Todd Pickett explains reason behind new chapel policy
SCANNING IN: Students arrive at chapel on Wednesday morning, Sept. 28. Chapel Board announced on Monday that students who fail to physically attend at least 15 chapels per semester will be fined $375, with the opportunity to attend a one day retreat to reduce the fine. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES
A new chapel policy through Spiritual Development was announced Monday instituting a $375 fee to be charged to students who do not meet the minimum chapel requirements or fail to adhere to the deadline for makeups. A one-day retreat led by Spiritual Development will be offered at the beginning of each semester and students who attend will have $125 of the $375 fine credited back to their account.
Biola requires students to physically attend 15 chapels and four conferences per semester. In the past, students who failed to meet the requirements were put on chapel probation. Chapel probation gave students one more semester to properly adhere to the requirements and, if they failed to do so, they were then limited to 12 units of classes their next term or required to do community service.
Students speak out against high fee
The announcement of the monetary fee in Monday’s chapel set off a wave of murmurs throughout the gym and students even booed from the balcony.
“I thought that it was a bit extreme,” said sophomore Kaitlyn Sylvain about the fine, who is double majoring in intercultural studies and psychology.
Sylvain said she could see the benefit in the new policy but thinks the fee is hard on the many families who struggle financially.
Logic behind determining the fee
“It’s painful to have to exact a fee,” said Todd Pickett, dean for Spiritual Development.
Many minds were joined to exact the amount, including deans and students, who wanted to find a fee that would not be so much that it is discouraging while remaining hefty enough that people would not just buy their way out of chapel, according to Pickett.
Many students in the discussion thought that the amount wasn’t high enough, Pickett said.
“I think it’s just another more overt way of enforcing a very legalistic policy … I don’t like it,” said junior political science major Christian Kaiser.
Spiritual Development makes the new policy seem like students save money because they will never be restricted to 12 units for not completing probation Kaiser said. At the same time he says it has negative connotations because it is a penalty.
Chapel probation conflicted with registration system
The change is partly tied to a new registration program.
“The 12 unit limit proved to be something we could no longer do with the new registration system,” Pickett said.
Chapel policy change desired for past few years
He elaborated on how the restriction opened up the option for Spiritual Development to make a wanted change that had been in discussion for several years.
“It is a new day,” Pickett said. “We are creating a more structured, more coherent curriculum for student’s spiritual development, which includes both instruction and experiential learning.”
Pickett explained Spiritual Development thinks it is important for students to want that development.
The reason for any type of requirement, explained Pickett, is so that people may actually learn from it and end up enjoying it.
He gave the analogy of teaching his daughter to play chess. Initially, he might give her candy as an incentive to play, but his hopes are that she will learn to love the game itself so much that the candy won’t matter anymore.
Chapel policies vary at other Christian schools
After researching other Council for Christian Colleges and Universities schools, Pickett stated that there are only a handful of ways to motivate students to attend chapel. Students can be fined, required to do community service or in cases like Pepperdine University, be given a grade for their chapel program involvement.
While the consequences at other universities may vary, attendance policies tend to be lower. Pepperdine University requires 14 chapels, or “convocations,” and allots a failing grade to students who do not attend at least seven. California Baptist University requires 15 credits, based on a grading system that will reflect their grade point average paired with a one credit removed from their transcript in the failure to meet the set requirements.
The Master’s College and Azusa Pacific University have a weightier requirement than that of Biola, which requires students to attend three mandatory chapels a week. Students who miss more than the unexcused absences — six at Master’s and three at APU — are put on probation. Under probation at APU, students are required to attend every chapel the following semester and may be suspended from the university if they don’t meet probationary requirements two semesters in a row.
Biola offers different options for chapel
Amid Big Chapel, Talbot Chapel, Afterdark, Singspo, Fives Chapel, Sabbathing and alternative chapels like the Sept. 29 "Salvation in James: Gift and Responsibility," there are over 145 opportunities to fulfill the 30 required chapel units every semester.
Students who are not physically at chapel to get their ID cards scanned can do makeup chapels. After listening or watching chapels or conferences online and completing a form with a dollar processing fee, students can complete up to 15 chapels and four conferences and turn them into the chapel accountability department.
Each year approximately 1,500 students complete chapel makeups and there are usually around 700 students each semester who are put on chapel probation, according to Jonathan Wyatt, chapel accountability coordinator. Last spring, there were 150 students who were limited to a 12-unit course load because they did not fulfill requirements to leave their probation in the fall.
New policy still encourages spiritual development
The new policy is not profoundly different than Biola’s philosophy of education, according to Pickett. Students should see it in the light of the broader scope of not just chapels, but their spiritual development as a whole.
“This is an education that you will not get easily in your churches, or on your own,” Pickett said. “We’re communicating and helping students grasp a university level understanding of how spiritual formation occurs.”