Yes, the school must uphold its commitment to Christian values.
By Janea Brown
Pepperdine is a self-affirmed Christian university, and it’s about time that students started to act like it. Every individual student has a right to his or her own beliefs. Some do not necessarily claim the Christian faith as their own. Nevertheless, each student attends a Christian school, and must respect this fact.
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are hot topics on campus lately with the buzz about junior Liorah Stuchiner posing for Playboy. The issue here is not about the morality of Stuchiner’s actions, but whether the university has a right to punish her or not, and they do.
The application to attend Pepperdine clearly states the university’s Christian mission and asks the applicant to respond to this mission. Students who enter Pepperdine and claim they were uninformed of the university’s Christian heritage were either sleeping when they filled out the application, or seriously mistaken.
In addition to this question on the application, students also agree to abide by university policies. In the Student Handbook in the Code of Student Conduct section, the General Conduct Expectations disallow “engaging in or promoting conduct of lifestyles inconsistent with traditional Christian values.”
Where some might claim that these rules are an attempt to legislate morality on campus, how else can the university set itself apart as distinctly Christian when Christians are called to be different than the world around them?
If students want to do drugs, or drink for example, that is their prerogative. They can make their own responsible, grown-up decisions. This is where the problem comes in.
Yes, people can choose to live whatever lifestyle they want, but when this lifestyle obviously opposes a commitment they have made to the university, that is what causes the problem.
The question is Stuchiner’s freedom of speech versus her commitment to the university’s standard of Christian ethics. If Stuchiner was acting on her own personal freedom of expression, she should not have dragged the name of Pepperdine University into her actions.
The particular issue of Playboy that Stuchiner posed for was a college issue and the pictorial specifically stated that Stuchiner attends Pepperdine University.
Whether students want to admit it or not, everyone indirectly represents and reflects his or her family, friends and school. And whether or not Stuchiner wants to admit it, her actions represent Pepperdine.
If you want to pose for Playboy that is freedom of choice, but don’t advertise the fact that you represent a Christian university. By attending Pepperdine, students commit to live a life that upholds Christian values, whether they agree or not.
No one forced Stuchiner to sign the Student Code of Conduct. That was another personal, grown-up decision that she made. If she didn’t want to uphold these values, then she shouldn’t have chosen to go to a Christian school that expects that from its students.
If the university does not respond to Stuchiner’s actions with some sort of discipline, it is actually condoning her actions and ultimately compromising its Christian testimony.
How does it look for a school to constantly discipline its students for other Handbook infringements such as drinking, yet turn its eyes away from Stuchiner’s actions that are obviously “inconsistent with traditional Christian values?”
There is one question that is left unanswered. If Stuchiner is proud of her actions, and has done nothing wrong and just excercised her freedom of expression, why did she tell the Graphic that she had not posed in the magazine?
Last week, Stuchiner was seen on a television show, “Blind Date,” bragging about attending parties held in the Playboy mansion.
How can a school have two such conflicting symbols representing the school — a cross and a nude student? Obviously one of these symbols has to go.
In a letter to the editor of the Graphic, Stuchiner said: “Hurting a student by allowing her to be subjected to gossip and judgment and scrutiny by exploiting her in a university newspaper does not uphold ethical Christian values either …”
What is more exploiting? Posing in Playboy or being exposed in the Graphic? If Stuchiner is embarrassed or ashamed that the rest of the school knows about her pictorial, she never should have done it in the first place, and she should have thought about the consequences before hand.
The university has a chance to make a statement that says, Christian values do not support such actions. Expelling Stuchiner will cause other students to think twice before defaming the name of Pepperdine University.
If Stuchiner is not held accountable for her actions, the university will make itself a laughing stock for allowing a student to work around the system, and other students will think that they can do the same. Then what will the name Pepperdine represent?
No, her decision falls under the guarantee of freedom of speech.
By Kyle Jorrey
After the news hit campus last week that a Pepperdine student posed for a Playboy pictorial, some students were up arms, accusing the student of breaking the university’s omnipresent “moral code.” And while we as students sign an agreement saying we will abide by that code, we all, as Americans, have to follow another code. It’s called the U.S. Constitution.
It’s a document that has survived the test of time, against arguments of people of different races, religions and interests, all who would like to shape the document to better fit what they feel is fair and just. It is there to protect all Americans, and in a country as diverse as this one, that at times can be difficult.
Conservatives like to say that the decision to pose nude in a magazine is not truly representative of free speech, and therefore should not be protected. But there are also those who say that offensive music and movies are not free speech. Free speech is in the eye of the beholder.
And to women who make the choice to pose nude it is protected speech, because it’s their way of self-expression, whether we agree with it or not.
When Liorah Stuchiner, the student at the center of this attention, made the decision to pose for Playboy, she made a courageous decision. Whether or not it was a moral one is not up to the university, or to its students, it is up to her. She knew she would have to deal with the repercussions, and yet she made the decision because it’s what she wanted to do with her life, and nobody was going to change her mind.
Critics always talk about traditional Christian values, but what about other values? What about the value of having enough guts to make a decision that you know will put you at high risk for criticism, and doing it anyway because you recognize that it is your choice and no one else’s? This type of courage is a value we should not be shooting down.
Whether or not the university wants to admit it, there are students at this university taking part in actions that go against the moral code, only they do it behind closed doors. And yet because Liorah chose not to hide her actions, some students want her disciplined or even expelled for it.
It’s up to the university, in order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to their mission statement, to decide what it will, or will not, allow on campus. But in no way should it play the role of our social guardians, telling us what we can and cannot do on our own free time.
If administrators expect us to grow into adults capable of making it in the real world, we must be allowed to make decisions for ourselves and deal with those consequences. After all, we became legal adults when we hit age 18, but it seems some students on this campus feel we might as well just have our parents move back in with us.
Instead of being in the practice of disciplining, as a Christian university we should be in the practice of understanding and forgiving. The university shouldn’t weed out all the students it feels doesn’t fit the Pepperdine mold, but instead try to teach and instill these values so that students can make decisions for themselves. Administration did just this when it apparently chose not to expel Liorah for her actions. At the same time, they certainly didn’t announce that they agree with them either.
This way Liorah could discover for herself whether the decision she made was a wise one, without losing the invaluable education opportunity that she has worked so hard to achieve. Expelling her wouldn’t have helped anyone, and I applaud Pepperdine for its decision.
We are a diverse student body, with different minds, viewpoints and long-term goals. Liorah, as stated in her pictorial, dreams of being an international film star. If her decision to pose in Playboy in any way might bring her closer to that goal, then we should not fault her for it.
In all our arguments, let’s not forget that Liorah did make some moral decisions when posing nude. First, as stated in last week’s article, while she is completely nude in some photos, the shots are modest compared to some of the other models’ photos that left nothing to the imagination.
And while she used Pepperdine’s name, nowhere in the pictorial is there any Pepperdine memorabilia. Actually, if not for the listing below her name, the general public would not make any connection to the university.
There are two or three sides to every issue, and we should look at them all.
The point here is this is an issue that doesn’t warrant university involvement. It’s a personal decision made by a student, and it was done on her own time. The university has much more important matters that it can spend its time attending to, and I’m glad that it is apparently doing just that.
And as for the students who are calling for disciplinary action, chances are you aren’t even going to look at the magazine, so just let it go.
Worry about yourself and the decisions you make. It’s not your place to judge others. Let’s leave that to the man upstairs.
March 21, 2002