I think we all expected an article like this. Let me state initially that the purpose of this article is not to present arguments for either side, but to give a diplomatic opinion that fairly presents a broad summary of the facts as well as a suggestion of how we have responded and should respond to such an issue.
On the evening of Tuesday March 31st, Dean Brad Voyles sent out the email to all traditional students that, effective for the 2015-16 Academic Year, it is mandatory that all full-time Covenant students sign up for some form of a meal plan. The reasons for this decision included preserving and contributing to the community at Covenant, removing the pressure from off-campus students to cook for themselves constantly, and strengthening the financial contract that Covenant College has with Chartwells.The nature of the following massive response prompted the Q&A session, initially scheduled for April 4th in Brock, to be held two days earlier in larger Sanderson 215. On Thursday April 2nd at 11am, Dean Voyles called together the discussion session, where many students were present along with Tom Schreiner, the liaison between Covenant and Chartwells. After opening with a prayer, Dean Voyles gave a broad overview of the decision and the issue at hand before accepting questions. Many questions were asked and statements were made by students, most being frustrated and irate. Students addressed: the timing of the decision, the involvement in a community was a personal decision, and the extra cost of the meal plan would prevent some from returning to the school. In the end, having listened to and responding as fairly as possible to the concerns, Dean Voyles said that he would take the shared feedback to administration once again.
How did we respond? The student response was massively negative. All of the aforementioned reasons and more propelled many in our community to take an outraged stance, feeling stifled and unheard by administration. Many of us remember what we were saying on the topic in centers of unrestrained speech such as Yik Yak. Needless to say, this decision caused a massive uproar. But how should we actually respond? We must acknowledge that there is frustration on both sides, and also truth spoken by both sides. I, too, signed the petition. We, the students, had a chance to speak out for our cause- the timing of this decision was not perfect, and communication could have been clearer all around.
However, I do not think that we responded as we should have- we have overstepped our bounds as representatives of our free speech and crossed over the respectful lines we have as members within a community. If administration does decide to carry out this plan, we should prepare ourselves to respond well. We all know that we are called to respect our authorities. Furthermore, we are called to love each other. The statement “In All Things Profit Preeminent” was posted during the student backlash. It is not even remotely funny. We all know that we love Covenant College and are deeply appreciative of many of its irreplaceable aspects and the things we are learning here as members of a Christian community. Stepping back from all of this, we can be reminded of how much we truly believe that we are deeply indebted to this place, academically and spiritually.
If we place Christ before all things, we realize that we have a higher calling, a calling to walk in humility. Is it worth sacrificing our integrity for community-wide disagreements like this? Even regardless of who is “right,” we are all a part of this institution. We are, even more significantly, a part of the body of Christ, in whom all things are truly preeminent. Regardless of how justified we are in our cause, how will we communally represent ourselves in the face of frustration? Each side must also realign itself to cooperate and listen to the other. Corporately, let us simmer down and remember ultimately that “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.