Campus to offer interfaith housing

by Stephen Maxwell

Campus Living, the Dean of Students’ office and the Chapel offices are working together to bring an Interfaith Community (IFC) housing option to Lewis & Clark next fall. It will be structured after existing themed floors, and is intended to include students from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds.  According to Dean of the Chapel Mark Duntley, the main goals of the community will be to encourage discussion between the various faiths at LC and to highlight the existence of spiritual groups on campus.  “We want people to be committed to learning about others, to living in a community with other people that are different than they are, but also to be actually interested in their own sort of faith or cultural background,” said Duntley.

This plan was partly inspired by a lack of visibility for religion and religious groups on campus. “We do actually have here people from different traditions and faith,” Duntley said. “This is a way of getting on the map.”  It also becomes one more thing the College can provide to help attract a variety of potentially interested students.  “If you’re trying to recruit students here who have faith backgrounds and are interested in this kind of thing, what do you say is available to them?”

According to the project’s listing in Opportunities & Announcements, students have expressed an interest in expanding the options for religious discussion. “There is a lack of discussion about faith and spirituality on campus, and I think that intentionally creating a space for that is great,” said Carolyn Worthge (‘11).  “It allows people of different faiths to live in community and be in constant conversation while living out their lives.”

According to Duntley, the idea of the community has been on the table before, but a particular catalyst this year is the Dean of Students, Celestino Limas, who was hired last academic year. “Celestino has a particular interest in diversity, including religious, cultural background,” said Duntley. “He wants to see diversity in a broad way, and I agree. He has a good vision for this, so we were happy to talk about it.”

The community will likely be housed in the on-campus apartments.  The convenience of kitchen facilities there helped encourage this choice.  “A lot of religious activities center around food,” said Duntley. “This will give them an opportunity to, in a communal way, share traditional religious and cultural experiences that include food.”

The current IFC mission statement encourages involved students to plan and participate in religious and cultural activities for the student body.  The specifics of the group, however, are all but set in stone. “We’re hoping is that students will be co-creators in this. The community can evolve the way it wants to,” said Duntley.  Fewer than 20 students will likely be involved this year, but the plan is for the concept to grow over time.

As with all themed floors, students can apply for membership until Feb. 18.


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