Dear Chapel: Give Me A Break. Sincerely, A Working Student

In Latest News, Opinion by Maddy Garrett

We all know how hard it is to meet our chapel requirements between homework, a social life, extracurricular activities and various other responsibilities. Not to mention the days we just really don’t want to get out of bed. We’ve all been there. But trying to reach all your chapel requirements while working part-or full-time? Well, that’s just wishful thinking.

Many students at Point Loma have jobs that require them to work during chapel hours. I, for example, work a minimum of 30 hours each week while still a full-time student living on campus. My on-campus status means that I have to attend 23 chapels per semester, the maximum number of chapels required of seniors. I receive no reduction in chapel requirements for working more than half-time.

I work during hours on both Monday and Wednesday every week. Having work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then heading straight to class until 7:30 p.m. leaves little time for homework after finally eating dinner and showering, especially on nights that I attend meetings for work as well. Much of my homework gets done solely on Wednesday afternoons and Friday mornings. Super convenient for attending chapel, right? Not.

Realistically, I can attend chapel once per regular school week. This leaves me with about nine chapels to attend by the end of the semester. Why hello there, $105 fine. We’re not talking pocket change here.

When I contacted Chapel Attendance about my situation, I was immediately told there was no way to decrease my chapel requirements because of a job. Their response to my inquiry was:

Hello Maddy,

I am sorry but students are expected to manage their schedules in order to meet their

chapel requirements, like you would a required class. Work is not a cause for reducing your chapel requirements unless it is an internship required for graduation and it directly conflicts with chapel meetings.

Grace & Peace;

The Chapel Attendance Committee”

Not sure where I see the grace or peace in that.

I would like to take up the cause of the less fortunate, hard-working student in deconstructing this response. While I may be able to receive this response with mere frustration and the resentful loss of $105, other students may not be able to adapt to this situation as amenable as I can.

I do not have to work 30 hours a week to maintain a living. My gracious parents are helpful and supportive, and my job is mostly to help me gain experience and prepare me for life after graduation. I mean, that’s what a University should want its students to pursue…right?

For a student who is working every waking hour just to provide money for food, bills and rent, I can’t imagine how Chapel Attendance could not provide grace in offering a reduced chapel requirement.

Slapping an end-of-semester fine on the account of an already disadvantaged student is a real good way to ensure they remain disadvantaged. Not providing a reduced chapel requirement can easily be seen as discriminatory in such a case.

Should Chapel Attendance then make exceptions for students who are struggling to pay for college, rent and daily meals? I would say yes, but that would require these students to go through a process in which they must personally share information about their situation and hardship to a stranger on the “Chapel Attendance Committee,” which seems wildly unfair and patronizing.

Chapel attendance needs to adopt new, across-the-board policies for working students and not just those with internships. This is the 21st century, after all. Students are working their butts off to get internships and jobs in college because the job market seems to be tougher than ever, and competition is everywhere.

With proof from their employer of working half-time or more, and verification that work may conflict with chapel hours, students should receive a reduced chapel attendance requirement. I’m not asking the school to completely cut out chapel requirements or even lower it significantly. Waiving just five to 10 chapel scans could help students compensate for the long and inconvenient hours they have to work during the school week.

Having a job as a full-time student is no easy feat, and adding another stumbling block in a student’s path for something as minuscule as chapel attendance is unreasonable and unacceptable.

Dear Chapel Attendance Committee, please reconsider your current policies and live up to your statement of “grace and peace” by offering working students a way to help manage their schedules with less stress and fewer fines. We need change.

Maddy Garrett is a senior political science major.

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