Jennifer Beer, the new campus counselor, spoke in Monday’s convocation about relationships and our individual roles in those relationships.

“Strong relationships begin with a strong you” was the title, and even though I heard what she said about different forms of relationships, the interactions of different personality types, and some of the firsthand experience she’s had as the campus counselor, I still had a hard time cutting through the chatter.

When I started at Goshen College last September, one of the first things I noticed about convocations and chapels was that, unlike my experience at Hesston, we are allowed to bring our backpacks and jackets into the church’s sanctuary, and politely asked to be respectful of the speaker and presentations that are prepared for us.  Students at Goshen College are consistently treated as adults, though many choose not to act as such.

Sitting in a pew three rows from the back, I did my best to listen intently to the speaker.  I knew she had taken the time to prepare something meaningful, and I was going to listen.  Meanwhile, conversations were taking place all around me, and as I glanced around the room it was hard to miss the people blatantly ignoring the speaker.

Don’t get me wrong–for more than eight years of Mennonite-based education I have sat through daily and weekly assemblies, but even though I have felt forced to attend, I typically listen and give the speaker my attention.  Usually I gain a little perspective out of it as well.

Ignoring the speaker is a person’s own prerogative, but to disrupt everyone around you by talking audibly, using your handheld devices or telling the speaker to “end it now,” (as someone on my pew exclaimed) is incredibly disrespectful.

Continuing my Monday routine after convo, I noticed that chatter permeates the classroom as well.  Upon reviewing exam grades in one class, I asked the person beside me (who was browsing through Facebook on their iPad) which question the professor was reviewing.  She didn’t know–saying, “I bombed this test, so I’m not even listening.”

And in my final class of the day, I couldn’t help but feel like the professor had to fight for our attention as conversations carried on–sometimes louder than the professor’s instructions.

From my perspective, college is about two things: getting a degree, and transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.  Sure, the school that we enrolled in requires attendance to periodic assemblies which are not always personally interesting to us, but that was our choice.  We are not (for the most part, anyway) forced to attend Goshen College.

Why would anyone pay $35,000 per year to attend classes and convocations they wouldn’t pay any attention to?