Habitually Hope: A call to reconciliation

When I came to Hope College as a freshman, the topic of the Critical Issues Symposium (CIS) was reconciliation. The summer prior, my mom caught wind of CIS and purchased a copy of the book for the symposium, “Reconciling All Things,” for everyone in our family.

Sitting in sessions for CIS that year was my first experience of deeply theological and intellectual discussions of Christian perspectives of reconciliation. As my sophomore, junior and senior years rolled around, I noticed that the Campus Ministries staff dedicates a lot of time to discussing reconciliation, teaching students how to apply Jesus’ reconciling work on the cross to everyday conflicts, social injustices and to the broken world we live in. In many ways, I’ve felt that this dialogue better prepared me to go out into the world to live a life “of leadership and service in a global society,” fulfilling the College’s mission statement.

In recent weeks, however, I have begun to question what reconciliation looks like, as I have watched disagreements between administrators and Board of Trustee members come to light.

I woke up on Monday morning to multiple messages telling me that I needed to read the latest article about Hope from Inside Higher Ed. In this article, someone leaked an email regarding confidential board meetings. Given that board members are the only ones with access to that information (based on my understanding of the privacy of the meetings), it appears that someone on the board must have leaked the information.

As a student, this is deeply unsettling.

Am I to believe that members of the board cannot even trust each other because there is a chance that someone will leak their correspondence to the press?

How will the board reconcile the conflicts going on without a foundation of trust?

I challenge members of the board to consider these questions. I also challenge them to think about how they will reconcile their relationship with a student body that is growing increasingly more distrusting.

From conversations I’ve had with fellow students, the lack of communication between the board and wider campus community makes it seem like the board is made up of members who are focused on their own agendas rather than the wellbeing of the student body. The board seems to be unwilling to issue a formal statement about our current “situation,” but at least one member seems willing to go behind the backs of others to leak information to the press. What does this demonstrate to students?

I have met many members of the Board of Trustees. I know them as people who invite students into their homes, attend student performances and inquire about student research. I do not want to find out that some board members are more focused on their personal politics than the students who study on this campus.

Confidentiality has been broken.

Students are seeking answers.

In search of these answers, I’ve seen my peers and professors rally in affirmation of President John Knapp.

I have read articles about outsiders’ perspectives on our current conflict, and I’ve decided that there is not enough information out there to form an objective opinion on the subject. In Knapp’s most recent email to campus and in his sermon at Chapel on Monday, he encouraged the community to come together and finish strong. While I believe that the student body will take on this challenge, I am not so sure about faculty, administration and the Board of Trustees. It seems to me that a lot of this conflict comes from old wounds that were poorly bandaged together and not given time to heal. In the last couple of weeks, they have reopened, bringing with them an intense pain and tension that the campus cannot shake.

As Christians, we have been given a model of the perfect reconciler in Jesus Christ. Of all people in this broken world, we should be the ones tirelessly working to reconcile our differences with an air of abundant love and grace. That is the message of reconciliation that I have heard since I began my time as a student at Hope.

With the rumors I’ve heard around the community and information I’ve read in news articles, I cannot help but question whether leaders on this campus are working together in a way that mimics how Christ lived His life. He willingly reconciled our own sin through his sacrificial love and a heart overflowing with abundant grace and service. Jesus died in the most shameful manner in His time to save all of humanity from its sins. There is no better example of humility. Regardless of your religious stance, I think that everyone on campus can agree that our current situation is a perfect example of a time when we should be focusing on humility, grace, service and, above all, reconciliation.

In whatever happens in these last weeks of the academic year, I hope that everyone on campus – students, faculty, staff, administrators and board members – all turn to Christ’s example in pursuit of restoring relationships and for the betterment of the

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