Imagine if you will you miss a speech and it’s an important one. A week later, you get a notice from the powers that be that tell you that you have to pay a fine for missing the speech, even though you had a valid reason in your mind.

Think you’re in Nazi Germany or Castro’s Cuba?

Good guesses but wrong on both counts. It’s Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell and students there could have been fined if they missed the speech as part of their convocation. The convocations at the school take place on Monday, Wednesdays and Friday. Students there thought they were going to hear a religious program. Instead, they got Ted Cruz last Monday, who launched his presidential campaign.

The speech was delivered by the Republican senator from Texas and didn’t set well with those that were there. But like Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch during this year’s Super Bowl, they were there so they wouldn’t get fined.

It’s ironic that a school named LIBERTY would force someone to do something that is contrary to their beliefs. Because of that, students were not just angry with the school but took to social media. Jessica Kramer, a Rand Paul supporter with ties to the university’s YAL chapter, shared students’ frustrations with being required to attend Cruz’s speech in a Facebook post. Other equally unenthused students took to Yik Yak and Twitter to express their discontent with the speech.

Kramer’s comments about the forced speech did not go unnoticed. Here are her comments about the speech.

I strongly object to Senator Cruz’s choice of venue for the announcement of his 2016 presidential bid: as is well-known by Liberty University students but considerably less well-known by the general public, all students are required to attend convocation every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Senator Cruz is a friend of the Liberty University administration and has spoken at convocation in the past. As such, he knows that all students are required to be in attendance. I bear no ill will toward Senator Cruz, but his choice to announce his 2016 presidential bid at convocation at Liberty University is a starkly deceptive one. Should the general public be unaware that all students are required to attend convocation, it would seem to the average viewer (as this will be televised and is already being widely publicized) that 10,000 supporters came to Liberty University to hear Sen. Cruz’s announcement. However, every student in attendance has no say in the matter. Students will either attend convocation and lend to the illusion of widespread support for Senator Cruz, or they will be subject to administrative punishment–specifically, four reprimands and a $10 fine–if they are absent. While Sen. Cruz has every right to run for president and to announce his candidacy, it is a highly deceptive, albeit politically savvy, move on Sen. Cruz’s part to make his big announcement here. I do not support this action, and I am not alone in my belief that such deception is wrong.

Perhaps it’s time for students at the Lynchburg, Virginia school to vote with their money and their feet by transfering to other schools. These are adults, after all. They chose to come to Liberty and once they start transfering to other schools and telling their friends back home what a bunch of Nazi zealots they are, they will think twice about coming there. No student, regardless of their religious beliefs, should be forced to attend a service that is contrary to their faith. A student should have the right to support whatever candidate they want to, whatever form of religion they wish to practice (or no religion) and should not be forced to be a prisoner of a dogma that they want no part of. College students don’t exactly have a lot of money to begin with and losing $10 for not going to convocation makes no sense. There are other punishments for misbehavior as well, according to the school’s handbook.

The university’s student appeals court handbook has the list of consequences for various infractions. Missing Convocation is on the list. (A reprimand is a formal mark against a student’s record.) Here’s what the handbook says regarding convocations.

 Each student should be familiar with these sanctions.
1 Reprimand:
Late for curfew (1 additional reprimand for each 30 minutes late)
Late for Convocation (1 additional reprimand for each 15 minutes late)
4 Reprimands + $10.00 Fine:
Absence from required meeting (Convocation, etc.)
Disturbance/non-participation during Convocation
Dress/hair code violation (male or female)

Cruz’s presidential announcement was scheduled as a Convocation event by the university, therefore the penalty for a student’s absence would be four reprimands and a $10 fine.

Many schools that are religious-based are getting away from the manditory convocation, making it optional. Mercer University, which was a Southern Baptist institution before breaking ties with the group, did away with manditory convocation or chapel in 1995 and continues to do so.

Liberty University did not just cross the line, they wiped it off the planet. This is cowardice in its highest form. In the event you’ve forgotten, Liberty, Hitler’s dead and Castro’s no longer in charge. You may be a Division 1A school but last Monday, you acted like D1 buttholes. You’ve tainted your image because of this stunt. Even Jesus didn’t force anyone to come to the Sermon on the Mount, so what were you thinking (assuming you were thinking)?

Convocations should be voluntary, not manditory. After all, this is still America, when last we checked and your name Liberty means just that. Liberty. You’ve made some enemies within your ranks. It’s time to rethink that manditory convocation thing. Students today have lives to lead, classes to go to and families. It wouldn’t suprise me if Jessica Kramer and others like her blast you all over social media. After all, a mouse click can decide your fate. Not everyone in the world is Protestant, fellas. Remember that. Not everyone wanted to hear Ted Cruz. You want to be the shining city on the hill? Fine. Stop acting like a suburb. It’s about the students you serve, not you. Remember, their parents are signing the checks and they can take that money elsewhere. You’re not the only game in town. Be mindful of that and be respectful of those that don’t want to go to convocation.

Respect the rights of your students and they will respect you. Drop this convocation thing. It’s stupid. It says to your students that even though you’re adults, we can’t trust you. This is college, not third grade. Respect the rights of your students. You want respect. You have to give it. The Golden Rule applies to you too.

Continue to tick them off and it won’t be pretty. The revolt would make the Storming of the Bastille look like a trip to Disney World.

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