On the January 13, Chaplain Lowe made a statement that students would now lose the credit for the chapel if a faculty or staff member saw them with a phone out during chapel.
As soon as the new rule was said, the chapel filled with whispers of students’ disapproval. My voice joined the chorus of complaints. Annoyed that they were imposing more rules upon us. Annoyed that that took extreme measures when I didn’t see a need for the rule. Even later discussions, we had nothing but complaints to offer. Most said they agreed that they should not use phones in chapel but that the rule was unnecessary. They felt as if they were being treated like children.
After a week or so of complaining and ranting about the rule, I have realized a confession I must make: I value my personal liberty over the impact my needs have on the community I joined. I openly agree that phones are a disrespect to the speaker, a distraction to yourself and others, and that they change the dynamic of the chapel service in a negative way.
Honestly, I would be quite surprised is anyone challenged me on that. However, I thought to make a rule taking away the freedom to make that choice for myself was imposing on my freedom as a growing adult.
Xavier Rollman, freshman Business major, said, “The power that administration is trying to hold over the students can be overwhelming and make students do things they otherwise wouldn't do. If one is treated like a child one will act like a child.” This was a common complaint from many students: “We are told by the school to act like adults yet they treat us like children.”
I would like to disagree. When treated like adults we did not behave like adults.
In the Fall of 2014, the Chapel department introduced a policy banning cellphones and other electronic devices in chapel. In August of 2016, Chaplin Lowe gave an introduction to chapel for the year and reminded students of the policy. In September of the same semester, Dr. Rosalie de Rosset gave a chapel talk titled, “Mindful or Mindless—Thinking Theologically about Technology,” in which she warned against the dangers and distraction of phones in everyday life and, especially, when in class or chapel setting.
Our student body had multiple requests and warnings against the use of phones in chapel. We had the freedom to choose to act like respectful adults and put the phones away, but we chose to use them anyway.
Will Payne, freshman Biology major, said “It would obviously be best if everyone followed the rules out of a sense of decency rather than a sense of obligation, but that isn't always the case. Cell phone use in chapel isn't loving your neighbor—it's distracting to both you and others, and it's not appropriate for the situation.” As stated before, the majority of students believe the content of the rule is good, yet are opposed to the rule itself.
So we agree the concept of the policy is basically good. Why then do we complain about the new policy? Because we believe we deserve the right to act however we would chose regardless of the effect those actions have on others. I ought to be able to choose my path. But, the thing is, I did. I chose to come to this school. I put myself under the authority of these rule makers. I need to decide if I am going to follow their standards or if I should find another school to attend.
Chaplain Lowe said, “We are trying to put in a policy to create a space to make worshiping as a community possible. This is less a matter of personal liberty and more a matter of communal responsibility.”
The student body is a covenant community (yes, cheesy phrase I know) who agrees upon standards of living that the leadership believes to be best for all members of the community. If we are a Christ centered community, we must be willing to follow his example and put humble concern for community over our desire for personal liberty.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing act out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”