On March 29th, an announcement during chapel brought to the student body’s attention that the Hunter Museum of American Art banned students from the art galleries during any Spring Formals in the future due to blatant disrespect and vandalism.
Daniel Hollidge (‘19), the Director of the Covenant Activities Board (CAB) and Tindol Pate (‘19), the Student Body President, informed the school that it is a result of inappropriate actions of a small number of students at the dance and that it is unclear whether or not the Hunter will be an option for the dance next year.
According to Emily Balint, the Coordinator of Student Leadership, she received an email from the Hunter on Monday, March 22. The email informed Balint that students had repeatedly ignored security guards’ cautions against standing too close to artwork, created and left lewd artwork posted on artwork, and in the words of the museum staff, “trashed the education create studio spaces.” Balint was also told that a student used a TV that was part of an art exhibit to watch March Madness.
The Hunter is a venue that has historically kept prices low for the college to use for events. Balint said, “It is unfortunate that we have repaid that kindness with disrespect towards their staff and the museum artwork.”
Hollidge also mentioned the misfortune of a low cost, beautiful venue being treated in a disrespectful way, but continued to comment on how this reflected on the Covenant community.
During the chapel announcement, he said, “It’s sad because now this is our testimony, as the body of Christ, to the Hunter Museum and the Chattanooga community. We are ambassadors of Christ, and whether in our work or in our leisure, we are called, as the church, to display Christ and his gospel to the world. What we displayed to the Hunter Museum is that Christ disrespects authority and acts destructively and selfishly. We have failed in our role as Christ’s ambassadors.”
This is not the first time that Covenant has been banned from a venue. In years past, the Tennessee Aquarium raised their venue prices so significantly that it was no longer an option for Covenant dances after wildlife was brought into the Aquarium by students.
Pate reflected on the surprise she had when the email was revealed to her, as she had not experienced behavior like this during her time at Covenant. Pate said, “This semester, there do seem to have been several things that students have done, both behavior at the Hunter, the vandalism on Mills, and several smaller things [Pate did not expand on this for disciplinary privacy reasons] that do make me wonder what is the acceptable behavior that we’re encouraging among one another. … I think there’s a place for positive peer pressure, we can peer pressure each other into good behavior, I think there’s a way to do that well and we are not.”
For Pate and Hollidge, as graduating seniors, their senior year Formal will always have this conflict attached to it. When looking for a what-do-we-do-now response to the situation, the college is confronted with the fact that the damage is already done. Apologies can be sent to the museum, but the actions of a minority have had consequences for the majority of the college.
When asked what lesson she, as the graduating student body president, would like the college to learn, Pate said, “In conversations with students throughout my time at Covenant, we’ve had this frustrating feeling like administration, faculty, and staff, whatever, the person in power, treats us like children. [That they] view students as children that can’t be trusted to make good decisions and that need rules to keep them behaving a certain way. I’ve come to realize that the administration does not view us that way in most instances. But, in situations like this, I can’t help but think, ‘Well, they’re entirely justified in viewing us as children when we do things like this.’ So, I think what I hope for the future of the student body is that there will be just a change in culture so that what we will affirm in one another is mature behavior. That’s not to say we have to be all buttoned up and old fuddy-duddies, but just that that will be what is acceptable and hopefully that will have a positive byproduct of proving to administration and faculty and staff that we are mature adults and you can trust us.”
Both Hollidge and Pate encouraged students, even if not directly responsible, to reach out with an apology towards the Hunter Museum. For interested students, the museum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-267-0968.