Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
All college students have their own set of challenges to face. For some, that could mean cramming for an exam or putting up with terrible food in the cafeteria. For others, these challenges may pale in comparison.
A stigma that is often thrown around at Oklahoma Christian University is the concept that anyone who gets pregnant out of wedlock will be asked to leave the University.
Athena Haugland, a freshman at Oklahoma Christian, found out she was six months pregnant shortly into her first semester of college.
It was not until she was six months along that anyone questioned whether or not she might be expecting. According to Haugland, it was her mother that began to ask about her recent change in eating habits, which led to the discovery of her pregnancy.
“I knew right away that I wouldn’t keep the baby; I know a family that has been on the adoption list for over 12 years, so it wasn’t even a question,” Haugland said.
Haugland was adopted when she was two years old.
“If I hadn’t been adopted, I wouldn’t be here at all,” Haugland said. “That definitely influenced my decision to give the baby up for adoption.”
The adoption of Haugland’s baby boy is open, so she will be able to contact her child at the discretion of the adoptive parents as he grows up.
“I just wanted the baby to grow up the way he deserves to but also still be able to be a part of his life,” Haugland said.
Kelcy Curtis, a former Oklahoma Christian student, found out she was expecting exactly one week before she was supposed to start her first week of classes.
“I don’t know that I will ever be able to accurately describe how I felt,” Curtis said. “I had so many thoughts and feelings at once.”
For Curtis, anything other than keeping her baby girl was not an option.
“I knew that if I was going to carry and bond with this baby for nine months, there was no way I was going to let her call anyone else ‘mama,’” Curtis said.
Dean of Students Neil Arter mentions that in the history of Christian universities, it would be easy for them to attempt to distance themselves from anyone who had done something they perceived as wrong.
“Christian universities have probably caused more pain and even more poor decision making by our rules,” Arter said. “Does shame and ridicule fix anything? I would think not.”
Arter suggests that by putting a student in such a difficult position, it could force them to make an even worse decision in an attempt to try and fix the perceived problem at hand.
Haugland says that she had no idea about there being any issues with continuing her education until her mom brought up the pre-existing policies.
“I went straight to Kirby [Killen], and she told me that OC doesn’t have that rule anymore, that it had been dismissed from the handbook,” Haugland said. “Kirby and Amy [Roberts] were both incredibly helpful; they’ve been such a support system for me.”
Curtis mentions that she heard about the supposed rule from some of her friends, but never felt nervous about it.
In the current policy at Oklahoma Christian, it states that the university strives to be a part of the solution, which leaves room to discern what the best solution may be on a student-by-student basis.
“The people who make the rules here at OC are actually very kind, and they use common sense,” Arter said. “We are very fortunate that the board allows us the liberty to work with students on these issues.”
Arter goes on to explain that the structure of the policy allows for each situation to be approached individually. There are many aspects that are taken into consideration when deciding what is best for each person, including health, financial position and the potential response of peers.
“It is purposely meant to be a little vague, because it leaves open the fact that the best possible solution for all parties may be that the student needs to leave for a time,” Arter said. “There are some things that are more important than education.”
Oklahoma Christian has many resources and connections that can be beneficial to students, one of which is a Christian adoption agency in Oklahoma City.
“We’re blessed to have alumni that work locally through a Christian adoption service,” Arter said. “The great thing is that they not only help with adoption, but also unplanned pregnancies in which the mothers want to keep the babies.”
One concern that could arise in response to a situation such as this is the potential reaction of other people on campus.
“The thing we all have to realize and remember is that God is good no matter what we do,” Arter said. “If there were something we could do to embarrass Him, he would be embarrassed all the time because we are so imperfect.”
Haugland said that students, faculty and staff at Oklahoma Christian were incredibly supportive to her throughout her entire pregnancy.
“It’s great to be in a community that is so supportive,” Haugland said. “In the beginning I tried to hide [the pregnancy], but then people kept telling me not to, that they weren’t going to judge me.”
Not every student has such a positive experience, and Curtis mentions the struggle she experienced beneath the opinion of her peers.
“I kind of felt like a leper,” Curtis said. “There were a surprising amount of people that were rude to me, which was really discouraging since it’s a Christian school. I was 18, scared, and I had already beaten myself up enough about it; I felt like I was wearing a bright red letter A on my chest.”
Curtis said that one particular professor had a significant impact on her during a semester that was otherwise challenging.
“Dr. Lowry was such a rock for me,” Curtis said. “I was in his speech class and wanted to do a presentation on teen pregnancy, and he was immediately supportive. I don’t think he even meant to be such a hero to me, but he definitely was.”
Haugland is still pursuing her education at Oklahoma Christian. Curtis decided it was best for her to move back home, and is currently in her second semester of nursing school at the University of South Dakota.