As many (all) of you might have noticed, Monday night brought on one of the more epic email chains of our Covenant careers. A mass email was sent out by our favorite Student Body VP with the names accidently cc’d instead of bcc’d making for a super tempting “reply all” button. This eventually spiraled into a call for a new vote for Freshman Class President with Chad Chad Chad Chad and our own Bagpipe Editor, Emmett, on the ballot as president and vice-president respectively. What you may not have been aware of at the time is that email chains like this are not only completely forbidden under the student handbook, but can result in disciplinary action, as they are considered harassment.
Harassment? I’m sure many of you just gave a smug nod to my question mark, but before you completely write me off, I’d like to point out several nuances I think are missing in this conversation. First, I would like to point out what was, at the beginning, not said in our email chain. There were no nude photos or sexual harassment of any kind passed along in the email chain. I point this out because revenge porn is a real issue in our cultural climate and is especially popular among people our age. An all student email would be an excellent place to do some serious damage but that did not happen. Second, on Monday, none of the emails contained expletives. I know this may seem like another “duh” but let me say that it is not uncommon to see several f-bombs while scrolling through my news feed and I find it fascinating that initially no one resorted to this sort of language in a “reply all” to the entire student body. Third, the Monday chain was not used to deconstruct the authority of Covenant College or to marginalize people on this campus. I’m not saying there wasn’t name calling. Chad and Emmett were called plenty of odd and confusing names, but in the Monday chain, no one was bullied or treated with blatant contempt by the students of this college. There were some sarcastic slights which probably need to be followed-up with some “I’m sorry” emails, but for the most part, things were pretty tame.
I do not list these things so we can pat ourselves on the back and put it on the college fliers, but rather to remind you of who we are. We are a community marked by Christ’s love and a people who have been enveloped in covenant promises. I think the lack of the things I listed above are actually evidence of the Lord’s grace working on our campus. Forgive me if it seems like I am over-spiritualizing this whole thing, but it was Covenant College that taught me to think holistically and email chains like this are prime examples of holistic theology working its way into our everyday. And praise God that it is! I want to suggest that many of the replies were not looking to attention grab at the expense of one another, but rather they participated in a call for laughter and a call to enjoy one another. What was included in the email chain were several hilarious pieces of satire campaigning for a Senior-Freshmen class president, some amazing .jpg’s of Chad and Emmett, an offer to buy cookies for the entire school, several calls to end global warming, and a marriage proposal. Not bad for a Monday.
By Tuesday, the hilarious email chain declined and a few took the joke too far and it was Dean Voyles who saved us from having a Lord of the Flies moment. But even in its decline, I think what we gain from group emails is worth more than the frustration you may have experienced from reading emails and having to spend a few extra minutes emptying your mail-trash. We live in a world where we have all been personally victimized by the group text, “that” guy on your newsfeed, and, yes, the “reply all.” I want to be clear that these things can be a nuisance and even occasionally offensive, but if you think that this is the last time technology will be misused, you will be gravely disappointed. This is not a call for a daily mass-email chain, as I believe we proved that the reply all can be abused. The way certain individuals handled the last series of emails was unfortunate, although I do not believe it means there is not redemption to be gleaned.
My call to some of you is to be thoughtful in your approach to rules set in place for community conduct. I hope you will come to understand the love and the care that went into the construction of the rules you may now abhor in particular cases. However, my prayer for all of you is that the Lord would give you wisdom to know also that such rules are subservient to the higher call we have to live in and engage with our community. Hopefully, you can embrace all the quirks of life here. I pray that college will not simply be a time where you fall in line behind one another on the slow trek to graduation, but that you too would find your voice among the clamor of the “reply all” and learn to hear your fellow students in the same grace and love that is shown to you daily by our Savior.