Some staff have asked ‘more maturity’ from students attending weekly assemblies

Ten hours: the amount of time, approximately, that each student enrolled at Goshen College is required to spend every semester sitting in the Church-Chapel.

Convocation and chapel requirements have become nothing more than a chore for many students, and staff and faculty members are starting to notice.

“The other day I was in the balcony and a quick count of the students in my line of sight revealed 40 students,” said Gwen Gustafson-Zook, chapel coordinator. “Eleven had their heads up and appeared to be engaged with the speaker, while 29 had their heads down, apparently engaging in something else. I was somewhat embarrassed that [Goshen College] would invite a guest speaker and then not pay attention to what he had prepared to share with us.”

With more students attempting to sit as far back in the chapel as possible, spending the majority of either chapel or convocation on their iPads, the general lack of interest in the speakers or programs has been obvious to planners.

Becky Horst, convocation coordinator, included a reminder via email sent out at the beginning of the semester to the student body that stated, “When you choose to attend an event, also choose to engage, to ‘be here now.’ Choose to respect both the presenter(s) and those sitting near you.”

For some, the question is why the lack of attention?

“I think technology plays a very large role in the challenge to pay attention,” said Gustafson-Zook.

Horst added another reason for the challenge being “resentment about the attendance requirement.”

Gustafson-Zook said the worship assistants “put significant time and energy into planning chapels that we hope have the potential to be meaningful to students, staff and faculty. We appreciate when we see that people are engaged, participating and attentive. We also appreciate feedback,” she said.

Adima Idiong, a first-year, said that she enjoyed the majority of chapels and convocations. But she added that she thinks there should be more services like the chapel about students attending the School of Americas protest, or the work that GC students are doing outside the city of Goshen.

“If we’re going to talk about being global citizens, we need to know about what’s going on around the world, not just what’s going on in Goshen,” said Idiong.

Maggie Weaver, a first-year, said, “I like that we have that time set out of our day to reflect, but at times I feel like they could be better organized.”

Horst also mentioned the tactics of other schools in dealing with chapel attention.

“Bethel College in Kansas had, at least at one point, someone sitting in the balcony with a laser pointer to shine on people who had electronic devices or books open,” said Horst. “Hesston College requires students to leave backpacks outside the chapel and RAs monitor behavior and take away attendance credit for violators,” she said.

Gustafson-Zook said that the staff is simply asking for more maturity from students.

“I would like for people to recognize that their behavior has an impact on those around them,” said Gustafson-Zook. “Ideally people would recognize this and take responsibility for their behavior. This is a sign of maturity.”

She also said that she would like students to “recognize that we are a diverse community and that not every event is going to appeal to every student.”

“That is one reason why students have the choice as to which chapels and convos they attend,” said Gustafson-Zook. “We are trying to be creative, thoughtful and deliberate in our planning.”