GOSHEN -- Goshen College administrators are considering a proposal that suggests introducing the national anthem -- in an instrumental version only -- to some sporting events.
The school gained national attention last year after national conservative talk radio host Mike Gallagher criticized the university for not playing the anthem at sporting events. Administrators have said the school does not play the anthem because of Mennonite traditions and pacifist beliefs.
The school received more than 300 letters and phone calls in the weeks after the radio show, according to a statement on the Goshen College Web site.
The proposal, put forth by the National Anthem Task Force, suggests giving coaches the option of playing an instrumental version of the anthem before the start of the event. Task force members said an instrumental version would eliminate militaristic language in the anthem -- such as the phrase "bombs bursting in air" -- but still give people the option of paying respect.
Vice President for Student Life Bill Born said the school had been looking at the issue for several years, not just since the criticism from Gallagher. He said right now Goshen College is launching a "campus conversation" about the proposal. He said there is no time frame for a decision.
Part of that conversation occurred Wednesday night, when students, faculty and staff gathered for a town hall-style meeting. Some attendees said they liked the idea of incorporating the national anthem into events, because it shows hospitality toward guests and students who want to stand for the anthem. Others disagreed, saying preserving the Mennonite tradition is important, and so is a separation between church and state.
Administrators point out that a growing percentage of the students at the college identify with different denominations.
Assistant Professor Carolyn Schrock-Shenk led the discussion and encourage participants to be respectful in the discussion.
"Listen with curiosity, and remember that none of us have the whole truth," she said. "We only have pieces of it."
Born said there has never been a formal process to make a decision on whether to play the anthem, although the school did go through a process to decide to put American flags on campus a few years ago.
The school has, in the past, played "America the Beautiful," at some sporting events, which some students said fit in more with their beliefs as there is no reference to the military.