On Dec. 11, 2021, Oklahoma Christian University President John DeSteiguer announced the discontinuation of small breakout chapels. Since then, a petition to bring small chapels back garnered over 1,800 signatures, the University created a chapel task force, and Big Chapel resumed with a new schedule.
To amplify student voices on the issue of the chapel system, the Talon is publishing a series of question and answer interviews with students under the condition of anonymity. These interviews were aggregated by a group of five students in a Journalistic Storytelling course.
Reporter’s Methods, Reasons, and Rules:
I texted my interviewees on Snapchat; we were not able to meet in person as I was off campus. I picked each interviewee for a different reason. One interviewee, as a former chapel leader, was directly affected because his chapel was taken away from him with no heads up. Another is an off-campus student, so having set days to earn Kudos in Big Chapel is difficult for him since he is not able to be on campus at certain times. One interviewee is an SGA member, and from his interview, I learned SGA was not aware of the University’s decision to take away small chapels. Before interviewing these people, I explained how the story was about small chapels and let them know they could be honest about what they were saying, under the condition of anonymity.
As a former leader of a small chapel, how do you feel about the decision to discontinue small chapels?
“It hurts the message OC is trying to send. ‘Being home to complex dialogue’ appears to be contradicted by that decision. Having run a chapel, I can tell you there are many forms of thought at OC among the students, and eliminating smaller chapels has led to those forms being discouraged.”
Does this change any views you have about Oklahoma Christian? Does this affect your sense of community while on campus?
“I was disappointed—not really because my chapel got axed—but more because I thought we were headed in a direction where small chapels were encouraged. I think the community aspect of OC was curbed because small chapels were where many of the fringe students felt at home the most.”
Do you think the chapel situation can be fixed?
“No—not because it isn’t possible—but because the administration and the board refuse to have chapels that could inflict damage on OC’s core values as a traditionally Christian university. There’s no question some chapels raised eyebrows among the donors and OC community.”
As a member of SGA, were you aware of the decision to discontinue small chapels before the announcement was sent?
“I heard rumors OC was going to cancel small chapels, but as a member of SGA, I was not told anything.”
Do you believe SGA should have been involved in such a big decision?
“Of course. SGA acts as an extension of the student body and any large decision like that should at least be given the chance to be discussed. This could have possibly led to alternative solutions to the supposed problem OC saw with small chapel. It felt like a rushed decision, and we were not considered at all.”
Do you think the problem can be fixed?
“By canceling small chapels to avoid whatever issues there may have been, OC has effectively eliminated all diversity in religion and spirituality. They say we can still host (small chapels), just not for Kudos, but will people go? Now there is no incentive and small chapels will live up to their name, if they exist at all. Instead, we have general lessons and speakers chosen by OC. These will not apply and motivate everyone spiritually. I don’t know anyone who thought Big Chapel was their biggest inspiration spiritually on campus.”
As a student who doesn’t live on campus, how does the change in the chapel schedule affect you?
“Well, it directly affects the number of days I’m able to get Kudos and attend chapel. I’m not always able to get on campus at 11 a.m., so having even more limited days of chapel makes it much tougher on off-campus students such as myself.”
Does this decision change how you view Oklahoma Christian? Does it affect your sense of community as an off-campus student?
“Yeah, this definitely affects my views. I had thought prior to OC’s announcement OC was always trying to provide a safe community for all its students—something I thought small chapels did a great job of providing. As an off-campus student, it’s harder to meet people and feel (like) a part of the community of OC. I don’t understand why they would take away another facet of that community from their students.”
Does the removal of small chapels affect your spiritual journey?
“As someone who came to OC wanting to explore and emphasize more of my spirituality and faith, it has definitely made it more difficult. The most impactful conversations I have are usually one-on-one conversations or small group discussions, and that isn’t available in Big Chapel. Only providing one type of chapel to students limits their ability to explore their faith themselves.”