As mentioned above, we have intentionally chosen not to be the kind of community that is based on the external application of rules, though at times some communities have found strength in that model. We would, however, hope that our community life would represent an invitation to a way of living that is a reflection of the “justice, beauty and compassion” that we want to increasingly embody. Instead of rigid rules, we want relationships of mutual accountability, of honesty and forgiveness, to be our hallmarks.
So, while those living in residence are asked to meet certain expectations in order to provide a safe and beneficial experience for all of those directly living together, we invite the entire community to reach for excellence and wholeness in the way we all, individually and corporately, live out our lives.
First and foremost, we encourage everyone to prioritize healthy relationships. Everyone should be treated with mutual respect and care. The emergence of this in residences, classrooms and study abroad is one of the greatest gifts the school can offer. Specifically, this means that any kind of violence, abuse or harassment, including abusive speech, is unacceptable and we will seek an intentional process of redress when it is reported. It means dealing with conflict well, without gossip or resentment and with persistence in seeking healthy reconciliation. It means that even in the natural formation of friendship clusters, everyone will strive to be as inclusive as possible, always trying to care for those who might otherwise be marginalized.
Healthy relationships require that the complexity and richness of our sexuality be treated well. People should never be exploited for each other’s gratification, and the best way to prevent this exploitation and hurt is to ensure that physical intimacy always develops in a way that matches the emotional intimacy and commitment in a relationship. Traditionally, marriage has been seen as the key way to shape such relationships. We acknowledge that we live in a culture in which practices are changing rapidly, yet we seek to affirm our need for commitments that invite community support and accountability for these most sensitive of relationships.
We are embodied beings, and this means that treating our bodies well is a crucial part of a healthy life in many different ways. The table is an important centre of shared life; food and drink are key to many celebrations, large and small. We also know that people often develop habits in which food, alcohol and other good gifts are misused, and this may especially be a temptation for young adults. Both the individuals and the community then pay a price. Misuse of alcohol or use of illegal substances often creates patterns of dependence or fosters poor decision making, and life in an accountable community can be a good opportunity to develop better patterns.
Taking care of ourselves is much easier when it becomes a shared value in community, and modelling and mutual encouragement help us to do far better than we are able on our own. Conversely, we have a hard time doing our best when those around us seem not to care. So, for example, hard physical work and enjoyable exercise are important contributions to health, and it is partly for this reason that we invite everyone to take part in shared tasks and in recreational opportunities.
Our embodied lives also require a healthy environment, and we want to be creative participants and caretakers of both the natural environment around us and the local neighbourhood in which we live. Sustainability is increasingly becoming a watchword for us both academically and in our practical lives. Everyone is encouraged to help us find ways in which our individual and shared decisions can have a more beneficial impact on the environment – so we try to turn the heat down, walk more, compost and not leave messes behind in the buildings or outside.
Relationships with our neighbourhood are just as important as our care for the environment. We have increasingly enjoyed a positive support from the town. Students, staff and faculty have participated in a wide variety of volunteering and recreational opportunities.
We are seeking to be more intentional about being sustainable in our economic lives. It is very challenging for students to leave school burdened by a huge debt. We would like to support intentional efforts to ensure that debt does not become a bondage pressuring students to drift away from the human and spiritual values they have formed in their studies. This may mean helping each other to live simpler lives – reducing the reliance on student loans and enabling staff and faculty to thrive on smaller salaries. It may mean creativity and flexibility for how an academic degree is completed. Again, what is very difficult for isolated individuals becomes easier when we support and encourage each other.
Finally, we are also very aware that we are imperfect people. At times we slip into more self-protection than love. We often fall short of the ideals that we are trying to live out together. There may be times when institutional requirements or academic standards mean that we have to set firm boundaries. There will be times when individuals feel forgotten or unfairly treated. Our commitment is to work through all such messy moments by striving for honest and healthy communication, with forgiveness and grace for each other.
There will even be times when the behaviour of certain individuals will strain the expectations of the community for living together well. This is especially true of behaviour that seems to have a negative impact on others in the community. Whether such individuals are students, staff or faculty, they should expect to be engaged in respectful conversation about what they are doing. Usually, agreement can be reached about ongoing patterns of behaviour and how to bring about positive change. If not, the conversation might need to be broadened, drawing more students and/or staff into the discussion. Whenever possible this relational style will strive to be guided by consideration of the concerns of those involved, the concerns of the community as a whole, and the stated vision and purpose of the university. If no agreement can still be reached there may need to be a parting of ways. While it is extremely rare, the university must reserve the legal right to ask students (or staff/faculty) to leave should their behaviour continue to be consistently disruptive of residential or academic policies or the maintenance of a healthy community.