Liberty University, ironically, does not appear to be into liberty very much at all.
A new online petition created by students at the right-wing Christian college in Virginia claims the school has put an “absolute stop to dancing,” much like the town in Footloose (1984). The Change.org petition, called “Allow Dancing at LU!!,” was started last week and had just under 800 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. It claims:
This year, the Liberty University Board of Trustees has decided to put an absolute stop to dancing, and instructed Res Life to enforce a strict no dancing policy. This action prevents halls from putting on hall formals, and instructs all RAs to put a stop to dancing when they see it.
The petition calls the alleged policy a “pharisee-like rule” and declares, “To the Board, we may be insignificant, and undesirable, but together, we will be undeniable.” Dancing, the students say, “brings people together,” and “to disallow dancing is to deny the rhythm that God has placed in humanity.” Their petition continues:
To prevent dancing is to deny a part of God’s creation. To deny dancing is to act as the pharisees did. This ruling is undeniably unreasonable, unbiblical, and brings an unwelcoming environment to this campus. Time and again in the Bible, the heroes of the faith are recorded to have danced with joy, Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a time for everything, and verse 4 expands on this and says “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”(KJV).
Liberty University’s student honor code for the 2023-2024 school year lists “attendance at a dance” as a “violation” that could result in a fine of $15. Other listed violations range from $15 to $300 in fines. The honor code doesn’t detail the same specifics regarding its anti-dance policy that are put forth in the students’ Change.org petition, and the university didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Jezebel to clarify its policies. For reference, other violations that can result in a $15 fine include “Minor violation of the Statement on Sexuality and Relationships,” which instructs students to “avoid visiting alone with the opposite sex at an off-campus” and abstain from “sexual contact.” This is certainly ironic given what we’ve known about the university’s founder, evangelical sex pest Jerry Falwell, since details of his extramarital sex life emerged in 2020 (including that he allegedly enjoyed watching his wife have sex with other men.)
Asked about the students’ claims regarding Liberty’s dance policy, a spokesperson for the university told a local ABC affiliate over the weekend that “there are no new rules or changes regarding dance at Liberty. There are still university-sanctioned competitive dance teams and clubs this year and the same prohibitions and restrictions regarding participation in unsanctioned dances are still in effect.”
It seems Liberty students have been questioning the university’s anti-dancing policies for some time. Back in 2019, a student dance group called Swope talked about their troubles with the campus policy in a Medium post that says, “With Liberty’s rules against dancing and the team carrying Liberty’s name, Swope has had to be mindful about all the content in their choreography. While tap dancing itself is not provocative, the music is something to be careful about.”
One of the dancers on the team added, “We try to use mostly Christian music and when we use secular music we make sure there is no foul language or messages.” Further, the Medium post claims the university’s rules on “dancing in the Liberty Way have been viewed by students as vague” and carry a $25 fine. If that was the case in 2019, then at the very least there’s been some progress on this front: The fine for dancing is down to $15 for the 2023-2024 school year, so, that’s cool!
As we all know, college is famously where young people go not to dance or engage in sexual contact. In any case, I wish the students who started this petition success on their noble quest, and hope at least some compromise can be struck—perhaps dignified swaying to Christian rock songs while at least six feet apart from members of the opposite sex might someday be permissible.