On Jan. 21, 2010, the Goshen College President’s Council, led by President Jim Brenneman, announced that it had decided to allow the Athletic Department to play an instrumental version of the national anthem prior to select sports events starting that spring.
On Feb. 13, 2010, the Board of Directors affirmed the decision of the President’s Council (read the press release). Because of deeply held and divergent opinions around this decision, the board also asked the college’s leadership to create opportunities for thoughtful and prayerful discernment in ongoing structured dialogue, especially with those beyond the immediate college community (alumni and others). Dialogue took place on and off campus throughout fall 2010 winter and spring of 2011.
On June 6, 2011, the board’s decision was announced. The board, in consultation with President Brenneman, asked the president to find an alternative to playing the National Anthem that fits with sports tradition, that honors country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies.
On Aug. 19, 2011, President Brenneman announced at the all-employee brunch that “America the Beautiful” would be played before select sports events starting in Fall 2011. The Board of Directors unanimously endorsed President Brenneman’s decision that the first verse of “America the Beautiful” be played or sung with the U.S. flag present. A brief prayer may be offered at the discretion of the coach. Read the president’s statement.
LISTEN & LEARN CONVERSATION
On June 5, 2010, the Board of Directors recommended an extended “Listen & Learn” conversation on the anthem, including the formation of a representative working group to meet regularly and give oversight and leadership to the process; that an e-survey be distributed for participation by key Goshen College stakeholders (alumni, faculty, staff, students); a series of regional events inviting more in-depth levels of engagement around the anthem decision as it fits into the overall vision of the college; and on-campus opportunities for dialogue. The “listen and learn” conversation period was completed in mid-April following an all-campus gathering and alumni events in Indianapolis and Elkhart.
Learn more about this process, the events and committee’s work.
In early May 2011, the Listen & Learn Steering Committee provided a final report to the Board on the e-survey, the alumni gatherings, and the campus listen and learn events. An executive summary and excerpts of the e-survey were made available by the Board.
ANTHEM DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
Members of the Board’s Executive Committee and Ends Committee, working with members of the President’s Council, plan to evaluate the information received, as well as to identify alternatives for the Board.
On May 10, 2011, the Board met and reviewed the Steering Committee’s final report, reviewed a report from the Ends Committee, reviewed strategic issues and initiatives resulting from the work of the President’s Council and determined criteria to decide the anthem issue.
On June 4-5, 2011, the Board met and decided the anthem no longer will be played before selected athletic events in favor of an alternative put forward by President Brenneman. The decision was communicated to students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and members of Mennonite Church USA.
BACKGROUND ON THE DECISION AND RESPONSES
The original decision by the President’s Council prompted significant response from those who supported and opposed the decision. To learn more, check out this page of resources with full information about the decision, a timeline of events, news articles that were written at the time and opinion pieces that were published.