Creating community

In their Religious Inclusion Policy, Grand Valley State University states that it “seeks to include, engage, and support a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff.” Currently, however, the 31 percent of the campus community that is not affiliated with a Christian denomination is not being equally supported.

In the 2010 Climate Study done at GVSU, 67 percent of the respondents were affiliated with a Christian denomination, 21 percent said they had no spiritual affiliation and 10 percent identified with a non-Christian religion. The 67 percent have access to the Cook-DeWitt Center on the Allendale Campus for events, church services and Bible studies. Everyone else gets a cubicle in the Kirkhof Center.

Fortunately, the Student Senate is working to correct this appalling lack of accommodations for students, faculty and staff who are not a part of the majority. Student Senate President Andrew Plague has been working closely with Karen Gipson, the chair of the University Academic Senate and the Executive Committee of the Senate, to establish an interfaith space on campus. This space would be open to all students, even those who have no spiritual affiliation but instead need a place to meditate or reflect.

This interfaith space is long overdue at GVSU, and its creation should be a priority. It’s embarrassing that a liberal arts university of GVSU’s size doesn’t already have a space for students of all religions and beliefs.

Plague and Gipson are now looking for feedback from the campus community. They ask that students, faculty and staff come to them with ideas about what to include in the interfaith space. This is an opportunity for the GVSU community to help build a space that actually seeks to include, engage and support a diverse group of students, faculty and staff. A space that will allow Christian, Muslim and Jewish students to pray in the same room, as well as the non-Abrahamic faiths. A space that recognizes that atheists and agnostics need a place to reflect on their world views too.

This is an opportunity to bring together different faiths, a task that can often be daunting in today’s society where religious tolerance isn’t always the norm. This space can provide a place for students to see how those of other faiths worship and help students move past traditional stereotypes about those of other religions.

We at the Lanthorn applaud the efforts of Student Senate. This issue is one that needed to be addressed and corrected, and will be beneficial to everyone on campus of all religions and beliefs.