It’s no secret that many Christian-affiliated colleges enforce very strict behavioral expectations for their students, but Danielle Powell is realizing just how vindictive a college can be when those expectations are not met. She had enrolled in Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska, but was expelled in the spring of 2011, just months before graduating, after it was discovered she was in a relationship with another woman. Now, the school is demanding she pay back $6,000, claiming she has to repay her federal loans and grants since she did not finish the semester.
The Department of Education says any money she may or may not owe the school is between the two of them and “not at all because of federal rules.” On the other hand, there are also no rules requiring the university not to discriminate based on sexual orientation when receiving financial aid from the federal government, so it’s unclear territory. Powell actually attempted to follow through on the remediation plan the school originally laid out for her, which included months of church attendance, Christian counseling, and promises not to engage in sex. She was readmitted, then promptly kicked out again because the staff’s “prevailing opinion is that those professions appear to have been insincere, at best, if not deceitful.” In other words, Grace is essentially fining a former student for not convincing the faculty she is straight enough to complete her education there.
Grace’s Student Handbook includes a litany of rules all students are required to sign and abide by. For example, students are not allowed to watch HBO, VH1, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, or any R-rated movie on campus. It also includes severe limitations on displays of affection, explicitly prohibiting activities like “extending holding or embracing one another,” “lying next to each other,” kissing, and “giving backrubs/rubbing shoulders.” “Homosexual acts” are considered “sexually immoral behavior” and thus a “Level-Three violation,” which at minimum includes University Probation and possibly fines starting at $100.