By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
After months of study, the Chapel Task Force’s decisions on the program’s future were made public Tuesday as a number of changes were announced and came into effect.
The task force’s eight recommendations, all accepted by President Royce Money and his Cabinet, reflected a semester’s worth of discussion, proposals, feedback and decision that ultimately created a better understanding of Chapel itself, officials said.
“The changes are in response to not having studied Chapel extensively [in past years],” said Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life and a non-voting member of the task force.
With the eight recommendations, which range in scope from an official “Chapel theology” to a reordering of attendance policy, Chapel has been given a sense of stability absent in recent years, when amnesty was given to all attendance violators twice in a row.
The changes are meant to last a while, Barnard said.
“The task force is recommending that theuniversity continue with this plan for the next five or more years,” he said, “and allow this plan to work.”
The study of Chapel by the 18-member committee, which includes two students, started with the Board of Trustees requirement that Chapel be daily and mandatory, Barnard said. With that in mind, a seven-paragraph “mission and theology statement” now describes Chapel this way:
It is “a daily time to build relationship with God and one another through worship, fellowship and other spiritual disciplines.”
After several years in which Chapel was accused first of drifting away from its spiritual base and then decried for being worship-only, a mixture of both worship and community-based programs was included in the task force’s second recommendation.
“One of the things you told us was, ‘Last year, you didn’t spend enough time celebrating community,'” Dr. Jack Reese, dean of the College of Biblical Studies and task force member, told Tuesday’s Chapel audience. “We hear you, and we agree.”
The task force approved, 9-1, the recommendation to re-include announcements after their abolition two years ago, to add two Wednesdays where student groups could perform or present and to eliminate men’s and women’s Chapels.
The unpopularity of so-called “gender Chapels” was a result of poor execution, rather than a bad idea, Barnard said.
“I think the mistake we made was [not] programming better,” Barnard said. “I’m not willing to fall on my sword for that one. It’s not worth the battle.”
The other two major recommendations-changing 15 allowed absences into 55 earned credits and adding a second semester of probation-also passed by large margins. A potential loophole in the two-semester probation plan, acknowledged by both Barnard and Dr. Charlie Marler, the task force’s chair, is the ability of students to not attend Chapel their final year and still graduate.
“If a student is on probation, they’ll still be able to graduate,” Barnard said. But, he said, employers often look at students’ senior years to determine their reliability.
Other recommendations made by the task force included to further discuss women’s leadership roles, to continue using “curriculum” in reference to Chapel planning and to offer no more amnesty.
“The task force believes that this recommendation…is where we need to be,” Barnard said, adding that amnesty fails to give credit to the majority of students, who do not have Chapel attendance problems.
The past penalty system for missing too many Chapels was a “huge system of discriminatory penalization,” Marler said. Students on probation lost extracurricular privileges, which meant nothing to those not in social clubs, Sing Song or athletics.
Barnard agreed, saying this year’s policy would handle probation on a case-by-case basis.
With eight recommendations already in effect and a ninth that will keep the task force discussing several more issues, Barnard said the committee thus far has avoided divisiveness, as evidence by the group’s unanimous or near-unanimous votes on every resolution.
“It was a very congenial group,” he said. “There was a healthy discussion, but there was no big disagreement that I noticed.”