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The Blue & Gray Press | May 22, 2018

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Diverse religious representation fails to appear on campus

web-religBy MEGHAN COOKE

The University of Mary Washington credits itself on the diversity of its campus.

In fact, an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “was created to provide leadership and to develop the university’s academic and programmatic diversity and inclusion efforts.”

The goal of this office is “to increase and promote an institutional infrastructure which harbors the acceptance of everyone,” according to its website.

On top of that, it’s nearly impossible to explore the university’s website without encountering a webpage that fails to mention the word “diversity.” However, in many aspects, UMW fails to be diverse, particularly regarding religion.

Of the 132 clubs that exist at UMW, and are represented on the Student Activities website, eight are affiliated with Christianity, one is affiliated with Judaism and one is affiliated with Islam. While this may merely reflect the evangelical aspect of Christianity, as well as the potential that there is a greater number of Christians in the student body, it does not account for the diversity that supposedly adorns the university.

Surely, religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism should, at least, have some presence on campus.

Although there is no demographic that illustrates the religious identity of all the individuals on campus, there is no justification for the lack of campus representation of certain religions, even if those demographics are smaller.

If the university is so diverse, then why are only three religions represented when there are many more religions existing and practicing in the world, and, most likely, here at UMW? If the University is as diverse as it says it is, then why isn’t that diversity present in student clubs?

This is a country built on freedom, including religious freedom, and this campus should reflect the composition of the country. Although I have never been religious, I can appreciate a person’s need for religion and its capacity for helping people both understand and appreciate life, which is why I believe campus representation is so important.

Just as the University explores the different cultures of the world through its Cultural Awareness Series, it could adopt a similar series that would both explore the facets of the world’s religions and encourage students of those religions to establish their own niche in the community.

These students could also establish a presence on campus by starting a club that would provide a community for other practicing people, or maybe for people interested in learning more about a certain religion, or even converting to that religion. The Student Activities Webpage outlines the steps for a student to start a club. Even if the number of students in a religious group is too few to be officially recognized as a club, those students could still work with the University to expand the whole of UMW’s knowledge of that religion.

UMW may credit itself on its diversity, but there are definitely changes that must be made before this campus can truly be diverse.

Comments

  1. andrew

    As you said, any student can create a club so your argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. Changes are made when there’s a need or want for them. UMW isn’t going to start a scientology club that no one will join for the sake of diversity.

    This would also be more compelling if a person from a marginalized religion wrote it, but you openly state you’re not religious. So I don’t know what you’re getting at here.

  2. I agree, but I’d like to point out a few groups you missed! The Islamic Student Association is an active group that holds some pretty excellent campus-wide events, and the Unitarian Universalist campus group discusses a variety of faiths. There also used to be a meditation group that practiced Hindu and Buddhist mindfulness practices, though I don’t think that it exists anymore. We non-Christians are out there, we’re just a bit tricker to find. 🙂

  3. Calling out a logical fallacy

    A message can be true regardless of who says it.

  4. Timmy

    Remember none of these groups are founded by the school they are started by students. It is up to the students from these religions to found the clubs and you are going to have more clubs for larger amounts of students. If there is a very small population of students for a particular religion on campus then it will be less likely that one of them will step up to organize.

  5. L

    Sure it can, but in this case, when the author claims that there is a lack of representation of a diverse array of faiths, it doesn’t really seem that there can be a basis for this argument unless there are people of underrepresented faiths who feel that the campus is missing something. I’m not saying there aren’t people who fall into this group, but it seems that this type of article does nothing to help with that unless the author were to have asked people if they felt that their faiths were not represented.

    It is unfortunate if you’re a member of a less represented/smaller group on campus and cannot connect with many others, but I don’t think that’s a sign of a lack of representative diversity at the school. And the lesser numbers of Hindus or Buddhists may know each other and have no need for a formal club? I don’t know, I just think there needs to be more of an exploration here than presumptions. The religious groups on campus are also not made to be “religious” per se, and they have to remain cultural groups as well, the Catholic Center is not a club, and that’s a different story, which goes along with the fact that there are certainly more Catholics than Hindus (for ex.) here.

    I like the article’s intentions and it brings up important issues, but I just wonder where the founding for the complaint comes from unless the author is a member of one of the marginalized religious groups, in which case, should start a club! Or perhaps an interfaith/spiritual all-inclusive club for members of any faith or members of underrepresented faiths…it’s all in student’s hands!

    Perhaps an event to showcase different religions is something you could help organize, and people of all faiths could share some of their religious culture.

  6. andrew

    Agree completely with L here. Logical fallacy – I wasn’t calling the message “untrue” merely because of the messenger. I used the word compelling – as in, the message didn’t seem urgent or important because it was coming from someone who has no stake in the matter. Like L says, we never hear from a student who actually feels underrepresented so I stand by my original claim. This isn’t compelling.

  7. Hmmm

    I can appreciate that the author intended to call out the University for not having a great deal of diversity. I agree that it was presumptuous to assume that, because these clubs don’t exist, the religious groups don’t exist. At the same time, it’s interesting that to think about… Why don’t these clubs exist, actually? I think her religious beliefs don’t matter, but her opinion on religion does. Religion is an important topic, no matter who the speaker.