Lately at Bethel College, some controversy has arisen over the topic of swearing. The use of several four letter words – and a three letter word – has always been disputed, of course, but recent circumstances have brought this issue more plainly into the public eye.
There are a few main situations in which swearing could potentially be found on campus – in athletic programs, in academic settings, and in informal settings.
Bethel students and staff have a variety of opinions as far as which situations provide an environment in which swearing is acceptable.
“I think that it is completely up to the person,” said Amy Wedel, sophomore from Peabody. “Swearing depends on the context in which I’m using it as well as the word I’m using.”
One of the main academic outlets in which the issue of swearing has arisen is Convocation.
For example, last year, a convo speaker, Dr. James Logan, used quite a bit of swearing to help make his point. Convocation coordinator Nathan Bartel would argue swearing can be important in some situations.
“Last year’s Convocation address by Dr. James Logan stays with me in part because it was so graphic,” Bartel said. “Would I still be thinking about incarceration in America if Dr. Logan had toned it down? I’m not sure I would.”
However, someone who might disagree with Bartel’s point is Josh Janzen, freshman from Aurora, Neb.
“To me, people seem to swear because they think it helps them get their point across, but it really just lowers the standard of the conversation,” Janzen said. “Swearing shows that you do not have enough respect for a person to hold a decent conversation.”
Janzen said he has always believed swearing is an inappropriate form of communication.
“It’s just the way I was raised. I was taught by my parents and many mentors that swearing was not appropriate and not acceptable,” he said.
Janzen explained that his high school football coach, one of his mentors, had a no swearing rule on his team. This rule applied to both coaches and players and involved consequences for any swearing that occurred.
Many would agree that swearing is, in essence, disrespectful, however, people often distinguish some areas in which it may be more acceptable.
“Formal situations are not places for swearing,” said Andrew Thiesen, freshman from Newton. “However, it is more acceptable in an informal setting with people you know.”
Swearing on the field seems to be another big point of contention. Janzen, for example, is no longer a part of Bethel’s football team, which he attributed partially to swearing by coaching staff, as well as by players.
“Swearing should not be acceptable in any setting because it is disrespectful,” he said. “Swearing from the coaching staff shows disrespect to the players, and vice versa. Sportsmanship is of the utmost importance in any athletic event.”
Janzen commented that swearing is somewhat understandable in “emotionally charged” situations like athletics, however, the line is easily crossed when it comes to coaches.
“Athletics can be very emotionally charged, so swearing would be more understandable in those circumstances, but when a coach is just talking to their team and dropping the F-bomb every sentence, that is unacceptable in my book,” he said.
Michelle Kauffman, senior from Moundridge, seemed to be on the fence in regard to swearing in athletic settings.
“I don’t think that swearing in sports competition is necessary because I don’t think it is good sportsmanship to do so,” she said. “I understand that it happens when people are frustrated, though, but perhaps if kept inaudible that would be best.”
Kauffman emphasized that, while she felt swearing could be acceptable in sports, there were limits.
Will Chao, junior from Taiwan, agreed that swearing could be acceptable in sports, but it depends upon the words being used.
Chao mentioned swearing can be used as a means of releasing stress and energy from the outside world.
“We humans take in energy from the outside world and need to find a way to release it,” Chao said. “If you don’t release energy, it will build up, and eventually that energy will be released, such as a mental breakdown or if a person can’t release that negative energy, he or she commits suicide.”
Ultimately, it seems most people agree swearing can, at times, be helpful in making a point, however, there are boundaries that should not be crossed.
“I think the line should be drawn at swearing for swearing’s sake. We have a responsibility to engage our audiences in thoughtful and compassionate ways, and swearing – by waking us up, or by making us think or helping us to open up by causing us to laugh – can do that,” Bartel said. “That said, dropping various verbal bombs just because you can is mere posturing and helps no one.”