An Open Letter of Gratitude to Regent University from a Thankful Student

The past week has been one of unprecedented events on the campus of Regent University. With the loss of one student and the attack on another, many students, staff, and faculty alike have been confronted with an unexpected torrent of emotions and concerns. I am writing this letter in response to the negative feedback and criticism that I have read and heard in the wake of some policy changes that have been implemented in the Regent Commons.

First, let me address what some may say disqualifies me from weighing in on this situation. There may be some who say that I am biased and out of touch with the concerns of students who are not in leadership positions. But as a student leader, I believe that I have a unique perspective to offer. One of my roles on campus is serving as a Resident Director. I oversee the Resident Assistants and work closely with Adam Williams, the Assistant Vice President of Student Life. He, in turn, works closely with those in authority above him, including deans and executive vice presidents.

Because of my position and my working relationship with Mr. Williams, I know that there is not one decision made by those in authority that is not first prayerfully considered. This situation is no different. Prior to the general student body being made aware of the changes in policy, myself and my co-RDs were sent drafts of the proposed changes and asked to give our feedback. There was an open dialogue. There was conversation. There was civil disagreement. I believe that I accurately represented students’ concerns in those meetings. My voice was heard, my position considered, and my input valued.

And then our leadership made tough decisions.

And now it is my job, my responsibility, my honor to respect those decisions and be thankful that the weight of them does not fall on my shoulders.

Like many others, I am a student who will be affected by the side and back doors of the residence halls being exit only and the guest visitation policy being shortened by three hours. But as a student leader, I understand the complexities of situations like this one. I understand that it is not possible to make everyone happy. And I understand the need for unpopular policies to be implemented when it can mean increased safety for the entire residential student body. Ultimately, safety has been the top priority of our leadership – both the safety of the student who was attacked and that of everyone else – and it should be ours as well. It is my hope that students will stop arguing about the inconvenience of the new policies and shift their focus to the heart of the matter.

I have heard the objections to the new policies and accusations that information is being withheld from students.  To those objections, I say that these were not arbitrary decisions. Our leadership is not in a panicked frenzy and changing policies just to change them or to punish students. I know that our administrators and ranking police officials researched the safety policies of other universities, Christian and secular, and made informed decisions based on that research. Campus Police and Student Services have been transparent where appropriate and have made every effort to keep students informed. Any information that was withheld has been out of respect for the student who was attacked or for the integrity of Campus PD’s investigation.

To those who have voiced their concerns about the new policies, I would ask that you prayerfully consider the motives of your heart and the way your words can impact those around you before speaking out. As a member of the Residence Life staff, I have seen frustrated emails from students. We hear your frustrations, but what you may not know is how your words have affected those in authority and the student who was attacked. Our university leadership is not trying to ignore you or silence you, but for civil dialogue to happen, we must come to the table with consideration for others, respect for our leaders, and an understanding that ours is not the only opinion that matters.

So in light of all of this, I want to express my gratitude.

To our Campus Police Officers and Virginia Beach EMS, I say thank you for responding quickly and effectively to the reports of an attack on campus.

Chief Mitchell, thank you for leading boldly and for being so unwaveringly committed to keeping our students and campus safe.

Dr. Jospeh Umidi and Dean Gerson Moreno-Riano, thank you for seeking the Lord’s wisdom, putting the wellbeing of students at the forefront of your priorities, and modeling strong Christian leadership.

Rev. Jason Peaks and Rev. Sara Carrara Di Fuccia, thank you for pouring out your prayers and empathy, for being engaged and approachable spiritual leaders, and for making Campus Ministries an indispensable resource for students.

To all those at Counseling Services, thank you for listening to our struggles, concerns, and fears and offering comfort and guidance.

Amber Steele, thank you for doing the hard and heavy work of championing those who have been abused, violated, and attacked.

Adam Williams, thank you for your Godly leadership, heart of service, genuine concern for students, attention to detail, and commitment to always improving students’ residential experience.

To the Life Group Leaders and Captains, thank you for pouring into students out of your real and vulnerable walks with the Lord.

To the Residence Life staff, thank you for being the first responders to students’ concerns, for sacrificing your time, tirelessly serving, and for showing solidarity and maturity in the face of emergencies.

To all of our leaders at Regent, thank you for seeking to glorify God above all else and make this a university truly for the Lord’s glory.

On the morning of the attack that took place in the residential building that I oversee and live in, I was fearful and anxious, feeling unsafe for the first time in a place that I call my home away from home. I cannot imagine what were the feelings of the student who was actually attacked. That morning, I took comfort in Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added, ESV).

Instead of being critical and negative, let’s have hearts brimming with thankfulness. In every situation, there are things to be thankful for, and that is true here as well. Let’s exchange our anxiety and fear and receive the unexplainable peace that comes from the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray for our leaders and thank them for the hard and important work they do. Let’s turn our eyes to Jesus and be unified in Him rather than divided by our opinions about policy.

Regent University is still the Christ-centered, academically excellent, thriving community that we all chose to attend and work for. I hope we don’t lose sight of that after one hard week and a few new policies.

A Thankful Student

Abigail Baldridge is a student and serves as the Residence Director of Foundation Hall.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by the Daily Runner or Regent University.

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter of Gratitude to Regent University from a Thankful Student

  • Avatar
    January 23, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Another reason why we love you Regent!! Thank you Daily Runner for publishing this….and thank you Abigail for your heart that articulates what so many of us believe as well…

  • Avatar
    January 23, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you Abigail. Your words are filled with eloquence and compassion. Thank you for your leadership and friendship. I value this and you so much.

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