asked "why" was "it's policy" and "it's been like that for xx years." These aren't arguments, they're excuses for a policy that cannot be defended. No one could tell me WHY living in "approved" housing would be beneficial or WHY granting the exception would be detrimental to me or undermine the overall policy. It' just like the Pharisees in Jesus' time. They had so many rules, but never bothered to ask why they did them, yet they still vehemently defended them. TIME IS NOT A TEST OF TRUTHFULNESS!

In practice the policy says that single students are not capable or mature enough to find their own living arrnagements simply because they're single. The university also practices "loco parentis," the idea that they are the local parent of students, again regardless of the age of students. As soon as they're married, they don't need their "local parents" anymore. Can we say BACKWARDS?!? While talking with the secretary to the president, she said "we treat married students differently" (I said "I know you do. As soon as they have that marriage certificate they're deemed adults.") She said the university treats them as "separate familes." Funny. When I fill out my FAFSA form to get federal aid, they consider me an "independent" student, meaning I don't have to answer questions about my parents' incomes because they don't consider me part of that family anymore. Hmmmm.

Let me just close this out by saying there ARE some great things going on at BYU-Idaho and some awesome people. I really hate to see it end this way. My academic advisor (and new director of the Dept. of Music) called me the evening after my final rejection to voice his support for my position and to let me know "that someone in Rexburg was on [my] side." In the end though, changes in the way people think up there have to start somewhere. Since I first transferred to BYU-Idaho in 2004 I always wonder why Heavenly Father had me go there. Now I finally have my answer why I was sent there.

Any questions, feel free to ask. I'm glad it's over and I can move on with my life and I'm confident things will work out from here. I AM glad to be back in Ohio for good now too.


LDS Drama Queen (Becky); September 4, 2007
I give you credit, that couldn't have been an easy decision, but you ARE right. That is the dumbest rule I have ever heard and somebody sometime is going to get that through their western Mormon backwards brain and make some changes. Good for you for not taking their crap. You had everything all worked out and it sounds like you had a pretty good deal all set up if the university hadn't been so retarded. I hope you enjoy working at Kent and maybe you can student teach in a place that isn't so....Utah-Mormon brainwashed. At least in Ohio you can be a Mormon and part of the real world at the same time.

I'm proud of you!!

Emily; September 4, 2007
Stupid rule. You were right to fight it. If the only answer to why you can't do something is "because I said so" it should always be pushed. I feel awful about what happened to you but I am thankful that I'll get to see you more (tomorrow in fact). Take care!

Dorese; September 4, 2007
You might consider how your comments about the "backwards Mormon brainwashed culture" may sound to someone, say, who isn't a member of the Church but may be reading this blog. You have a right to be frustrated and angry, and it sounds like things are actually going to work out really well for you, but try not to put the Church in such a negative light. BYU-Idaho is a church school, but, like you said Jon, the policy is not doctrinally based and therefore I feel a distinction ought to be drawn between the policy of the school and the Church.

JRid (Jon); September 4, 2007
I see your point. I did my best to differentiate between the Church and BYU-Idaho as I have done throughout my time at BYU-Idaho and especially through this (that's why I'm still active in the Church!!) =). Becky's comments do add "western" and "Utah" to "Mormon" to show these are not universal LDS beliefs (nor are they taught), but rather something incorrectly associated with the Church by members and non-members alike in that part of the country. Not once do I criticize the Church itself for what has happened. All my criticism is directed at BYU-Idaho and the culture of the Rexburg area (and much of the intermountain West) that has influenced BYU-Idaho's policies. I'm also trying to show the danger of not being able to separate cultural traditions from doctrinal truth, which is a HUGE problem for much of the church membership in the mountain West.

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