Dear Convocation: What Are You?

Dear Convocation: What Are You?

Are you a pulpit, a political tool, or a public space of ideas?
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If you're a student at Liberty University here in Lynchburg, Virginia, you know that Convocation is nothing short of incredible. It's a dizzying experience at first, being surrounded by 13,000+ peers and staff, joining in a communal worship service, and being able to hear speakers whose names may be passed around your dinner table during school breaks.

Every residential, on-campus student attends Convo three times a week. We sit in assigned sections. At Convocation, it is a humbling experience to recognize that you are not just a student, but part of a student body, part of the body of Christ.

But a growing part of that student body is now beginning to question not just who is speaking on a said day, or what was said, but what Convocation actually is.

According to Liberty's website, Convocation is not a chapel service, despite the 15-20 minute worship held before speakers rise to the podium. This distinction allows them to host any number of diverse speakers, as Convocation "allows people from all walks of life to compel, equip, and challenge our students to think clearly and with conviction."

Guests at Convo are chosen by “relevance,” and if the speaker happens to “possess a message that will contribute to pivotal cultural conversations that stretch both the hearts and minds of our students, faculty, and staff.”

In these past few years, however, it's not been hard to find students in the halls or at the gym or simply walking down University Boulevard and hear them dreading yet "another political Convo" and "another pastor selling a book," or squealing, "I can't believe so-in-so said that!"

That's not to say that these kinds of speakers are featured prevalently at our school—but they come often enough that we notice and make memes like the brilliant millennials we are. As far as political Convos go, it's no secret that our school president, Jerry Falwell Jr., supported and continues to support now-U.S. President Donald Trump.

But just how much of that support trickles into our Convocation remains to be seen, as right-wing commentators, journalists, and Trump Campaign affiliates have often been under the Convocation spotlight.

What pains me personally about Convo, however, is that last semester, (including those in panels and grouped speakers) only 22% of all Convocation speakers were women. Only 30% of female speakers spoke unaccompanied. While it is uncommon, and in many cases unheard of for women to speak with authority from a Christian pulpit, Convocation is clearly defined as separate from Chapel.

Considering that the majority of undergrads at Liberty are women, this poses a interesting question: If Convocation is not Chapel, then what is it, and do the same traditional criterion of the pulpit also apply to Convo?

An initial response may very well be, no, of course not; we've had speakers all the way from Social Democrat Bernie Sanders to Republican Ted Cruz and his presidential bid in 2015, from Christine Caine and her "Propel Women" initiative, to the Robertson family of the A&E reality show, Duck Dynasty.

However, if that truly were the case, then why do these numbers exist in 2017? Why is the ratio of female speakers to male speakers so unequal?

Dear Convocation, what are you?

This is not to say that male speakers are unable to teach, preach, or persuade female students at Liberty; rather, this is a matter of representation. Of the percentage aforementioned, only 33% of female speakers were of color, compared to an even more disappointing 23% of the male speakers.

In the world of #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, or #timesup, where does Convocation fit in?

If Convocation is not Chapel, if it is meant to enrich our college experience by exposing us to diverse and culturally relevant speakers in order for us "Champions for Christ" to better engage with the world around us…why are those beautiful and powerful and culturally-relevant discussions on fighting racism, domestic abuse, sexism, why are they so few and far between? The voices we hear matter.

Dear Convocation, are you a pulpit, a political tool, or a public space of ideas?

Let me know when you've figured it out. In the meantime, I'll go find my seat in section 101, and I am looking forward to what this new semester will bring.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Class Size May Matter, But Accountability Matters More

If students take the time to think, they will realize their own potential.
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When it comes to the topic of education, decisions are often made, but not quite acted upon. On the left, we have advocates that look to fund the educational system in hope of bettering the kids’ futures. On the right, education is addressed with a degree of leniency, paired with more of an advocacy for occupational programs and trade schools.

One of the more frequently debated matters regarding education, more specifically K-12, is classroom size. For many schools, a lack of funding has caused many teachers to quit; consequentially, with less teachers, more students, inevitably, have to cram into the same classroom. The student-teacher ratio, in some schools, has gone beyond 30:1. In some cases, the overcrowding issue for a classroom is so profound that a student doesn’t have his or her own desk to sit in.

Due to this notice of classroom size increase, in correlation with declining academic performance, a considerable majority of education reformers believe that the classroom size increase is more of causation. The only issue with this argument, however, is that for a contributing factor to constitute causation, it must be the sole reason that another variable must occur. With correlation, however, there are multiple variables (more than two) that can occur within a specific time span. These variables could potentially influence one another’s behavior, but never fully dictate the outcome.

What the common argument fails to account for is accountability itself. Accountability is not something that is taught in the classroom, nor should it be. This is a crucial part to a child’s success, both in the classroom, and in real life. A perfect example of this is within a lecture hall. In a lecture hall, you could have upwards of more than 150 students in the same room, listening to and meticulously noting all of the essential details to a professor’s lecture. It is up to the student to learn the material with the tools they are given, not the teacher to hold their hand through the class.

The only responsibility of any teacher or instructor is to provide the appropriate materials and knowhow for the student to guide themselves. This prepares the student for more rigorous learning material and tasks, resulting in more favorable opportunities, both scholastic and occupational.

For the teacher to implement the right tools, however, requires that the student can and will hold themselves accountable for their success in the course. Such accountability falls back on the basis of good parenting. As education has shifted, the blame of failure for a student in a class also shifted.

The shift has taken place from the student losing their privileges and extracurricular activities, to the teacher potentially losing their job (which is especially daunting with the threat of new teachers not obtaining tenure). With the latter portion of the Millennial Generation, along with Generation Z, parents bearing excessive leniency and overall apathy have made for a widespread mindset that fails to take responsibility for itself.

It’s time for parents to be accountable for their kids, and for the kids to be accountable for their own success. A system is only as useful as those that utilize it.

Cover Image Credit: Tra Nguyen

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