Making room for other faiths

It’s no secret that the vast majority of students of faith on Grand Valley State University’s campus are some denomination of Christianity. For years, this was physically represented on GVSU’s campus by the Cook-DeWitt Center, which, while technically not assigned to any particular religion, is set up like a church and holds offices for Christian student organizations.

It is a huge step in the right direction for the university to have the interfaith prayer and meditation room in the Kirkhof Center. It is another good sign that GVSU is showcasing this relatively new space to students during the interfaith space open house, which bleeds directly into an event that features all religious student organizations on campus.

The GVSU student senate has been working to create the GVSU prayer room to increase religious opportunity on campus. We think that this is an important issue for an organization that focuses on GVSU student success. With the majority of students living either on campus or close to campus, it is necessary to focus on things such as available religious spaces.

The senate will also be hosting the first Spiritual Life Fair where faith and non-faith-based organizations will show students what services and opportunities they have to offer.

Not only has GVSU made sure to recognize a physical space on campus for non-Christian students, but they’ve also made sure to think of the religious minorities when scheduling campus-wide programming.

After students became concerned about being unable to attend the rain date for this year’s Campus Life Night, the Office of Student Life postponed the annual event so as not to conflict with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The holiday is one of the most important holidays of the year for the Jewish population, and heralds the time of year called the High Holy Days for practicing Jewish people. During Rosh Hashana, many students return home to spend time with their family, as well as to be able to attend religious services at their local synagogues. The holiday starts at sundown on Sept. 13, making it impossible for those affected students to attend Campus Life Night.

The move of the iconic beginning-of-the-year kickoff event is an important one when thinking of religious inclusivity. On a campus that observes breaks that fall in line with Christian holidays, the move of an event due to a religious holiday that isn’t Christian is a small, yet powerful one.

The Lanthorn wants to commend GVSU on its efforts to maintain religious inclusivity, even when it means having to adjust the schedule of a large event such as Campus Life Night or creating a new, convenient space for various religious practices.

There’s still a long way to go for religious minorities at GVSU to feel completely at home, but these two gestures are a promising start to the new academic year.