Baylor chapel updates essay requirement and reinforces prior attendance policy

While the university is adjusting to online campus life, chapel has adjusted it's online curriculum to no longer require a final essay, and pass students who were under the maximum absences at the beginning of spring break. Lariat File Photo

By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer

Ryan Richardson, Baylor director of worship and chapel and associate chaplain, sent an email to chapel students Monday night reinforcing the still-standing attendance policy. The week prior had announced that the 1,000 word essay requirement for all students enrolled in Baylor Chapel was officially cancelled.

The statement regarding the removal of the assigned essay made by Richardson was posted via Instagram, the comments section overflowing with positive reactions and the virtual applause of students.

The revocation of the essay assignment came from an overwhelming amount of feedback that the chapel team received in regard to the essay final, which students who were in past years of on-campus chapel never had to complete.

“We thought about it quite a bit, I talked to a lot of constituents, and we have decided that the paper is no longer a requirement at all,” Richardson said.

Richardson said that now that the paper is no longer required, he is asking for chapel students to log in at least once a week on Canvas.

“We’re going to be putting up content most days for the remainder of the semester,” Richardson said.

Some students, however, said they are disappointed in the lack of engagement students have with Baylor online chapel versus the in-person, attendance-based chapel.

Tulsa, Okla. freshman Elise Martin said she loves the support students have received from Baylor chapel, but said she disagrees with the cancellation of all accountability for the course.

“I think a good alternative to this is a short weekly reflection about what the Lord is teaching us and/or our struggle(s) or victory(s) would be a good alternative to the essay and attendance — this would also allow us to be active with chapel,” Martin said. “I am extremely thankful to go to a school that supports us in this way during an unprecedented time and is willing to gracefully and continually conform to the situation.”

Charleston, S.C. freshman Andrew Robertson said he is very thankful for Baylor Chapel’s conclusion to cancel the once-required paper.

“It was a great and considerate decision by Chapel Ryan. He thoughtfully took into account the students’ personal struggles instead of requiring them to do even more stressful, non-essential work,” Robertson said. “I love it.”

The email sent to chapel-goers Monday evening addressed the attendance policy Richardson said he been receiving questions about, due to BearWeb counting students as “absent” for each chapel following spring break.

“Rest assured that you will be given credit for chapel if you were passing before we left for Spring Break,” Richardson said.

The “passing” of chapel policy still stands as it had prior to the cancelation of in-person classes: if a student has missed seven or less chapels, they receive chapel credit.

Walnut Creek, Calif., freshman Eliza Cashman, said she would be concerned about her personal amount of schoolwork if essays had been continued to be required for chapel credit.

“I support Chapel Ryan’s decision to revoke the essay obligation because as a Baylor student who now has limited capacity to participate in classes since they are online, additional work should not be in replacement of a class that is not work based, it is attendance based,” Cashman said.

Richardson, in both the recently sent-out email reminder regarding attendance policy andBaylor Chapel Instagram video, said he wants to let the new digital version of chapel still be a sanctuary for students.

“I want this to be more of something that you read, and it brings peace into your life,” Richardson said. “Make sure you chime in and let us know how you’re doing from wherever you are.”