Theology majors have the Bible as our main textbook in and out of class. That being the case, we often make scriptural jokes to relieve the seriousness of our studies. In one class, we stretched the comparison of Andrews’ co-curricular system to the beast of end time prophecy. Its simple, but ludicrous at the same time: the school charging you money (read, inhibiting your ability to buy and sell) for refusing to attend its services. It was all in good jest, but it betrayed sensitivity on the issue.
Co-curriculars present students with an excellent way to get involved on campus in numerous events and clubs, to make friends and learn new things. The event itself should be the individual’s ideal place for worship, fellowship, and relaxation. However, more often than not people come to the event or group solely to fulfill a requirement rather than to enjoy the experience. It’s been a cause for discontent and grumbling, but never a point to challenge the university on. It is time to improve the system.
When you make a requirement out of what should be an avenue for recreation and creative expression, as well as worship, you run the risk of sucking the joy out of it. Fifteen of the current thirty credit requirement must be gained on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the only programs always available those days are religion forum and chapel. People stop to care - note the multitude of screens and the disciplined, “prayerful posture” of exhausted students at chapel.
College is supposed to present a culture of intellectual diversity and encourage the investigation of new positions and ideologies. Forcing students to get involved in different events is not only discouraging students, but in itself it could be perceived as Orwellian.
There are many non-Adventists and non-Christians on campus. While I certainly believe it is to their benefit that they attend chapel and vespers, as well as build camaraderie with the main body of believers, I worry that we are going about it the wrong way. Notre Dame, the center of Catholic scholarship in the Americas, does not require anything outside of general education classes, which include religion courses. That is understandable because each student at Notre Dame chose to attend a Catholic university. However, I personally would be uncomfortable being forced to sit through Catholic theology, or evolutionism at a secular university, outside of the classroom or being forced to “broaden my horizons”, as it is usually painted.
To force others to hear another’s viewpoint is only half of indoctrination (the other half being that of forcing people to accept the other’s position which of course does not happen on campus). I am not suggesting that Andrews is attempting to indoctrinate its students, nor am I against the concept of co-curricular credit to accompany our education experience. But the system must be refined.
Rather than requiring attendance to a certain number of events, including chapel, a better design would be that one must join a group that interests the student, looking at what the group offers at the beginning of the year and having a two to three week grace period to switch from one group to another, with a maximum amount of absences from events before you take a loss (whatever that may be). Another potential solution is to count the credit for co-curricular differently. For example, the length of events determines the amount of credits. As it stands, every event usually only counts as a credit. For example, let's say that there is a 3 hour event for a campus ministry going to the beach for worship, games (with a focus to teach people spiritually) and fellowship. The entire event should give you three credit hours, and for those that can only make it for one or two hours, they will only get one or two credit hours. There can be flexibility on this, it’s only theoretical, but it is an option. It opens the door for students to make these events a constant in their schedule and thus easier to organize around.
Whatever solution we may come to, I think it is important to attempt to improve upon anything that we do. With a change to co-curricular hopefully students will be better able to find out who they are as a person,and form stronger relationships with others rather than attending classes and events to merely meet requirements. Let us strive towards a better education, and find better ways to seek knowledge, affirm the faith, and change the world.