Chapel overcrowding unseats students
A record-breaking freshmen class has created a crowded chapel scene in both the Conn Center and Dixon Center every Tuesday and Thursday this semester. The large number of people flooding into both locations have left some to sit on the floors or stand in the entranceway and aisles.
According to the Lee University website, the Conn Center seats up to 1,541 people, and the Dixon Center has a capacity of 591. The quick facts page states that a total of 5,302 students are currently enrolled for the fall 2016 semester, including a freshman class of 889 students.
If all of Lee's enrolled students decided to attend chapel, there would be over 3,100 students left without a seat.
Some, like transfer student David Webb, begin piling in up to an hour early to ensure they are able to be seated.
“I have a lot of time between my class and chapel,” Webb said. “So I go about an hour early and save seats for my friends.”
Webb added that although the packed crowds are an issue, they have not affected his ability to pay attention during worship or the speakers' messages.
In the Dixon Center, students are told at around 10:30am that they are welcome to sit along stage chairs or to sit against the wall as long as they keep the aisle clear. Once the space is full, the ushers send students to the Conn Center.
While overcrowding is a problem in both spaces, there is no overflow option for chapel, since there has not been a substantial amount of displaced students to create one.
Chapel usher Cole Tague has noticed that his job has become more difficult due to the growing student traffic.
“[This year has] definitely been more hectic. There's been a lot more traffic jams in aisles because people are looking for seats,” Tague said. “It's also tough because everybody wants to save seats for their friends, but there's so many people at this point that it's just harder to do that.”
While he helps chapel attendees find seats, Tague also tries to make sure that people do not sit on the floor, because it can be a possible fire hazard.
“As an usher you just have to be really proactive. You have to have a constant sense of urgency to make sure that the aisles aren't getting blocked,” Tague said. “Basically we are just trained to stay on our toes.”