JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – As promised, Northeast State Community College held a moment-of-silence instead of prayer at Tuesday night’s nearly 1500 student graduation.
Last week, a group called the “The Coalition of Concerned Student Leaders” requested the change in a letter submitted to President Doctor Janice Gilliam.
Administrators said Tuesday that they decided to have a moment of silence on May 2nd, three days before the group submitted the request. The coalition said they feel the decision was a direct response to their letter.
Hundreds also signed petitions Tuesday as a last minute effort to put prayer back into the graduation ceremony, but they failed.
When Mr. Matt DeLozier, Vice President for Student Affairs, announced the moment-of-silence at ETSU’s Mini-Dome, an audience member yelled “Who wants prayer?!” Other audience members cheered and clapped to support prayer during the moment-of-silence.
The coalition of students wanted that time to be used for Christians to pray to themselves, as well as people of other religions and beliefs to pray or express themselves how they choose.
Following the ceremony, we found people on both sides of the debate. Northeast State mom, Dawn Emerson said she understands not everyone is with Jesus but she doesn’t think it should take away from everyone’s experience.
“I thought it was really sad you know it’s important to a lot of us and just listening to the other parents that were there chanting that we wanted to acknowledge Jesus, I think that we should be able to do that,” Emerson said.
Norma Schuller’s best friend graduated in Tuesday night’s ceremony. She said she believes in prayer but she understands how a moment of silence can be more inclusive.
“Me, I believe in God but I have family members that don’t so to them they like the moment of silence better so they can do their thing so I’m for it, I’m for it both ways,” Schuller said.
Schuller added that she feels a moment of silence also helps Veterans in the audience and it is respectful.
Seth Manning, with the coalition of students who submitted that initial request tells News Channel 11 they got exactly what they asked for and he’s happy with how the night turned out.
Northeast State said at nearly 1500 graduates, it’s the largest class in the school’s history.
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