It comes as little surprise that Adventist students sometimes miss important co-curricular opportunities off campus due to Sabbath conflicts. Thanks to a Southern alumnus, however, a group from the university was given the opportunity to participate in a valuable event without compromising their faith.
The Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL), a mock state government begun in the 1960s with current delegates representing more than 80 schools, is designed to give students a hands-on lesson in how government works. But until now, Southern has never been a part of this process. That was because TISL’s program included Saturday activities, and the organization ruled that colleges could not send students for only part of the time; it was all or nothing.
This year, TISL met November 15-18 in Nashville, Tennessee, and Southern was represented there thanks to the efforts of former student Alexander Brown, Secretary of State for TISL.
“I suggested to TISL’s Executive Council that Southern delegates be allowed to participate in all parts of the program, except for Saturday’s events, and that they not be penalized for a commitment to Sabbath-keeping,” Brown said.
The Executive Council approved the idea, and last spring Brown and several other TISL members approached Southern about assembling their own delegation. After receiving enthusiastic approval from President Gordon Bietz, Brown asked Southern’s History and Political Studies Department to seek out individuals who would like to be a part of this year’s TISL meeting.
Over the next few months, Brown, along with Lisa Diller, chair of the History and Political Studies Department, and Ben MacArthur, professor, recruited seven students from a variety of different majors and class standings to make up Southern’s first TISL delegation.
“Participating was a great learning experience for me,” said Kenia Ledezma, junior social work major. “It not only gave me the opportunity to network with other students and government officials, but also helped me decide to pursue a degree in law.”
Student representatives, senators, and legislators compose the two houses that make up the legislative branch of TISL. They write, debate, and vote on legislation. Some of the legislation that has been passed by TISL, such as child safety seats and seatbelt regulations, has gone on to the actual Tennessee Legislature and become state law.
“TISL really gave students an unequaled glimpse into the process by which legislation is made,” MacArthur said. “I hope our students can participate in this every year.”