For almost all of the Greek organizations on campus, there is one place they share in common; a place where they practice their rituals, traditions, and initiations: the chapel.
Yet, starting next semester, there is a possibility that the sororities and fraternities will not have the ability to practice their ceremonies in the chapel.
Chaplain Greg West, along with Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Services David Buckingham, proposed that Greek organizations on campus not be allowed to use the chapel for any rituals or inductions that are not transparent.
“There has been a reconsideration of the policy,” said West. “The issue is that I am uncomfortable with the secretive nature of these gatherings. To black out the windows, having the doors locked – it seems to be incongruent with the purposes of that building.”
Earlier this semester, according to West, a fraternity on campus was having an initiation ceremony at the chapel when three students, expecting to use the chapel for midnight prayer, entered. The students were troubled by what they saw and approached West the next day.
“That was kind of the trigger,” said West.
While the policy is still in the working stages, members of the Virginia Wesleyan community seem to have already felt the impact.
“It hits me hard,” said sophomore and Sigma Nu Vice President elect Jonathan Snow. “I feel like it’s come out of nowhere. It’s something new and very shocking.”
“My dad personally got inducted and initiated into Sigma Nu in that chapel when he came to school here,” said Snow. “I was pinned by him in the same place and that meant a lot to me. Knowing that I can’t keep doing it in there is a tradition that has a different meaning to me that no longer is going to be there.”
The decision to propose a new policy regarding the chapel did not include everyone.
Jennifer Mitchell, director of student activities and Greek life, was told of the possible change after the decision was made by West and Buckingham.
“I would assume that being the director of Greek life I would be informed,” said Mitchell. “But, I was not.”
Moreover, the proposed policy was not brought to the attention of the students. According to the Student Government Association and various Greek organizations on campus, they were not made aware of the proposed change to the chapel guidelines. It was not until after the decision was made to pursue the change that the students were informed.
“I believe that students should have a say in any matter that concerns them,” said junior and Vice President of the Student Government Association Steven Bond. “I feel like the policy that was proposed did not have any student input and is unfair to the students.”
“When it comes down to making a decision on this campus when it affects the students, it should be brought to the student body,” said Mitchell. “They do need to talk to the students, and not just the Greek students.”
“This has a huge impact that goes into it because of induction and initiation,” said Vice President of Communications and Vice President of Standards and Risk Management of the Inter Fraternity Council Charles Krauser. “This takes weeks and months of planning. It costs a lot of money. It involves alumni who travel here as well as people from national headquarters.”
Still, much of the student frustration stems from the possibility that they won’t be able to use the chapel, which is vital to many of their ceremonies and inductions.
“Our rituals are heavily immersed with some of the Christian aspects,” said sophomore and Phi Kappa Tau member Xzavier Darden. “A lot of it is something that is really moving and how we see the Christian ideals.”
However, West believes that other locations on campus will be suitable for any Greek and student organization activities.
“Hofheimer Theater has been suggested,” said West. “It doesn’t even have windows and you wouldn’t have to cover windows. There have been initiations done in there.”
Greek organizations remain adamant, however, that the chapel is the best place for them to practice their ceremonies and traditions.
“Nationals says we can do our inductions at a local church of ours, which works perfectly, since the chapel is here,” said Darden. “If we have to move off campus or do it in the Hofheimer Theater, that is not going to work for us.”
Not all students feel the same though. Sophomore Joy Fletcher believes that the use of the chapel should reflect the religious aspects the building was built for.
“I think what Greg West is going for is keeping the availability for people who are practicing a spiritual walk, opposed to people who want to keep a tradition,” said Fletcher. “There’s a huge difference in that.”
The perception that the chapel is a multi-purpose building is one that Fletcher believes is misguided.
“The purpose of the chapel is for God to be on campus,” said Fletcher. “It’s where his house is. I can see how some people could view it as overstepping and making it seem that God isn’t as relevant on campus as fraternity and sorority traditions.”
Students are not sitting idly on this matter though. Many students across campus are already trying to find ways to voice their opinions and fight for what they believe in.
Junior Nathan Johnson has started a petition for students who are opposed to the possible change in policy to sign.
Senior and SGA Athletics Chair Kelly Keys proposed a sit-in at the chapel, so students can protest.
“I’m not a part of Greek life, but I have a lot of Greek friends,” said Keys. “There are a lot of teams that have players that are in Greek life. I know my team would definitely back up Greek life and the students.”
Greek Life members and the SGA will be having a discussion with West and other representatives of the campus concerning the proposed change.
“People believe students should just accept the proposed policy,” said Bond. “But that is not going to be the case.”