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Secular music cut from coffee shops

Junior communication sciences and disorders major Michalyn Slagle listens to her own music in Commons. Biola reinforces Christian music policy at cafés with a subscription to Pandora. | Johnathan Burkhardt/THE CHIMES


After receiving a variety of complaints due to the type of music played in campus coffee shops, Christian music will be the only genre played, though there is the possibility that a wider selection may be added in the future.


There have been two consistent complaints: the volume and selection of music playing, said Don Sims, senior director of auxiliary services.

“When we are in a Christian school, a Christian organization, you have to be careful. A lot of people come here, they all have our concepts of what we should be and so we have to kind of walk that line,” Sims said.  

This is not a new policy at Biola, but it is one that was not heavily enforced. Biola is now addressing the issue after receiving a culmination of complaints over the years, mostly from parents and occasionally students.

“Our policy has always been, it is supposed to have been, Christian music but our systems allowed students, we allowed the student managers to play their own music, so they made choices,” Sims said.


Copyright issues are a concern when students play their own music, which is now being addressed by paying royalties to use commercial Pandora.

“We suddenly realized that we were not in compliance with law in that if we were playing music over speakers for the general public. It had to be basically under copyright agreement,” Sims said.

The new system is currently in place at Blackstone and Heritage cafés, but they are working to implement it at Common Grounds and The Talon, as well as the fitness center.  


Students who have recently visited Heritage Café have noticed the change of music and are responding through the comment cards available to customers.

“I am a music major and we are taught to look at all music and anything that is beautiful and done well as God’s creation, so I have never been offended by what I have heard,” said Anna Kietzman, senior music composition major. “I used to work at Commons, so I remember that we would play a myriad of things.”  

Kietzman stated that workers at Common Grounds would often tailor their music to their audience, particularly during events such as Grandparent’s Weekend.


The reinforcement of the music policy has assisted in streamlining the process for employees as they do not have to attend to the music device while working.

“It’s really easy because they have it set up so they have it all programmed on their side,” said Leon Darley, Heritage Café student manager and senior physical education major. “It comes on in the morning before we open and it turns off at night when we close and they have the capability of scheduling certain stations during certain times.”

Students have also voiced concerns regarding the new selection of music with cafés such as Common Grounds, which is well known for their playlists.

“I didn’t have a really strong opinion about it. I mean, I feel like it will probably get old if it’s the same songs over and over again,” said Kaelyn Large, sophomore communications major. “I really enjoy the music that was played in Commons, like different music and different genres.”


Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Robert

    I write in response to the topic of this article, not to other circumstances that relate to this subject...
    If Biola stands on biblical truth then students should acknowledge that they are to be a light to each other and visitors. Sometimes I wonder what is being played. Some of the music is something you hear at a house party or club. Which was music I listened to before becoming a Christian. But this music at Biola? I even had a nonbeliever friend express his surprising thoughts.

    Students don't need a contract to know this, they need to know their bibles and their God, who is holy. And sure a student can ask this question: Well tell me what is the standard of listening to music of any genre over speakers? Draw me a line... That's the wrong question to ask. It should be: What is the biblical standard of listening to music of any genre over speakers? Draw me a line...Well, does it glorify God? Does it honor his righteous name?

    Like anything in this world believers will always struggle to be in the world, but not of the world. Biola students what is the objective truth you eagerly try to hold to? Or is it subjective? "Think Biblically" biola's mission.
    October 14, 2015

  2. Aaron Fooks


    But is it? I think most people use headphones. But I could be wrong. Ehhh...

    Also, shout out dem Chimes peeps. You guys rock. October 14, 2015

  3. Luke

    To Robert:

    I'm just curious; how does one determine what is music that is 'biblically appropriate' to listen to? Is there a Bible verse that specifies, or at the least, give guidelines of what music should and shouldn't sound like? Nowadays, Hillsong (Young and Free) came out with an album that sounds like House Party music at times, but I don't think most Christians would have a problem with it.

    Also, does music always have to glorify God explicitly? For example, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 was so beautiful that it moved an emotionless robot like me into tears; however, that concerto sought to reflect the composer's profound depression, not referring to God in any way. I can think of a myriad of other examples that connect profoundly to my soul, yet don't explicitly mention or glorify God.

    So if the 'line' takes the form of "does it glorify and honor God," then I think the line definitely needs to be redefined. October 14, 2015

  4. Kris Yee

    RIP My secret dream to have Pidgeoto played in Commons.

    Pack it up, boys. The dream is dead. October 14, 2015

  5. Matthew Rongey

    So I guess there's zero chance of the Carmina Burana being played on campus ever again. October 14, 2015

  6. Lydia

    I'm fine with whatever is deemed Christian music being played in the coffee shops, but I'm a bit wary of how this is going to be achieved.

    I don't understand how letting Pandora decide what is Christian music is any better than letting students choose. We will now be listening to what an automated music recommendation service is determining to be "Christian" music. I know Biola is careful of vetting worship songs in chapels so that they are theologically sound, but I'm pretty sure Pandora is not going through that process. Someone has to set the Pandora station, but then Pandora can play what it wants. For example, I can set my station to Bach, a Christian composer, but then Pandora can play other classical music, like Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, who was an atheist. There is a dislike/skip button on Pandora, but not a "this is not a Talbot-approved Christian composer button." Is it then unsafe to play classical music for fear of playing secular music? So is there going to be someone at the coffee shops dedicated to determining and censoring un-Christian music, figuring out whether or not a composer is Christian? But if it has no words, and no one can tell it's not Christian, does it matter? Oh, so does it only matter that the music "sounds" like it could be Christian? Isn't that culturally subjective criteria to the extreme then?

    Is Christian music only hymns? Or only gentle acoustic melodies that won't be jarring to a middle-aged, conservative, White Anglo-Saxon Evangelical (such as, say, a parent)? Then what about rappers like Lecrae, with loud, heavy bass beats but words that have a Christian message? But then what about Bach's wordless compositions? Is that Christian?

    As a Biola student, I'm committed to being good witness to others, and I know the administration is trying to do this too. I honestly think it's great that we should only listen to Christian music in the coffee shop. But what is Christian music exactly, and who is deciding it? October 16, 2015

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