By Austen Broome
Asbury’s chapel checkers differ on their enforcement of some of Asbury’s chapel attendance policies.
The school’s official chapel attendance policy states that, “disruptive behavior such as being tardy, studying in chapel, whispering, sleeping, use of any electronic device, etc., will be counted as a one-third absence.”
Nate Kuhl, a current chapel checker, said, “This year we are still marking phones, sleeping and homework; but we haven’t been able to get an answer about whether people are actually getting marked a third of an absence.”
Kuhl isn’t sure if students are actually punished for activities like texting in chapel, but according to Gwendolyn Cipkowski, another chapel checker, “Any time you are marked for doing something in chapel that you shouldn’t be, it counts as a third of an absence.”
The chapel checkers do not actually issue the one-third absence penalty, or send the resulting email to the student-at-fault—that responsibility lies with Becca Warta, the staff assistant for residence life and campus ministries in the Fletcher-Early building. Warta declined an interview.
The chapel checkers simply record in folders all attendance, absences, conduct and misconduct that occur during chapel services. They then give the folders to Warta and are done with their part of the chapel policy enforcement process. Warta then puts all absences in a computer and sends out the subsequent emails. However, the choice of what to report to Warta is completely left up to the subjective discretion of the individual chapel checkers.
Some chapel checkers are stricter, while some are more lenient. Kuhl said he is a moderately strict chapel-checker. “I will mark everyone absent, even friends.”
Kuhl takes absences seriously. “If I realize that a person has someone else sitting in their seat, trying to avoid the absence, I will still mark them absent.” And if he sees students aren’t paying attention and are on their phones, sleeping, or doing homework, he writes it down on his report.
Conversely, Cipkowski said that she is more lenient in her enforcement of some of the chapel policies. “The only time I mark people for texting or sleeping is if it is distracting to others or disrespectful to the speaker,” she said. “That’s what is important to me.”
However, like Kuhl, she is also strict about absences.
“We always count people absent, and if someone isn’t in their seat all the time, I’ll mark them as well,” she said.
Greg Haseloff, associate dean for campus ministries and campus chaplain, said, “The chapel checkers are not asked to be strict or lenient. They are simply directed to record whether or not people are breaking the chapel policy in relation to attendance and behavior.”
Chapel checkers are paid minimum wage to do their job. “It’s nice knowing that I can get paid for something I have to be at anyways,” Cipkowski said. And to Cipkowski, being a chapel checker is good for her. “It helps me listen sometimes,” she said. However, chapel checkers are allowed only six skips per semester, rather than the eight skips that a normal student gets.
So, while the official chapel policy states that there is a one-third absence penalty for sleeping, doing homework or texting during chapel, the individual chapel checkers determine whether or not to report those occurrences.
But amidst the diversity of this year’s chapel policy enforcement, Cipkowski made a point, throughout her interview, to say that chapel checkers aren’t out to simply penalize students. Her focus is not on catching wayward students, but on respecting the chapel speakers.
“If I were speaking in chapel…I would want students to look engaged,” she said. “Being respectful, especially as students at Asbury, is what is important.”