Liberty’s Legends

It seems as if a new building goes up each day at Liberty University, but even the construction workers weren’t aware of the soon-to-be culinary school.

Just like the resident assistants on East didn’t know that it was considered off campus and had no rules.

Or that Trump Tower in the middle of campus, whatever happened to that?

Freshman Andrew Hoster said he was walking with a friend through campus when he first heard that a culinary school would soon take the place of the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall.

“When I thought about a culinary school being built in place of the ROT, it made sense to me,” Hoster said. “Plus, there are already so many things being built that I don’t know about so I had no reason to question the legitimacy of it.”

Similar to other urban legends, Liberty’s are completely false. But, because of a famous satire news source that focuses on Liberty, sometimes what goes around campus probably was read online.

Logan Vlandis, co-founder of the online news satire site The Flaming Bugle, which bills itself as Liberty’s most reliable news source, said that he and his friend Austin Croom started the website in September to create buzz.

”We brainstormed probably 30 stories in September and now it’s just kind of whatever hits us,” Vlandis said.

Vlandis says the stories are written so that students can hear a humorous voice when it comes to what is going on at the school.

“[The stories] are based on references that people will understand, stuff that is relevant to this culture. And other stories are [based on culturally relevant references], plus some criticism,” Vlandis said.

The criticisms are opinions given by the writers about different topics considering what should take place at Liberty instead of what is happening.

The Flaming Bugle closely resembles The Onion and The Babylon Bee, which have also produced content about Liberty.

Although these websites disclaimers that tell readers their stories are satire, many people still come across the site and end up believing what is written before they think about checking out its legitimacy.

For students, not looking into sources is ironic because they are required to take a course their freshman year called Biblical Worldview. The course has a lesson about how to be a critical thinker.

“You have to ask people for the facts that go along with a story, Where did you hear that? Who’s the person that said that?” said Biblical Worldview professor Robert Van Engen. “You begin asking those questions and seeking clarification. Make sure it’s accurate so it doesn’t just become a rumor or a legend.”

Van Engen has been teaching critical thinking at Liberty as a part of the Biblical Worldview curriculum since 2006. He says the other Biblical Worldview professors have been teaching it for much longer than that.

He also says there is a need for critical thinking in our culture.

“We think most students don’t come [into college] with a knowledge of thinking for themselves,” he said.

Van Engen is part of one of Liberty’s most famous Urban Legends — the Oreo shrine.

“I started collecting Oreos in 2006 because I said I’ve got to have a niche. I’ve got to have something that is different from all other professors at Liberty University,” Van Engen said.

Van Engen uses his Oreo shrine as a critical thinking activity. He tells students it’s real and shows them a picture of his dozens of cookie packages stacked on top of each other.

“It just sort of developed in­to a critical thinking exercise and having people question just because they saw the picture, is it real?” Van Engen said.

Van Engen says that few students ever come and see for themselves. This does not surprise Liberty professor Marilyn Gadomski at all.

“Many people do not take any effort to verify what they hear,” said Gadomski, a psychologist at Liberty.

Gadomski said that a lot of times people will believe whatever someone has told them because of something psychologist call concept change.

“if I hold onto a set of beliefs that change my behaviors to a different concept then I have conflict within myself and I have to somehow resolve that conflict. Often, the easiest way to resolve a conflict is to change a behavior and keep my thought process as it is because, thought process is much more intrinsic to the person,” Gadomski said.

This means that students are susceptible to buying into urban legends or rumors because it’s easier than having to look into the facts.

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