By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The term “academic credit” was clarified this week by those in charge of deciding future Chapel policies as the committee in charge of changing long-term policy began to discuss possible changes.
Although found in the Campus Life office’s five-year plan for Chapel, the term “academic credit” does not necessarily mean Chapel would be added to the core curriculum, the required 128 hours to graduate or students’ GPA, said Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, provost.
“One of the things that’s been re-looked at is will students receive some kind of overall grade,” said VanRheenen, a member of the Chapel Task Force. The grade, if officially proposed, would probably be on a satisfactory/ unsatisfactory/failing scale. Such a scale was used in the 1980s.
According to the five-year plan, the grading scale is a strategy being considered to meet the goal of improving attendance. The tentative plan suggests changing “the Chapel attendance policy to reflect academic credits” by the 2004-05 school year.
Brad Carter, director of Chapel programming and author of the plan, said he did not feel comfortable commenting on the topic at this time.
The Chapel Task Force has begun discussing that and other subjects, splitting into four subgroups to discuss Chapel policy changes. One of these groups-Form and Structure, chaired by Mark Lewis, director of spiritual life-will discuss issues relating to Chapel attendance.
“Nothing’s been decided,” Lewis said. “But at this point, that’s more of a front-runner.”
Lewis said the current suspension-probation policy has turned into an “administrative nightmare.”
The grading scale may not be the best way to enforce Chapel attendance, Lewis said, “but it’s probably the most practical.”
The task force has not discussed academic credit or a grading scale for Chapel, said Dr. Charlie Marler, chair of the task force and professor of journalism and mass communication.
“My personal vote would be resistance to something other than ‘satisfactory’ or probation for a grading scale,” Marler said, noting that the current system already works in accountability through probation and suspension.
The subgroups will recommend Chapel policy revisions to the full task force within the next month, and the full committee will then discuss which to include in a presentation to the President’s Cabinet.
Ways to improve Chapel attendance have been hotly debated for decades. Assigned seating and photography were replaced in the 1980s by ID card readers. Grading scale, fines, community service and now probation have all been used as deterrents to students wishing to skip Chapel.
“Attendance at Chapel is probably better than it’s ever been,” VanRheenen said. “It’s certainly better than the year before.” He said data show fewer students with more than 15 absences last semester, as opposed to high numbers in previous years.
VanRheenen said he expects a variety of feedback on the topic.
“I think there’ll be lots of differences of opinion on how we meet this requirement,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons for the task force.”
*In related news, Students’ Association president Jeremy Smith said Wednesday the executive officers have no obligation to create an official SA opinion on possible Chapel policy changes and current Chapel direction changes.
“That is not exactly the executive officers’ job to detail the student body’s opinion on Chapel,” Smith said, addressing congress. “It is y’all’s responsibility as elected members.”
Meanwhile, the Chapel Task Force has begun considering which students to invite to its meetings, Marler said. He said Smith would decide into which subgroups the students will be assigned.