Student speaks out against class held in Lutheran coffee shop


Joseph Barringhaus

Fairmount Coffee Co. is located across the street from Wichita State University.

Senior Sam Kier said the relocation of his chemistry class to Fairmount Coffee Company did not sit well with him.

Katie-Mitchell Koch’s Physical Chemistry 1 class was supposed to meet in McKinley Hall, but Kier said that when he had seen no sign of Mitchell Koch by the second class, he approached Chemistry Department Chair David Eichhorn to ask about the class location.

Kier was notified that the class had been moved to Fairmount Coffee Company.

According to the WSU website, “All classes will be held in the rooms scheduled unless permission to change is requested from and granted by the Registrar’s Office.” Whether or not necessary permission was obtained prior to the relocation of the class is unclear.

Kier sat with other students in a lounge area in the shop until Mitchell-Koch arrived.

“Pretty much right off the bat, she starts saying that due to a development on campus and religious objections, we’re not having class on campus,” Kier said. “I didn’t really understand what she meant because she didn’t really elaborate past that, but she said she wanted to try and make this work.”

The non-classroom setting posed an issue for Kier, who struggles with complications of ADHD.

Joseph Barringhaus
An interior lounge area located in Fairmount Coffee Co.

“The environment is loud enough that I can’t focus,” Kier said. “Meds can only do so much. Classrooms are designed the way they are for a reason — for conducive learning. The coffee shop, it’s not necessarily the most academically-conducing environment. We don’t have desks in front of us. We’re sitting on couches.”

Kier’s frustrations prompted him to leave class to speak with Eichhorn.

“I asked what was wrong with the classroom,” Kier said. “She made it sound like the classroom was unavailable, but when we were there, there was no one else taking that classroom up.”

Mitchell-Koch’s motivations for moving the class are unclear, and she was unavailable for comment.

Joseph Barringhaus
A sign inside Fairmount Coffee Co. that reads: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say. In the way you live. in your love. Your faith. And your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12”


Kier said Fairmount Coffee Company’s religious affiliation and ties to the Lutheran Student Center raised additional concerns for him. Bible verses are posted in the shop, and the website has a gallery of photos with religious significance.

Kier wrote a letter to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Christopher Line, a legal fellow working for the foundation, wrote the letter of response to President Bardo.

“We are concerned that WSU students are being required to enter a religious establishment, filled with religious iconography and messages, in order to attend a science class at their secular, public university” Line wrote.


Joseph Barringhaus
A sign in Fairmount Coffee Co. that reads: “Coffee noun. 1. liquid that smells like fresh ground heaven.”

John Tape, director of the Lutheran Student Center, spoke briefly about the issue.

“Where WSU holds its classes is completely up to them,” Tape said. “We have nothing to say about that. Fairmount Coffee Company is a ministry of the Lutheran Student Center and we welcome everyone. We’re not going to turn anyone away.”

Though the issue revolves around religion, Kier said he believes there’s much more to it.

“It never really was about religion,” Kier said. “It was more along the lines of a professor that was not doing her job and using religion as an excuse to not do that. Apparently, there’s a clause within Wichita State that allows professors to, as long as they feel that it enhances the course, they’re allowed to change venue and change the class structure.”

“There was no advantage for the students and I honestly don’t know, when going into this, what she was trying to prove.”

Kier dropped Mitchell-Koch’s class immediately. According to the Lawrence Journal World, the class will run exclusively online until a different venue is found to be suitable.