SGA rejects effort to reduce chapel to 18 credits in a 4-15 vote
By Maria Monteros
Members of the Student Government Association overwhelmingly voted against a resolution that would have reduced the number of chapel requirements to 18 from 24 credit hours each semester.
The resolution failed to pass the SGA for the president’s cabinet to review in a 4-15 vote during the regular Monday meeting last week. Six members voted to abstain.
On Change.org, a petition to “drop chapel requirements from 24 to 18” gathered over 500 signatures and 153 shares within three months. The petition cited stress, workload, commutes and chapel burnout as factors to reduce the required hours.
Failure to complete the required credit hours could result in a $10 fine on the first absence, $20 on the third absence and an additional $10 for more than three
absences. Students with an exorbitant amount of absences could be placed on hold or expelled from Trevecca.
“Christianity is not necessarily a quota,” the petition states. “Diminishing the number of chapels required allows more students who are very passionate about it to have a more intimate atmosphere.”
Mary Noble, a sophomore IT and software development major who wrote the resolution, said she initially started the petition for a group activity in a course after hearing about the uneven distribution of chapel exemptions. She said the petition gained 300 signatures overnight.
Trevecca students who request exemption are obligated to explain why they need it, which Noble said can be unfair when some students are better writers or liars.
“It’s been brought up before, it’s been talked about before, it’s been discussed before, but I didn’t really hear a lot of action,” she said about issues in chapel. “It’s really hard for me to hear everyone have a problem.”
Last fall, 432 students applied for chapel exemption, according to Matt Spraker, dean of students for community life. Only 145 received full exemption and
197 received partial exemptions, he said.
Students are allowed to request exemption within the first few weeks of the semester, all of which Spraker reviews and grants the verdict depending on their class schedule, handwritten explanations and commuter status.
Those who didn’t qualify for their desired exemption may file for an appeal. Spraker said a council that includes himself, the university chaplain and student body chaplain reviews all the cases.
Spraker said officials involved in granting chapel exemptions have no means of verifying whether students’ handwritten explanations are factual.
“We just have to trust that our students aren’t going to lie, and I’m sure some do,” he said.
Though the resolution didn’t reach the cabinet’s desk, Spraker said the attempt would not likely have been approved because it might shift the university’s culture.
“The school doesn’t necessarily put a lot into signing a petition,” he said. “What’s going on here is good because it’s more than just a petition, it’s a positive conversation.”
Trevecca offers 38 to 42 chapel credit opportunities a semester, according to the university catalog. Compared to other Nazarene universities, Trevecca requires and offers the least number of chapels, SGA members said.
Instead of reducing chapel, SGA members said they’re working to provide alternative ways students can acquire credit such as service opportunities, student lead chapels and small group discussions.
Some SGA members argue the typical structure of chapel does not appeal to some students. Stephanie Hansen, all student body chaplain, said alternative chapels could help develop different areas of spiritual growth.
“Sometimes, people don’t worship with song or with listening, but it is something we knew we signed up for,” she said. “With service projects or if I try to do a student lead chapel, I think that would help spiritual life a lot.”
University Chaplain Erik Gernand said reducing the number of required chapel attendance would cause students to “miss out on a shared experience.”
“I think we want to be reasonable with what we can expect students to attend but recognize that we’re going to challenge the student body here to be intentional,”
he said. “That petition was to lower the requirement by a fourth, and so you just got a fourth fewer opportunities to examine that critical part of your spirituality.”
Josh Moore, senior media arts, tv and film major, signed and shared the petition online because he agreed that Trevecca should have a less strict policy similar to other universities in the Nashville area, he said.
“With the amount of chapel, it has grown callous on some people,” he said. “[Student’s] hearts are kind of callous to the Gospel because it so supersaturated into everybody’s weekly routine.”
Before she wrote her resolution, Noble said she consulted multiple administrators and professors about her plan. While many where supportive, she said, some argued that chapel is part of Trevecca’s curriculum.
“Someone said chapel’s a class, but I can drop a class if it’s ruining my life— not to say that chapel is ruining my life,” she said. “Your religion and your spirituality are never just a check-thebox-I-got-the-grade thing.”
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