Timeline for national anthem discussion/decision at Goshen College

Visit the national anthem overview page, with more news and views about the college's decision.

September 2008: Goshen College administrators and faculty began discussing whether Goshen College should play the national anthem before some varsity sports games. The college has never played the anthem before such games.

Nov. 1 2008: An attendee at a Goshen College women’s basketball game said he was disappointed that the national anthem was not played. The attendee later sent an e-mail expressing his viewpoint to a college representative, who responded by explaining why Goshen does not play the national anthem before games. The attendee forwarded this e-mail exchange to others, including a number of talk shows hosts.

Nov. 7 2008: Mike Gallagher, host of The Mike Gallagher Show, received the e-mail and mentioned it. His comments prompted several phone calls of complaint to the college.

Nov. 10 2008: Mike Gallagher interviewed Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Bill Born on the Gallagher radio show. The segment prompted another round of phone calls and e-mails of complaint to the college. Also, regional radio and newspaper reporters interviewed Born for stories.

Nov. 11 2008: The South Bend Tribune reported in a story that not all Mennonite colleges had the same position on the national anthem as Goshen College. According to the story: “Bethel College, in North Newton, Kan., and Bluffton University, in Bluffton, Ohio, both played the Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events. The Tribune’s story prompted Mike Gallagher to discuss the issue again during his radio show. He called on Goshen College to reconsider its position on the anthem and encouraged his listeners to call or e-mail the college and oppose the college’s position. Additional regional TV and newspaper reporters prepared follow-up stories on the issue.

Nov. 12 2008:
By this date, the college had received more than 300 phone calls and e-mails, most calling for the college to change its position on the anthem. Two church publications prepared follow-up stories. Meanwhile, some alumni called or e-mailed to express their support for the college. 

Late November 2008:
Administrators decided to postpone earlier discussions about examining the anthem issue because the excessive attention hindered meaningful conversation.

January 2009:
 The President's Council resumed discussion of the national anthem and discussed the possibility of forming a task force to examine the issue. The council later directed Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Bill Born to form a task force.

Spring 2009:
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Bill Born informed the President's Council that a task force had been formed to study the anthem issue and possibly develop a recommendation. A task force, made up of students, faculty and administrators, began meeting and developed a proposal.

May 2009:
The task force forwarded its proposal to the President’s Council. The PC asked the task force to clarify aspects of its proposal.

Aug. 19 2009:
The national anthem was the focus issue of an exercise on ways to discuss complex problems during the fall all-employee retreat. This exercise, however, was not part of formal process for considering the anthem by the anthem task force or the President's Council. 

September 2009:
The task force sent a second draft of the proposal to the President’s Council, which recommended that campus feedback be sought.

Oct. 7, 9, 12, 13 2009:
Students are invited — via announcements in the Campus Communicator — to attend a meeting to discuss the playing of the national anthem.

Oct. 13 2009:
Task force members and the Student Senate convened a student feedback session on the issue.

Oct. 29 2009:
The task force’s recommendation was announced in the Record. The task force recommended that an instrumental version of the Star Spangled Banner be played before some varsity games.

Nov. 3 2009:
Students, faculty and staff were sent an e-mail with the full proposal and an invitation to attend a campus town hall meeting on the issue. They also are invited to provide feedback by e-mail.  

Nov. 3, 4 2009:
Students, faculty and staff were invited — via announcements in the Campus Communicator — to attend a campus town hall meeting on the national anthem.  

Nov. 4 2009:
A campus town hall meeting was held to gather feedback. Students, faculty, staff and alumni attended. Reporters for local newspapers attended and wrote stories about the issue. Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to submit additional feedback on the proposal by e-mail.

Nov. 7 2009:
Vice President of Student Life Bill Born shared information about the national anthem discussion with the college’s Parents Council and received their feedback.

Nov. 12 2009:
Faculty members asked questions and discussed the proposal at the November faculty business meeting. Faculty members also were encouraged to submit feedback on the proposal by e-mail.

Nov. 19 2009:
Staff members asked questions and discussed the proposal at the quarterly staff meeting. Staff members also were encouraged to submit feedback on the proposal by e-mail.

November, December 2009: Members of the President's Council received additional feedback on the anthem proposal from students, faculty and staff.

Dec. 10 2009:
President Brenneman e-mailed the Board of Directors and sought their individual feedback on this decision.

December 2009 & January 2010:
The President’s Council reviewed the significant feedback received from students, faculty and staff, and considered the issue.

Jan. 21 & 22, 2010:
The President’s Council announced that it accepted the recommendation of the National Anthem Task Force to play an instrumental version of the Star-Spangled Banner before select sports events on campus, followed by prayer. This decision was scheduled to take effect during the spring sports season. The President’s Council stated that this decision was made after much prayerful deliberation over the past year and with input from the campus community and alumni, although not in a structured manner. The PC further stated, “We believe it is the right decision for the college at this time.”

Feb. 1 2010: Students, faculty, staff and alumni participated in continued campus conversation on the national anthem. President Brenneman and members of the President's Council also hear feedback on ways Goshen College can enhance its peace witness.

Feb. 17 2010: President Brenneman gave a written update — to the campus community, the Alumni Board and the Parents Council — on reaction to the national anthem decision and related action taken Feb. 13 by the Goshen College Board of Directors. President Brenneman and the Board discussed ways the process could have been improved, the Board's prior feedback, the rationale for the anthem decision, and the reaction on and off campus. The Board then took the following action:
            "As the Board of Directors of Goshen College, we affirm the decision of the President's Council to play a music-only version of the national anthem at select sports venues. We recognize the deeply held and divergent opinions around this decision and ask the leadership of Goshen College to create opportunities for thoughtful and prayerful discernment in ongoing structured dialogue, especially with those beyond the immediate college community (alums and others). We encourage the open exchange of ideas characterized by respect for each other and the church that is central to the teaching and learning commitments of Goshen College. This decision will be reviewed by the Board in June 2011."
            The update notes that President Brenneman is working with the Board to design continuing dialogue. As one example, the college will convene a symposium to discuss the anthem in the larger context of Mennonite identity, peacemaking and civic engagement. He also is working with the Board to determine the criteria for reviewing the anthem decision after a year of implementation.

Feb. 20 2010: The Associated Press published a story about the college’s decision. It appeared on more than 250 news web sites, including: ABC News, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Boston Herald, CBS News, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes (magazine), FOX News, the Houston Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the Indianapolis Star, Inside Higher Ed, the Los Angeles Times,, Newsday, the New York Times, the Seattle Times, TIME (magazine), USA TODAY, and the Washington Post.

March 5-6 2010: Alumni Board held their regularly scheduled meeting, heard presentations about the anthem decision — both voices in support and opposition to the decision — and discussed the decision.

March 10 2010: President Jim Brenneman and Dean of Students Bill Born shared the procedures for implementing the national anthem decision with the campus via open meetings.

March 23 2010: National anthem was first played, prior to home baseball and softball doubleheaders.

March 24 2010: In a campus convocation, Kathy Meyer Reimer, Goshen College professor of education and chair of the department, and Joe Liechty, Goshen College professor of peace, justice and conflict studies and chair of the department, presented different perspectives on the college's anthem decision.

March 29 2010: President Jim Brenneman and Professor of Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Joe Liechty joined the faculty members of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary for a collegial conversation over lunch about the anthem decision.

April 18 2010: At the invitation of East Goshen Mennonite Church, President Jim Brenneman met with a group of interested members of area Mennonite churches for a conversation about the college' decision regarding the national anthem.

June 24-27 2010: Goshen College Church Relations Coordinator Bethany Swope participates in a workshop and discussions at the Central Plains Conference Annual Meeting in Mountain Lake, Minn., about the national anthem, along with representatives from Bethel College and Hesston College and Central Plains pastor John Zimmerman.
More information:

July 2010: The Board of Directors recommended a year-long "Listen & Learn" conversation, 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); 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.

September 2010: The "Listen & Learn" Steering Committee was formed to give oversight and design leadership to the "Listen & Learn" process and to serve as a depository for collecting and interpreting responses on behalf of the Board of Directors. The group members are: Kathy Meyer Reimer, teaching faculty; Joe Liechty, teaching faculty; Robert Reyes, administrative faculty; John F. Lapp, alumnus; Krysten Parson, alumna and Maple Leaf Athletic Club board member; David Jost, student; Justin Yoder, student; Rose Gillin, GC board member; Ivorie Lowe, GC board member; Karen Thomson, GC board member; Bill Born, President Council's staff member designee; Larissa Fast, facilitator, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, and Bernie Mayer, facilitator, Resident Professor of Conflict Resolution in the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University.

Sept. 28 2010: Six months of correspondence between GC President Jim Brenneman and Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne about the college's decision to play the national anthem at select sporting events was published on Sojourners' "God's Politics" blog. Read full the exchange here:

Oct. 9 2010: Hesston, Kansas was the location for the first of a series of regional events inviting more in-depth levels of engagement from GC alumni and friends around the anthem decision and how it fits into the overall vision of the college. The session was led by Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Bill Born and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Jim Caskey.

November 2010: The Goshen College 2010 Alumni Survey, which was developed in September and October and revised based on feedback from the Listen & Learn Steering Committee, was sent to key Goshen College stakeholders (students, faculty, alumni and others). Surveys were e-mailed to approximately 8,500 stakeholders and mailed to approximately 4,000 people without e-mail addresses on file. Reminder e-mails were sent on Nov. 23 to those who did not respond to the initial e-mail.

November 2010: The open forum dedicated to the theological, historical, cultural and visionary context of playing the anthem has been scheduled for April 13, 2011 on campus. [UPDATE: In February, the Listen & Learn Steering Committee decided that in lieu of this one-time large campus event that they would instead plan multiple conversational events on campus. Note the planned events below.]

December 2010: Additional regional events inviting in-depth levels of engagement around the anthem decision, as it fits into the overall vision of the college, were announced. If you have interest in attending one of these gatherings, email These are the initial dates, regions, locations and times for the Alumni & Friends Gatherings:

Feb. 4 2011: The Listen & Learn Steering Committee defined several opportunities for on-campus engagement on the anthem issue. These events are designed to encourage conversation and listen to concerns and perspectives. The Steering Committee needs to hear from everyone in order to summarize all perspectives (support, opposition, ambivalence, or otherwise) and report back to the GC Board of Directors. Hopefully all members of the GC campus community can attend one of the campus events. The currently scheduled events are as follows (additional events, when scheduled, will be added to this list and publicized via campus communication mechanisms):

  • for teaching faculty on Feb. 17 at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in the College Mennonite Church Koinonia Room
  • for administrative faculty and staff on March 2 at 10 a.m. in the College Mennonite Church Koinonia Room
  • a convocation for students on March 9 at 10 a.m. in the College Mennonite Church Fellowship Hall

May 10 2011: The Listen & Learn Steering Committee provided a final report to the Board of Directors on the e-survey, the alumni gatherings, and the campus listen and learn events. The “listen and learn” conversation period was completed in mid-April following an all-campus gathering and alumni events in Indianapolis and Elkhart.

June 6 2011: The Board of Directors announced that it was committed to advancing with President Brenneman the vision for Goshen College to be recognized as 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. Following a “thoughtful, thorough, prayerful period of listening, learning and discerning,” the Board on June 4 concluded that continuing to play the National Anthem compromised the college’s ability to advance the vision together. 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.

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.

Note: This is an ongoing timeline and last updated on Aug. 21, 2011. – Goshen College Public Relations

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Goshen College
1700 S Main St
Goshen, Indiana 46526
phone: +1 (574) 535-7569
fax: 535-7660