By Melanie J. Knox, Opinion Editor
With a year of Chapel controversy behind the university, the Optimist took a look at Chapel policies at ACU’s sister schools in the Church of Christ at the end of last year.
Here are the results, starting with Harding University in Searcy, Ark., where chapel begins at 9:00 a.m. and lasts until 9:35.
“I guess people around here are just early birds,” said Jordan Tanksley, junior human resources major from New London, Conn. “A lot of us get up and go to breakfast before Chapel. We don’t really mind that it’s early.”
The announcements are either first or last on the program, and three times a week they have speakers-student, faculty or guest-give a short lesson. Occasionally Chapel is all singing, or groups such as the Harding Chorus will perform.
“It’s a really great way to start the day,” Tanksley said. “It definitely serves the purpose of school unity.”
Harding students are allowed 15 total absences, 10 for their need, and five that require a note of excuse.
If they are one absence over, students are allowed one fewer absence the next semester. For two absences, they can’t study abroad and are not allowed to live in “privileged” housing. For three over, they may only take eight hours, may not live on campus, lose eligibility for financial aid and health insurance and, if they are a senior, can’t walk.
Students choose their Chapel seats, and attendance is taken by so-called “Chapel checkers.”
Students are not permitted to wear hats or shorts or have drinks in the auditorium. If a checker notices a student talking excessively, the student is asked to be quiet, and if the problem persists, they are sent to the dean’s office.
The only Church of Christ-affiliated school to not require daily Chapel, Pepperdine calls its 10 a.m. Wednesday gatherings “convocations.”
Students are required to attend 14 times per semester, and receive an academic grade based on their attendance that does affect their GPA.
Speeches at convocation usually involve some sort of social issue, and it is not uncommon for students to take the speeches to heart and start or become involved in chapters of an organization, such as World Impact or Amnesty International, on their own campus, some said.
“When convocation goes beyond the speech and makes a real connection with lives is when it is all worthwhile,” said Doug Hurley, director of student affairs.
Occasionally bands such as Bebo Norman will perform, and Hurley said spiritual development is the objective.
Students have other options for convocation credit besides the Wednesday speech, such as the chapel services offered in Spanish, French, German and Italian three times a week or the Friday morning Christian Chapel.
“I usually go over on my credits because the convocation speakers are so interesting, and I love the Friday chapel,” said Lera Danley, freshman English major from North Haven, Conn.
The theme for last semester’s Chapel at Lipscomb was “Living in Dialogue with God, Moment by Moment.” With the exception of announcements, its Chapel is similar to ACU’s.
But students only attend chapel three days a week. The other two days, they go to a 45 minute lecture called “University Bible.” At the end of the semester, students are given a 20-question test over what they heard in University Bible, which counts for a small percent of their daily Bible grade.
Students can fail University Bible.
Monday is usually “worship day,” and Wednesday and Friday feature speakers. Sometimes the speakers are women, and Lipscomb has brought in the Nashville Opera in the past.
Lipscomb chapels have assigned seating and officials take digital pictures to take attendance.
“One of the benefits of randomly assigned seating is that it helps the students meet new people,” said Sam Smith, chapel co-coordinator. “But the purpose is to help with attendance.”
Chapel at Freed-Hardeman University, in Jackson, Tenn., begins at 10:30, but not many students skip Chapel or trickle in late.
Students are allowed eight absences. On the ninth absence, they receive a $25 fine; on the tenth a $50 fine; on the eleventh a $75 fine; and on the twelfth, suspension. And three tardies equal one absence.
“Students are aware of the policy and know what they can use their absences for,” said Jason Shockley, assistant to the dean of students. “They save them for finals week.”
Women serve on the chapel committee, and women can present programs after the devotional portion of chapel that deal with things such as social work.
Students are also on the committee, and the first song every day is led by a student.
Attendance is checked with assigned seating. Chapel checkers sit in the balcony of the auditorium, and students sit in the front half of the auditorium below.
There are two monitors per section, and freshmen all sit together.
Lipscomb students only attend chapel three days a week. The other two days, they attend a 45-minute lecture called University Bible. At the end of the semester, students take a 20 question test over University Bible; the exam counts for a small percent of students’ daily Bible grade.
And students can fail University Bible, said Sam Smith, chapel coordinator.
Monday is usually “worship day,” and Wednesday and Friday are speaker days. Sometimes the speakers are women, and Lipscomb has brought in the Nashville Opera in the past.
Students are assigned seats, and officials take digital pictures to take attendance.
“One of the benefits of randomly assigned seating is that it helps the students meet new people,” Smith said. “But the purpose is to help with attendance.”
Oklahoma Christian University
Oklahoma Christian students slide into a Chapel that is remarkably like ACU’s: daily, 15 absences allowed and meeting from 11 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. But students don’t have to slide out.
The machines only check that the card was slid, and officials are familiar with the phrase “sliding and gliding.”
After 15 absences, students are assigned one hour of community service for every absence, up to 10 hours. After 10 hours of community service, they meet with the dean and he or she assigns whatever action deemed appropriate.
“We’ve tried probation and fines and nothing seems to work,” said Peggy Stork, chapel and records secretary and secretary to the dean of students. “If they don’t want to go, they don’t go.”
David Christy, senior youth ministry major from Houston, said he likes the variety of speakers but that he wishes that more students would focus.
“More often than not, the ‘spiritual renewal’ that chapel is designed to bring is noticeably lacking,” he said. “I think the goals of chapel would be better met if it were optional instead of mandatory, and less frequent.”
Lubbock Christian University chapel coordinators were unavailable for comment.