The University of Indianapolis has been affiliated with a religious institution for nearly as long as its existence, according to the university’s website. According to the “History and Mission” section of the site, the university underwent changes to the official Christian affiliation due to church mergers and started its alignment with the United Methodist Church in 1968. Although not everyone who attends the school is Christian, I see UIndy’s religious affiliation not as an effort to push religion onto campus, but a way to help foster and create better-rounded students.
While resources such as the Ecuminical and Interfaith Programs and various religious RSOs are on campus to give students the ability to pursue a spiritual journey, I feel as if they are not an integral aspect of the university experience. They are often on the sidelines of events and entirely optional to participate in or be a part of. In fact, even though UIndy is a Methodist-affiliated university, there are many faiths able to be explored beyond that which it is aligned with. It is even promoted to use the ecumincal and interfaith programs to explore faiths other than the prominent religions in the United States.
The Muslim Student Association is a fantastic example of a Registered Student Organization that is not affiliated with the Methodist Church. Overall, though, there are far more student organizations that are not religiously affiliated at all than those that are. According to the clubs and organizations website for UIndy, there are over 70 RSOs (of which the number is growing) at the university, but there are only a handful that are religiously affiliated, in comparison.
Another thing to keep in mind is that religion is used as a resource on campus, not necessarily as an obligation. It allows people to make their own decisions and have their own experience with faith. If someone lives on campus, there are student staff members hired to be resident assistants and apartment complex assistants to be resources to acclimate students to campus life. Specifically, first year students that live in dorms like Warren, Cravens and Cory Bretz have RA Chaplains, according to the Residence Life staff recruitment and selection information site. Having an RA Chaplain in freshmen residence halls allows students the option to speak about faith and seek spiritual support from a mentor, according to their web page.
While staff are there and serve as a possible outlet to ask any questions that involve faith, they are also an RA first and foremost. It is not a requirement or expectation of students to reach out to staff or interact with them for faith-related purposes. It is the same concept in regards to students not being expected to interact with the Ecumenical and Interfaith Office. Students are able to use the religious resources and buildings if they want to, but they are able to navigate and go throughout college without interacting with them, either.
Some people may say it is unfair or unreasonable for UIndy to require a religion course in their general education core in relation to its affiliation with the United Methodist Church. However, having to take a religion course in order to earn a degree is part of the reality of attending UIndy—a private, church-affiliated, liberal arts college. UIndy also offers an array of religion courses which vary from “Judaism,” “Islam” or “World Religion” that do not directly involve Christianity. While the only multicultural religion course that qualifies for the General Education Religion requirement is “World Religion,” “Judaism” and “Islam” are still worth credits for the “Experiencing Cultural Differences” and “Global Awareness” requirements. Also, the point of a liberal arts college or degree is to become a well-rounded person, according to Lyon College, which explains why students also have to experience cultural differences, arts and foreign language as a part of the curriculum. Lyon College states that “A liberal arts education builds students into freethinkers, open communicators, knowledgeable citizens and respectable individuals.” The school also enforces that liberal arts allows for “open minds” and “considerate thoughts” to be fostered.
Overall, the religious aspect of the university does not affect the average student in an overly-involved matter if they do not want it to—and that is a positive thing. Having the opportunity to seek out these religious services creates a safe environment for those who want to pursue the spiritual part of themselves while in college, but it is not so forward and infiltrating that it also impedes on the education of those who do not want that to be a part of their experience.
The religious affiliation at UIndy is something that should be embraced. Even though I do not have any religious beliefs, it does not help to complain about this aspect of the educational institution I chose. UIndy’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church is beneficial when it comes to engaging with cultures and people outside student’s usual crowd— Ultimately, making students better people.