SEARCY, Ark. – An online petition started by a Harding University student is circulating asking the school to move its mandatory chapel services to online because of the surge in COVID-19 cases.
As of Wednesday, the petition on change.org had 438 signatures.
Freshman Jordan Waite started the petition and said in-person chapel just isn’t good for student health and the school should change its policy, at least until COVID cases go down. He also added that he has skipped mandatory chapel this entire semester.
“I am very serious about this,” Waite said. “I, personally, have immuno-compromised family. I feel that for people who are immuno-compromised or have family that are immuno-compromised, it can be very deadly and scary to them.”
Waite insists he’s not trying to cancel services.
“I am suggesting maybe having an online, or even have a second chapel option,” he said.
Since this semester started, there have been 345 total positive cases at the school.
“I think throwing all the students into a room at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday isn’t the best way to prevent that,” Waite said.
The 2021-2022 Harding University student handbook says a student can miss chapel 15 times a semester. Beyond that, they can face disciplinary action, like being put on chapel probation.
“The student is not allowed to apply for, or participate in international programs, or apply for, or live in, privileged housing, or be an active member of a social club,” Waite said, reading from the handbook on possible disciplinary steps.
Waite said he’s voiced his concerns to the school but added nothing has changed.
“If student health was really being taken into consideration, I’d think they’d take students’ opinions into a little more consideration when they’re making these decisions about chapel,” he said.
Until COVID cases go down, mandatory chapel for Waite will just have to wait. KARK 4 News reached out to Harding University for an interview or a statement explaining their reason for continuing in-person chapel but has not received a response as of the publishing of this article.