A matter of taste

"A matter of taste" Continued...

Issue: "New Orleans: Starting over," Sept. 24, 2005

(Liberty's emphasis on outreach extends beyond the borders of Virginia. The school recently announced that it will offer free tuition for the fall 2005 semester to any college student displaced by Hurricane Katrina.)

Students opting to stay in Lynchburg on Friday nights often wind up at the frequently sold-out dollar movie theater or the Drowsey Poets coffee shop with its oversized couches and funky decor. On campus, dozens pack the LaHaye Student Center, where they work out, shoot hoops, and organize PlayStation tournaments. Others opt to get homework done early in computer labs.

On Sundays, several hundred students attend campus church in the 10,000-seat Vine Center, the school's basketball and special events arena. The rest of the students typically go to churches in town. Campus pastor Johnnie Moore is popular among students, who sleepily take their seats on Sunday mornings, many wearing jeans and sweatshirts. The service resembles the thrice-weekly mandatory convocations, where Mr. Falwell often speaks and where students sing up-beat praise choruses.

Some 400 miles north of Lynchburg, chapel services at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., have a distinctly different feel. The 157-year-old Christian college nestled in the hills of western Pennsylvania retains the doctrine and practice of its founding denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). For chapel services, that means exclusively singing psalms with no accompaniment, and a Reformed style of worship and preaching.

Students from other traditions sometimes grumble about the RPCNA worship style in the mid-week, mandatory services, but students are free to attend any church they choose on Sundays, and church attendance then is not required. Geneva does not offer a campus church, instead encouraging its 2,100 students to become involved in one of many local congregations from many denominations.

In Geneva's classrooms, clinging to Reformed traditions means inculcating a biblical worldview that saturates all disciplines and their applications. Professor John Stahl says biblical principles undergird his chemistry classes, where he tells students that science and faith are not mutually exclusive: "I work hard to show that we're talking about God's world-if He made it, there should not be any contradiction and no need to fear it."

Says senior Rachel Cypher: "The professors are wonderful. They'd do anything for you." Faculty members invite students to their homes for dinner, host holiday parties, and sometimes even take students on hunting trips. Senior Josh Guthrie says when he once considered leaving Geneva, the quality of professors convinced him to stay.

Students describe the course work in the 28 major programs as academically rigorous and say it includes plenty of homework. A quiet library with nearly 400,000 catalogued items provides ample resources for research and study.

Some 1,000 students live on campus at Geneva in eight dorms, ranging from traditional double-occupancy rooms with hall bathrooms to four-bedroom apartments. Students choose where they live, with different dorms attracting different personalities. High-energy students tend to flock together, while low-key students often live in quieter dorms with study-friendly environments. Each dorm features lounges, fully equipped kitchens, and laundry rooms with free washers and dryers.

Resident assistants perform weekly room inspections to check for safety and cleanliness, and students sign a code of conduct that prohibits drinking alcohol on or off campus. The code also prohibits on-campus dancing, except for square, line, or traditional folk styles, but the school places no restrictions on off-campus dancing. The code also requires observance of the Sabbath, interpreted as meaning no vacuuming, doing laundry, or participating in organized sports on Sundays. The school has no dress code or curfew.

Though Geneva has no curfew, students tend to stay close to campus on weekends. The town of Beaver Falls, population 10,000, offers little in the way of nightlife, but on-campus activity coordinators plan concerts, coffee-house evenings, games, and movie nights in a cozy lounge with a large fireplace and wall-size windows overlooking Beaver Valley. Sporting events at Geneva are also big draws, with one dedicated group of students known as the "Super Fans" showing up at every event, sporting red and gold face paint, clown wigs, plaid pants, and yellow caution-tape belts.

Students often say they choose Geneva because of the opportunity for Christian fellowship, but Terry Thomas, professor of biblical studies, hopes students quickly discover more: "They come for the cultural aspect of a Christian school atmosphere. They have to discover a Christian world/life view while they are here, which is one of the great things Geneva has to offer."

(Geneva recently announced it will offer something else: half-price tuition, room, and board for the fall semester for up to 10 college students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.)


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