It was during my second semester at PCC that I first learned about The Student Voice. Two of my friends and I--Melinda and Kristen (not their real names, of course)--worked at the Distribution Center about 20 hours a week that semester.

One day, while we walked to (or perhaps from) work, our conversation turned to the Deans, and why we weren't allowed to use the Internet. Melinda maintained that it was for our own good; after all, we would all become addicted to pornography if we were allowed to access the Net. She was, of course, quoting the party line. But Kristen had a different suspicion. "There's a newsletter against PCC. They have it on the Internet," Kristen told me. Melinda shook her head. "That's just a rumor, Kristen. It doesn't exist." Kristen said nothing more; I stored the rumor away for future reference. At PCC, many of us lived on rumors.

The semester ended. Like many of the summer workers (and none of the contract workers), I was allowed a two-week vacation during Interterm, before I went back to work. I went home to discover that my mother had decided to connect our computer to the Internet. During my teen years, there were many Saturdays my mother had dropped me and my sister off at the library. While my sister got herself thoroughly addicted to mysteries, I learned how to use the Internet.

On the second day of my vacation, I accessed a search engine, and, on a hunch, typed in "Pensacola Christian College." The matches popped up, and near the top of the list was "The Student Voice: The Unofficial Pensacola Christian College Information Source." Interesting. I clicked on it. (Address? In case you were wondering. The message boards have now moved to

What I found was a society of ex-PCC students, and some who were currently off for the summer breaks, of over five hundred members (at that time; today there are thousands). Many of them had been hurt by PCC; some of them still defended it; almost all agreed that PCC needed to change. I read through their stories, and I identified with them. I had seen the same things they had; I wasn't, by far, the only one who disagreed with PCC; and, most of all, the will of PCC, the rules of PCC, and the leaders of PCC, were not appointed by God.

It was a revelation that, if I had been an emotional person, would have made me cry with relief. The members of The Student Voice were not perfect. Some of them, especially the more bitter ones, used profanity. Some wanted revenge. But unlike PCC, they weren't hypocrites. They didn't believe that outward appearance, rules, and traditions, were all that mattered.

TSV had started as an e-mail newsletter, during the brief time in which PCC had allowed e-mail (but not the Internet) for their students.

The Public Devotions Policy figured prominently in its creation. That year, PCC had decided that students were not allowed to study the Bible in public. This effectively curtailed mixed prayer/Bible study groups, public preaching on campus, and theological debate; it encouraged students to go to PCC as their primary source of spiritual leadership.

One of the students who did not agree with the Public Devotions Policy decided to make his case with the Deans--quite politely, might I add. Predictably, they expelled him. Circulation for the e-mail newsletter soon extended to hundreds of students and many staff members. Then, a well-meaning PCC girl, thinking she was "doing the right thing", turned in a copy of the newsletter to the Deans. The now-famous Student Voice Purge ensued. Numbers vary, and no one has an official count, but I am told there were at least thirty and maybe as many as one hundred students expelled, simply for subscribing to the newsletter.

I copied the back issues of TSV, then much of the message boards, onto several disks and took them back to campus with me. That summer, I did a lot of reading, a lot of praying, and a lot of thinking. And I started to write essays, which is one of the best ways I've found to think things over. The essays contained my thoughts about PCC; about their system; why they looked so good, yet hurt so many. By the end of the summer, I had come up against a fundamental problem: I had agreed, when I signed a paper upon arrival, that I would follow the handbook (which, at the time, I had not yet been allowed to see), and hold to the "spirit" of PCC. Yet I now disagreed with many of the rules in that Handbook. I didn't want to rat on my friends; I didn't want to fit my thoughts to the institutional standards. Both would have been wrong. But, if I didn't, I was breaking my word. It was a dilemma: Break the rules, and do wrong--or follow them, and do wrong. There was only one solution.

During a Lord's Supper service, while, as usual, the pastor told us to "examine our hearts"--had we seen anyone doing wrong? we needed to turn them in... had we done wrong ourselves? we needed to repent, and turn ourselves in... did we have any friends who disagreed with PCC? we needed to tell them we couldn't be their friends anymore... I argued with my conscience about it.

You need to leave PCC. It's the only way out.

"But I can't. It's the only way I can get an education."

Why can't you go somewhere else?

"I'm too poor. I can hardly even pay for PCC."

God could provide the money, you know.

"Yes, but I'd be quitting. I'd be giving up."

Who told you you would be quitting if you left?


Exactly. So why don't you leave? Either way, you'd be doing wrong to stay here.

"I guess I've got to leave, then."

It was easier said than done; many times, we know the truth, and refuse to obey because of fear. That was the way it was with me. I had fallen into a bubble-world, in which everything was safe as long as I played by its rules. I had seen people disappear after the least violation; I irrationally feared what they would do to me if they found out I disagreed. So, I kept writing my essays, praying. I stayed that summer, then I enrolled for the next semester.

I didn't have the courage to leave, but I couldn't sit there silently anymore, either. Towards the end of the summer, I bundled my essays, together with inside information on the latest expulsions, and a set of instructions, onto a floppy disk. I protected it with a password (my computer was already protected by three passwords); then I made up a riddle to the password, which only my sister could have guessed. I mailed the disk (this wasn't as easy as it sounded; it had to be done off-campus, after I had dodged the two girls I was supposed to stay with) to my sister at home. Hopefully, she would decode the riddle and read my instructions to her. She did.

Under the name "Portia", my sister joined the membership of The Student Voice for me. She posted the essays and information on the message board. It was my way of saying, "Look, PCC. I'm not thinking your way anymore. I'm my own person." We even had a code to use over the phone (which PCC, of course, had tapped), disguised as innocent conversation about our three cats. If she told me, "I fed the cats today," it would mean that she had posted one of my essays. If she added, "They were really hungry," it meant a good response. If she said, "The cats got in a fight today," it would mean opposition. I got both responses.

Thankfully, my sister never had to tell me that the cats were in a mood to hunt. That would have meant that I was in danger of being revealed as the author of the essays.

That summer, and the semester which followed (it would be my last semester there), I lived in a state of constant paranoia. Maybe you know what this is like; maybe not. All I know is that I'm not cut out to be a secret agent. I had to watch my every move. Did my roommates see me writing the essays? Was that floor leader watching me? Had the library contacted the Dean's Offices about my checking out "1984"? Did they know that I was mailing letters off campus? Was the "cat" code too obvious? Did my sister, as "Portia", blunderingly reveal any clues to my true identity? In short, I was scared.

And, slowly, I began to discover an undercurrent of "rebellion" at PCC. People who, just like me, disagreed with PCC but, for varied reasons, were still there. By dropping hints, carefully, we managed to tell each other--without actually saying so--that here was another person who disagreed with PCC; another person who had accessed The Student Voice over the summer. I found out Kristen was one of those who had; so was Marianna (name changed), another friend, and nearly all of her "group." I discovered I was no longer alone. But still, I knew that if it came down to it, none of us "rebels" had any power to change PCC. And as I watched as, one by one, many of the "rebels", inculding Kristen, were expelled, I was still scared.