By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The newly formed Chapel Task Force has begun looking at several potential long-term plans to stem a rising tide of Chapel absences. The plans range from grading Chapel to hand-held card scanners.
Tuesday, the President’s Cabinet will hear thoughts from Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life and task force member, on a Chapel probation plan, which he said would likely mirror academic probation. The change is one of many the task force is considering for Chapel in the next year.
“Whenever you change a program, everything’s up for grabs,” Barnard told the Optimist. “And I like that.”
Barnard announced in Chapel Wednesday that he will be conferring with the President’s Cabinet-which consists of President Royce Money and the senior campus administrators-to discuss a new plan of Chapel probation that would replace the community service policy that governs excess Chapel absences.
Barnard said he was not yet sure exactly what his plan would entail but that it would likely copy the current process for academic probation, where students on probation must meet with their dean to create a plan to get off probation. Barnard said the new Chapel plan could go as far as suspension, like in academics.
“I’m not trying to force Chapel into an academic model,” Barnard said, “but I’m looking at the academic model to use in Chapel.”
The plan to better enforce penalties for missing more than 15 Chapels a semester was created after difficulties with the current process, which requires one hour of community service for each absence over 15. Barnard said hours falsification was followed by inconvenience when Campus Life began accepting forms for service only performed through certain Abilene groups.
Barnard said he would communicate the final policy revision to the student body via mass e-mail.
“I don’t want to put pressure on the President’s Cabinet,” he said. “I just want their input.”
Any plan agreed to by Campus Life and the President’s Cabinet would take effect this year, but the Chapel Task Force is considering a number of long-term plans for changing Chapel that could take effect as early as next fall.
Barnard said ideas he has been considering have been culled from other universities’ Chapel policies, particularly Pepperdine’s policies of counting their chapel for credit and using hand-held scanners to read students’ ID cards.
Other, more extreme measures are also being considered, including Harding’s current and ACU’s former policy of assigned seating, but Barnard said such a measure would be used only as a last resort to counter slide-and-glide offenses.
“My last resort would be assigned seating,” Barnard said. If we can’t have a student body that can do the right thing, the last resort will be assigned seating. That’s not a threat; it’s reality.”
Barnard also mentioned Wednesday that the task force is considering changing Chapel’s length and time. Barnard later told the Optimist that such a change was “likely,” although it wouldn’t take effect until next fall at the earliest.
Barnard also announced Wednesday the creation of a Chapel schedule that includes mandatory “break-out” or larger group Chapels every Tuesday and formalizes the small-group Chapels that spread across campus last year. All small affinity- and specialty-based groups will now meet on Thursdays.
Along with the formalization of a theme, structuring of a schedule and revision of the absences policy, Chapel is narrowing its list of song leaders, said Brad Carter, new Chapel coordinator. A select list of skilled leaders will lead singing in Chapel, and others who wish to be considered can test their skills in the break-out and small group Chapels, Carter said.
Carter said he thinks the new plans won’t change Chapel as much as it may seem.
“I think Chapel will look in many ways similar to how it has in the past,” Carter said, “but I hope it appears different. I realize that’s an optimistic goal.”