One thing that will likely elicit a loud groan from any student at ENC is chapel fines. I love chapel, and I cannot say enough good things about it, but I do not agree with the fines. That is a sentiment that many of my friends share. The effect chapel fines have on some students’ wallets makes it worth looking at how chapel fines are not ideal, the reason they exist, and what can be done to remedy the situation trying to enforce a spiritual policy creates.
In terms of behavioral psychology, chapel fines are a form of positive punishment. Positive punishment means that it influences behavior through the addition of an undesirable consequence—in this case, a fine. As with all forms of punishment, chapel fines don’t affect everyone, just the ones who wouldn’t go otherwise. The issue here is one of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Put simply, intrinsic motivation is when you do something because you enjoy it, and extrinsic motivation is when you do something because of something else.
Chapel fines are extrinsic motivation because while they may make people go to avoid punishment, they don’t make people want to be there. The National Center of Biotechnology cites studies that link intrinsic motivation to “salience detection, attentional control, and self-referential cognition,” suggesting that intrinsically motivated people pay more attention and retain better than those who aren’t. This is evident by the number of people who are talking, on their phones, or otherwise not paying attention in the chapel. Those people do not seem to be gaining much.
Chapel fines are especially problematic for people who don’t have the same beliefs as most ENC students or don’t worship in the same ways. Emily Crosta is a freshman here at ENC, and she is Jewish.
“Sometimes being there makes me uncomfortable,” she says, “and I’d rather pay the fine sometimes than have to sit there and be uncomfortable.”
The Eastern Nazarene College website, under ENC community, claims that “Eastern Nazarene College is co-educational and offers resources and opportunities for participation, advancement, and service to all students regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, age…”
If ENC is going to advertise that it accepts people from all different faiths, then it should follow through with that by the chapel requirement being lesser for people of different faiths. Crosta has to pay money for not wanting to be uncomfortable; that’s not fair. People who aren’t Christian shouldn’t be held to the same chapel standard as people who are.
For a religious school, though, chapel is very important. Chaplain Lynne Bollinger has said that, “Chapel is one representation of our Christian community; we gather together and take a moment to recognize our Christ-centric identity.”
A few years ago, Bollinger attended a gathering of college chaplains in the greater Boston area. Some chaplains report low attendance, in some cases less than 10 students attend where chapel is not mandatory, but even more troubling was their inability to connect with students over matters of faith.
Chapel is an integral part of spiritual life, and it can help to connect people on campus. It would be a shame if chapel at ENC were to be reduced to that size. That puts the school in a difficult position. School policy should keep chapel a thriving, active aspect of ENC while giving students enough freedom to choose which events they want to take part in. What is the best way to go about that? I am confident that it is not chapel fines. If the administration is set on this system of rewards and punishments, there are other ways to go about that.
Crosta suggested offering a reward, like free merchandise at the ENC store or free beverages at Hebrews if the chapel requirement it met. One downside to that is that it would likely cost the school money it wouldn’t get back, so maybe the school could enforce the chapel policy by taking back some of the money it already gives to students in the form of cub cash and dug out food rather than making them pay it out of pocket. Whatever money left can be added to the tuition. The obvious downside to that is that the tuition would increase, but according to Bollinger, the money the school gets from chapel fines goes into scholarships anyway. In my opinion, having the students pay whatever they need to pay up front seems like a better way to get that money from them than counting on some students to have to pay the fine.
Abolishing the chapel fine will take a lot of effort from the student body as well. Chapel is an integral part of ENC, and it will only remain so if people continue to go. Chapel fines may incentivize going to chapel, but they undermine the very purpose of chapel. Chapel is where people go because they want to learn and grow spiritually, and it will only remain strong if enough people are willing to put in the time to do that, with or without chapel fines.
*There was a misquote in the original print edition of this article. There was a statement about students paying chapel fines accredited to Lynne Bollinger that she did not say. The statement has been changed in this version of the article.