Monday, September 23, 2013

Thoughts on My Freshman Convocation

Freshman convocation – when first year students are formally welcomed to their new university – is supposed to be an enjoyable event, a fond memory to reminisce over after years have passed. I did enjoy my convocation; however, there were aspects of it that bothered me immensely.

Originally, it was supposed to be held in an outside venue large enough for the entire class of 2017. Due to rain, it was relocated to two inside locations linked by simulcast. One was a regular theater. The other was a church. Because the students in my dorm were assigned to the church, which I could not enter due to religious reasons, I had to request to switch to the theater.

Of course I was accommodated and allowed to go to the theater with a different dorm, but the fact that I had to request such an accommodation is ridiculous. I am shocked and appalled that my college, a secular university, would use a church to house any sort of secular gathering. This was a mandatory, completely nonreligious event; there is absolutely no way the college can rationalize putting it in a house of worship.

Even if we want to forgive my college for locating convocation in a church, the inclusion of a reverend for delivering the invocation address is completely unacceptable. I am sure that it never crossed any of the decisionmakers’ minds to have a Hillel rabbi or any other on-campus religious leader speak. Why should a Christian preacher be given the honor, year after year, with no other clergymembers ever invited to speak? The content of his speech was completely secular, which I did appreciate, but I resented the fact that it was mandatory to sit and listen to a reverend speak.

The final straw was when a chorus got on stage and began to sing a Christian song that very clearly referred to Jesus. I am still horrified that my college allowed this choir to sing a song that is so clearly religious (read: Christian) at a secular event. It’s extremely offensive is to religious people who are non-Christians, as well as to people who don’t believe in the existence of God or don’t wish to give Him/Her/It a name. Being forced to sit in a church and listen to a reverend and gospel song? It’s unconscionable that the college administration not only allowed for this, but made it mandatory.

I always knew that America was a Christian country. I was just hoping to leave that behind during college, an institution that I thought was supposed to be a bastion of liberalism and beacon of tolerance.

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