Last week, Logan Miller wrote an editorial about students being rude during chapels and convocations. I, too, have noticed a problem in chapel behavior.We all see it: students talking, doing homework, using laptops and generally not paying attention during chapel/convo. And then there are the people who we don’t see because they’ve managed to “swipe and dash,” leaving chapel before it’s even started.
While dissatisfaction with chapels is not a new phenomenon at Goshen College, I would argue that it’s gotten worse during my time here.
Why, we might ask, is chapel despised by so many students?
A lot of students–perhaps the majority–feel forced to attend chapels and convocations, finding them boring or a waste of valuable time. I admit that I am not enthralled with every convo/chapel option, and an extra hour to do homework or nap on Monday and Friday mornings does seem pretty appealing.
But I also think that going to convocation can be valuable when the topic is interesting and the speaker is engaging. As President Jim Brenneman said to me this week, convo/chapel is one of the few regular “corporate gatherings” where the study body can share a learning experience during the week. I agree with Jimmy B: we should not ditch chapels, or even the requirement.
After all, if we get rid of the requirement, would students still go to chapel? Some might, but realistically, many wouldn’t. This is evident in the chapel attendance of other Mennonite colleges.
Some schools, like Eastern Mennonite University, do not have a chapel requirement and therefore have poor attendance, often with fewer than 40 students at any given chapel. Bluffton, too, has no chapel requirement.
Hesston College, on the other hand, requires students to attend 24 chapels or forums every semester and fines students $10 if they don’t meet the quota. Students aren’t allowed to bring backpacks into chapel and have to submit a written response for every chapel they miss. It’s no surprise, then, that chapels at Hesston are highly attended.
So where does this leave Goshen College?
I propose that, instead of getting rid of the chapel/convo requirement entirely, we consider reducing it, maybe by half. More importantly, I think it’s essential to start making chapels more appealing to the student body. If more chapels and convocations were legitimately interesting to the majority of people at Goshen College–like the highly popular SST convos–students might be less inclined to complain or tune out during chapel. I’m sure I was not the only one who was excited for the Morocco SST convo this week. Why can’t we have more convos like that?
Let’s not get rid of chapels–let’s make them better.