By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
In 1950, nearly 1,500 students attended ACU. Thirty years later, that statistic had more than tripled. But since then, enrollment has stagnated, and because of a new addition to campus, ACU will most likely not break the 5,000 mark anytime soon.
As part of the estimated $15.7 million Bob and Shirley Hunter Welcome Center, the university intricately and systematically placed dozens of limestone and granite stones to create a circular labyrinth that spans 40 feet in diameter. The labyrinth is intended to be an area for students to meditate and relax. However, it is modeled after a labyrinth built around 1140 A.D. at the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. Back then, churchgoers would walk along the labyrinth’s path, treat their journey as a substitute pilgrimage to Jerusalem and repent of their sins.
Although nothing is wrong with having such a spiritual tool on campus, the problem with the labyrinth lies in its location: right in front of the welcome center.
Imagine what frightening thoughts would race through a prospective student’s mind when he or she sees a structure that practically shouts, “You cannot apply to this school without first confessing your sins!” What would be worse is if they were to see current students walking along the labyrinth’s path, dressed in burlap, faces downcast and chanting haunting mantras like the masochistic monks did in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Many prospective students might turn right around and go to a school that seemed a little less dogmatic – like Bob Jones University.
However, for current students, a labyrinth may be just what they need. For example, if you were to attend a typical Chapel service, your eyes would want to explode at the horrendous sight of hundreds of heathens chatting about mindless drivel, playing Tetris on their cell phones and watching the latest episode of Naruto on their laptops while the speaker talks. But if students were required to walk through the labyrinth on a regular basis, maybe their actions would change. I say “maybe” because it did not work for me.
Last week, I walked through the labyrinth’s winding path, and the journey took me three minutes to complete – it would have taken three weeks if I actually had been thinking about my sins. And as I walked, I noticed words such as “compassion,” “devotion” and “transformation” carved into the stones along the path. I think phrases like “conduct probation,” “weekend curfew” and “55 Chapel credits” would be more effective choices.
But if I were not previously walking by the welcome center, I would have never come across the labyrinth. This gets back to the labyrinth’s location problem.
The one place on campus that consistently has the most student traffic is Moody Coliseum. This would have been the perfect place for a labyrinth, especially if Moody was redesigned to have only one entrance that led to a dark and foreboding passageway into Chapel. And along the way, students would be confronted by a giant Minotaur who would leap from behind secret panels, quiz students on religious doctrine and hack those students who gave wrong answers with a mighty double-bladed axe.
Behavior from students during Chapel would improve under such a plan, but enrollment definitely would drop dramatically. In fact, ACU soon would be striving to reach an enrollment of five instead of 5,000. So to avoid the possibility of the campus being littered by the bodies of slaughtered students, I suggest the labyrinth stay in front of the welcome center. And to combat scaring prospective students by the emergence of overzealous religious fanatics, I also suggest current students keep their burlap robes at home and treat the labyrinth as a quiet place to rest and reflect on God’s goodness. The labyrinth’s path may be complex and twisted, but the way we use it does not need to be.