Keeping the faith: Student organizations call for equal religious accomodations
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 01:10
As a university where the main religion is Christianity, Miami is making efforts to promote a more religiously diverse campus and increase awareness to more religious groups.
According to the 2011 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Survey that addressed the religion of registered first-year students, 32 percent identify as Roman Catholic, and approximately 65 percent identify themselves as some Christian denomination.
Co-campus director of the Miami Navigators, a Christian group on campus, Mark Smith said he is not surprised that the majority of students at Miami identify themselves as Christian.
“The majority of the country is Christian,” he said. “Miami’s campus seems to holds true to that number.”
77 percent of the adult US population identify themselves with a Christian religion according to the Gallup Daily Tracking Survey, an organization that tracks nationwide statistics. Mormonism and Judaism follow that percentage at 2.1 percent and 1.7 percent of the population respectively.
Smith said he believes that part of the religious diversity on campus can be credited to Miami’s demographics.
“Being mostly caucasian students from the suburbs, there isn’t a cultural precedence for interest in Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, etcetera.” Smith said. “And the vast majority of our international population is Chinese who culturally are not religious.”
Aminata Coulibaly, treasurer for Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), said MSA does not receive adequate attention from Miami. MSA’s goals are to create a place for Muslim students to gather and learn about the religion in a community setting, while teaching the Oxford community a little more about Islam.
“Having to accommodate and pay attention to all religious groups on campus can be a lot of work, Coulibaly said. “However, it would be nice to have more interfaith dialogues on campus.”
She also said Miami could accommodate for MSA and their faith better by allowing more diverse food options in campus dining halls.
“Having halal/kosher food options at the food places on campus will be very helpful to us,” Coulibaly said. “Many of us become vegetarians when we live on campus, because we are unable to eat the food provided at the halls.”
Currently MSA has 40 active members and prays in their office in MacMillan, but the nearest mosque is in West Chester, about 50 minutes away from Miami.
Marcy Miller is the Executive director of Hillel at Miami, a non-profit Jewish cultural and educational organization that welcomes Jewish and non-Jewish students alike who strive to serve the Jewish student population as part of a campus community.
“We specifically provide Jewish students with opportunities to explore their history and heritage, while helping them to understand the universal components of being Jewish,” she said. “We not only serve the Jewish population, but also, true to our values, emphasize the need to help others in the world.”
According to Miller, there are about 1,000 Jewish students on campus, and about 500 of those students currently utilize the resources and opportunities provided by Hillel.
Though there is no synagogue on campus, Miller said she believes that Miami is and has been open to bringing the diverse campus community together as a collective effort with Hillel and the many other groups that make up Miami.
“Each and every one of us is diverse in some way,” Miller said. “My hope is that all of us can come together to share our thoughts, customs and beliefs, whether those are secular, cultural or religious.”
Miller said one of Hillel’s goals is to help and coexist with others and to not impede, and that is what has shaped their partnership with Miami.
Hillel often host events open for anyone to come.
“We host Breakfast for Dinner the first Tuesday of each month in the Hillel/Arthur Beerman Center which is open to all,” Miller said. “And Saturday there [was] a traditional Jewish wedding in MacMillan Hall for anyone to experience.”
Sophomore Interior Design major Leah Gray said that she believes that students in Miami are often unaware of the various religious groups on campus and the events that they provide.
“I couldn’t tell you the names of three religious groups,” Gray said. “I think it would be helpful for the groups to publicize themselves and the events they host outside of Shriver so [students] can stay informed.”