Convocation and chapel have always been an important part of Goshen College’s curriculum. 10 a.m. is a sacred time of the week where a large portion of the GC student body comes together to learn and reflect as a community. It may not be everyone’s favorite activity of the day, but it’s still important to respect the policy put forth by our school administration and give any speaker at the pulpit our undivided attention. 

This semester, I’ve noticed an abundance of student disruptions during convos. I’ve witnessed an entire balcony full of students talking as someone on stage is trying to speak, side conversations during transitions, and groups of students so eager to leave that they’ll stand up before the speaker is finished talking.

 I’m probably not alone when I say that convo/chapel can be quite the snooze fest sometimes. In fact, last school year felt like a breath of fresh air without them. But since my freshman year, they’ve been such a routine that it doesn’t bother me to go. In my first two years here at GC, there was rarely a time where someone had to tell the audience to quiet down or stay seated – maybe a time or two, but it happened so infrequently that it wasn’t a big deal. 

Now, after a year of effectively no convo, something feels different. Now it feels like some people can’t do the bare minimum and sit silently and listen for 45 minutes. 

It would be easy to say that we were just spoiled last year, and it’s difficult for some returning students to transition back to the expectations from the pre-COVID era. But I believe it’s a little more complicated than that.

My first theory is that virtual schooling has affected everyone’s ability to sit for extended periods of time as a large group. Virtual classes bring all sorts of distracting elements into the mix: students are often in their rooms with their own computers, and there’s more wiggle room to get distracted with roommates, extraneous noise, pets, etc. Mics are always on mute, and you’re free to text with people during class. 

During convo, students are expected to sit in a large group, in uncomfortable benches, all without using their smartphones. It’s possible that students have forgotten how to give their undivided attention to a mass in-person gathering. 

Another theory is that there’s a group of students that have simply never experienced convo at GC before and are not accustomed to what is expected of them each week. The current second-years had a comparatively isolating first year with less room for community building. 

The current first-years are emerging from the COVID mess that was their last year and a half of high school. They too have experienced isolating (partially virtual) educations that may not have prepared them for what’s expected of them now. 

My final theory is a really important one, and it’s that upperclassmen haven’t been setting a proper example. My class of 2022 is the only class on campus that has experienced a full school year of convo. We have failed to set an example to everyone else on how to properly give our respect and attention to those speaking at that pulpit.

What does that say about us as a class? The role of an upperclassman is to be a role model for younger students, and based on what I’ve been seeing in convos and chapels, something doesn’t seem to be sticking.

It’s a shame that any of this is an issue to begin with. If we can’t even do this right, then what does that say about our abilities to do the same in the workplace? We need to do better. 

A friendly reminder at the start of the school year to stay quiet and seated is expected. But when it’s past fall break and we’re still doing this, that’s a problem. 

I just want to thank everyone that makes a conscious effort to respect the time of our speakers by staying quiet and seated. You are what makes Goshen College a fantastic place to learn and grow. While I may not love convos/chapels, I love this school, and the school I love is better than a balcony full of talking students.