Originally published Oct. 13, 2013

We at the Lanthorn would like to take a moment to commend the Student Senators for their attempts to make Grand Valley State University more inclusive for religious students.

A recent summer issue of the Lanthorn bemoaned a sort of apathy that the university holds toward religious community members, even as it works to accommodate people identifying with other minority groups. GVSU’s Inclusion and Implementation Plan had little to speak of religious initiatives even as it boasted awards for LGBT and minority-based outreach.

Now, the students have taken it upon themselves to establish a more inclusive and welcoming community for the religious. As described in Claire Fodell’s front-page article, the senators are looking to provide religious students more extensive prayer spaces that will accommodate more rigorous rituals.

We hope the rest of the university supports these initiatives and begins to understand the true need that the senate is working to alleviate. That is: religious diversity runs thin at GVSU. Even when it’s directly sought after, exposure to different faiths is not always easy to find, and it’s efforts like those of the senate that will bring about change.

It is absolutely imperative that GVSU’s “diversity” extends beyond nationality, ethnicity, and sexuality to include religion, and this level of expansion may require more effort than it appears.

Consider the difficulty of bringing a religious background to a secular university, retaining that faith throughout academic and social trials, and emerging strengthened and encouraged to carry forward with those initial beliefs. For those who make faith a priority, this daunting concept could turn them away from matriculating at a public institution.

Thus, it’s important to foster students’ spiritual selves and help them understand that GVSU values their faith development as much as it does their educational, athletic and social development. Providing students a prayerful atmosphere not only says, “Your faith is accepted,” but it says, “Your faith is welcomed and important to us.”

The effects will be entirely worth the struggles, though. Consider how many conflicts around the world are spawned by religious disagreements and misunderstandings. Increasing religious resources at GVSU will certainly increase religious diversity, which will improve students’ chances of interacting with people of different faiths and developing a stronger understanding of them.

It starts with you, GVSU. Student Senate, thanks for paving the way. We look forward to watching the strides GVSU takes to foster spiritual development of its students—whether Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, or Baha’i. These initiatives are much needed, and they should only be the beginning of a long path to improvement.


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2013/10/at-the-helm