New chapel policy levies student schedules
Despite its appearances, the policy change limits the student body’s options and fails to consider key components of the Biola community. | Illustration by Trevor Lunde/THE CHIMES
Relief seems to permeate student reaction to the revised chapel policy, as if 20 chapels and five conferences constitutes a reduction in requirement.
“Our change to requiring 20 [chapels] and five [conferences] is actually an increase,” said Lisa Igram, associate dean of Spiritual Development.
The new policy, in fact, requires more on-site commitment than in the last 30 years.
When Biola created the previous chapel requirements in the 1980s, it allowed students to complete make-up forms for all 30 chapels and eight conferences.
Believing the allowance of all 30 make-ups missed the point of making chapel mandatory, the Spiritual Development leadership limited the number of make-ups to 15 chapels and four conferences in 2007 — still less stringent than the new 20 chapels and five conferences.
Spiritual Development embarked on a two-year journey in June 2013 analyzing data, weathering administrative rigmarole and interviewing students and faculty. The new policy summed up their efforts.
Though I commend their hard work, the decision parallels any choice made by a small group of people not included in the affected population.
For the 41 percent of Biola’s student body constituted by commuters, not to mention those with heavy course loads and students who work in any capacity — not having the option of make-ups or chapel reductions exacerbates stress and distracts from the spiritually enrichening qualities of chapel.
“While 100 years ago it was best practice to require students to go to chapel every day, now, students have to get internships, they have to have jobs in order to pay for college, they have to take extra classes in order to get the Bible minor along with their major so that they can get the job that they need,” Igram said.
RESPONSIBILITY IN ACADEMICS
In a chapel from Sept. 26, 2011, Todd Pickett, dean of Spiritual Development, shares the department’s desire for intrinsically motivated chapel attendance, but goes on to outline the extrinsic accountability they will impose whether students want it or not.
While it is difficult to criticize such noble intentions of accountability, we cannot ignore the fact that Biola chiefly functions as an educational institution in which biblical knowledge and spiritual formation is bought and sold by the unit. Biola’s responsibility to accountability lies in academics, not spiritual development.
REWARD NOT REQUIRE
If the university wants to monitor our spiritual development the way they monitor academic performance, let us convert chapels into units: if a student attends 50 minute chapels and conferences a total of 25 times a semester, they will have enough hours to satisfy over two units of class time.
Furthermore, if a student does not not have the flexibility in their schedule for an extra 40 extra hours of chapel this semester, the result is that many pick up extra hours at their jobs to pay for the $375 non-attendance fine.
If the chapels intend to serve students, it should be optional with reward, not required with threat of financial punishment. Increasing chapel requirements without the option of make-ups or reductions discounts chapel’s intent to enrich students spiritually in an environment structured toward academics.