The experiment has ended.
Goshen College will no longer play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at its sporting events, according to a release issued Monday by the school. The school’s board of directors have asked GC president Jim Brenneman to find an alternative to playing the national anthem that fits sports tradition, honors the country and resonates with the school’s core values.
“The board expressed a strong commitment to advancing with president Brenneman the vision for Goshen College to be an influential leader in liberal arts education with a growing capacity to serve a theologically, politically, racially and ethnically diverse constituency both within and beyond the Mennonite church,” the release stated. “The board concluded that continuing to play the national anthem compromised the ability of college constituents to advance the vision together.”
In response to the board’s decision, Brenneman said he hopes the decision will help the school move forward together and focus on finding new ways to welcome students from the local and regional community.
In a decision statement issued by the board, its members acknowledged it was still not the end of the conversation.
“Discussion on the issues surrounding and raised by the playing of the National Anthem at Goshen College — including questions of faith, denominational affiliation, institutional identity, core values and hospitality — will and should continue,” the statement read. “The official discussion, though, at Goshen College about this issue is concluded with the Board’s decision. With courage, grace and hope, Goshen College will have a long and bright future of furthering God’s kingdom.”
Walking across the campus of Goshen College Monday afternoon, art professor John Blosser said he supported the choice to step back from the playing of the anthem, although he noted he was an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
“I think that there’s a misjudgment that either or is how people see it here,” Blosser said. “Most people here have a national pride and an allegiance to country, but they’re also not going to blindly accept everything the country does.”
Blosser said any time there is a symbol seen as either one way or another, people tend to feel very strongly about it.
“But I think there’s not a lack of national respect and love of this culture and country, and I think there are nuanced approaches to that,” he said.
For Elkhart resident Jaime Atkinson, standing outside the Eigsti Track and Field Complex where her daughter was playing volleyball, the potential for playing other patriotic music — such as “America the Beautiful” — in the anthem’s place makes the otherwise poor decision acceptable. However, she would still prefer the anthem be played.
“I think the national anthem should be played before every sporting event, especially with what our country is going through,” Atkinson said, later adding, “If they change it (as opposed to playing nothing) I guess it would be fine, but I think the national anthem, that’s what America is about — before every baseball game, everything, that’s what we all look forward to.”
She said she did not see anything negative about playing the anthem.
Vehemently opposed to the removal of the anthem from Goshen College’s sporting events was Goshen resident Scott DeVoe, who shared his thoughts while attending the Goshen Youth Soccer Organization’s fourth- and fifth-grade girls’ soccer tournament at the school’s athletic fields.
“I live in America, it’s our national anthem, I want to hear it,” DeVoe said. “We live in America, it’s part of America. You go to a ball game, you stand up, you take your hat off, they play the national anthem.”
DeVoe compared it to political parties and the president. Even if the president is from a party you do not affiliate yourself with, he said, the person is still your president and you have to follow where they lead whether you voted for them or not.
He put his opinion of the board’s decision more directly.
“I kind of find it disrespectful as an American,” he said.
The experiment has ended.
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