Chapel without a chaplain: Implications of the recent changes

Patrick Cooper 

Staff Writer 

 

In wake of the faculty and staff layoffs, many rumors have circulated around campus from concerned students regarding Geneva College’s financial stability. Alongside other staff and faculty cuts, the recent suspension of the chaplain position, held by Reverend Rutledge Etheridge since 2013, has created some of the most tension from students. 

Through written correspondence with the office of the president, it has been stated that President Troup will assume leadership of the chapel program with assistance from an ordained RPCNA pastor, who is yet to be determined, from the surrounding area. Chapel will continue to pursue its “ministry of education” through the chapel program and will remain relatively unchanged, excepting Etheridge’s departure. 

Troup says in this letter, “We will rely more heavily on pastors and others to share the pastoral counseling load and we will also provide the counseling center with supplemental, part-time support for students who choose that route.” 

Multiple students who wish to remain anonymous have spoken highly of Etheridge’s counseling, saying, “Rut saved my life” and “I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone else. Not my professors, not my friends, but I could talk to Rut. The fact that he’s going to be gone next semester is going to be rough.” 

Chaplain Etheridge humbly and respectfully declines an official interview. 

As with all the staff and faculty cuts, Troup says, “This action is designed to keep [Geneva] from being in a bad financial position. It’s not a reaction to being in a desperate situation.”  

Since the college’s first obligation is to the personnel directly affected by the cuts, Troup expressed a desire to notify them “personally and promptly.” While students have raised complaints regarding lack of communication surrounding campus changes, administration deemed some information unfit to share with the entire campus community for privacy reasons.  

“There has never been a desire for us not to have students understand,” Troup says. “But there are certain realities that we can’t even share with people other than the people directly affected.” 

Responding to student’s concerns, Tim Baird, V.P. of Business and Finance says, “Geneva is [financially] stable”. He cites the composite financial index, an assessment that ranks Christian schools based upon financial stability, that has placed Geneva in the top twenty-fifth percentile. 

Each affected department has already begun formulating plans to deal with this new reality for the upcoming schoolyear. In some cases, remaining faculty will fill in as needed. However, there will be no loss of essential classes from Geneva’s curriculum.     

As Geneva looks to the future, Baird asks students to pray for those affected by the layoffs, saying, “Some of them are looking for new work, some of them need to find benefits through a different source, some of them are just going to feel like they have got more work to do. . . pray for the people who are working who were impacted by this.”