GOSHEN, Ind. – A small Indiana college that began playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the first time at sporting events last year, upsetting some who believe the song with its images of war and the military undermines the school's pacifist message, plans to review next month whether to continue the practice.
Goshen College's board of directors is set to meet in early June to evaluate the practice of playing an instrumental version of the national anthem, followed by a peace prayer, before sporting events. The Elkhart Truth reports an announcement is expected soon after a decision is made.
Some at the 1,000-student college with ties to the Mennonite Church were upset with the school's decision last year to begin playing the anthem for the first time. School officials have said discussions about whether to change the policy began in September 2008 when the athletic department asked the school President James Brenneman to reconsider the school's stance.
Intercollegiate athletics began at Goshen in 1957, long after the school was founded in 1894.
The board will review feedback and reports collected at the college over the past year, much through a "Listen and Learn Steering Committee" created in order to help process the decision with the Goshen College community.
Goshen College public relations director Richard Aguirre says a survey and formal discussion sessions both on-campus and throughout the Midwest and Eastern United States brought in more than 5,000 responses, although some individuals communicated to the college in multiple ways.
An executive summary of the responses, sent to the board of directors and posted on Goshen College's website, explains how the sessions uncovered several areas of tension surrounding the anthem issue. The list includes questions about the school's hospitality, how playing the anthem affects the college's core values, the connection between playing the anthem and student enrollment and the motives behind playing or not playing the anthem.
Mike Milligan, an accounting major and baseball player who will be a junior next fall, supports the college's decision to play the national anthem and said the controversy over playing the anthem has died down significantly.
"The only time I noticed any discussion regarding the anthem was during a convocation dedicated to the issue. It has been nice to focus on friendship and schoolwork rather than such a sensitive topic," he said.
But Doug Schirch, professor of chemistry, said he would be "utterly shocked" if the school didn't change its policy.
"I hope they listen to the feedback they got from alumni, because they certainly heard from alumni a large amount of disagreement with the decision," he said.
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