On Dec. 11, 2021, Oklahoma Christian University announced the discontinuation of the Ethos program and small chapels temporarily. The decision raised many questions for the chapel communities at Oklahoma Christian.
In response to those questions, Oklahoma Christian President John deSteiguer launched a chapel task force. Dean of Students, Neil Arter, was appointed to the task force with Assistant Dean of Students, Gary Jones, as the head.
“What the president has asked them to do is come up with a plan that we’ll implement, certainly for the fall and even for the rest of this semester to help us navigate this time together,” Arter said.
The task force has met twice so far in the spring semester, and it consists of five staff members, four faculty members and four students. Arter said the task force is currently discussing two matters.
“One is an immediate need of what to do the rest of the semester for chapel, and the second is the long term of what it will look like moving forward,” Arter said. “We are probably shooting for, if possible, the fall for implementing the new things that would happen.”
Sophomore Logan Miller said the task force has been briefly mentioned in light conversation and wishes more information would be shared soon.
“Some ways they (Oklahoma Christian) could improve would be to be as transparent as they can be with why the decision was made and what the plans going forward are,” Miller said. “Generally, we know a few things, but details have been left vague on what exactly those things are.”
Arter said it has become easy to say chapel is something Oklahoma Chrisitian has always done.
“I think the university in general is going to need to be a bit more clear about our goals of spiritual life and chapel so students can know ‘okay, this is what they’re trying to accomplish,” Arter said.
Various factors led to small chapels being canceled for the spring semester. Junior Veronika Brinkley started a small chapel petition which was shared with the Oklahoma Christian community over the winter break and received over 1,800 signatures.
“If they had given an excuse of rebuilding the small chapel structure and that they will be back the following semester, then I feel like a lot of people would be a lot less outraged,” Brinkley said.
Sophomore Chasity McMahan said she thought the cancellation was because of specific small chapels.
“It made sense with some of the things that have happened on campus with at least two of the groups,” McMahan said. “Later, I found out it was because not every small chapel is following the rules, which also makes sense. I think each could have a small part.”
The concern for small chapels’ structure and well-being is something Arter said the task force hopes to focus on.
“One of the things the task force is going to have to look at is if a group is only going to exist solely because people will come because of kudos, then maybe it is not a good fit for Ethos,” Arter said. “It is obvious that we have gotten so many Ethos events that it is hard to manage.”
Brinkley said she wanted to take action, but she also wanted to understand why the situation occurred in the first place.
“I am hoping we can hopefully go back to the way things were, but if they really are having problems with chapel then they could create stricter rules or do something other than going nuclear,” Brinkley said.
Arter said he will be shocked if the task force chooses not to bring small chapels back in the fall of 2022.
“To assume bad motives is silly to me. To say ‘I question the timing of this,’ I think is fair,” Arter said. “There is also going to need to be a balance and there are a lot of things students think they need from chapel that probably is instead of a need, more of a want.”
McMahan said students took small chapel for granted.
“I feel as if once we hopefully get small chapels back, it will allow us to have a greater appreciation for small chapels,” McMahan said. “No one really thought it was something that could get taken away.”
Arter said chapel, big and small, is so much more than just a religious function for students to attend.
“One of my goals while on the task force is I want to figure out a way to slowly gain back the trust of the students,” Arter said. “Some students would question why they had to go to chapel and maybe we’re just not communicating well enough why we have chapel.”
The Oklahoma Chrisitian chapel task force will continue to meet and discuss how to go forth with decisions in regards to chapel and the Ethos program.