Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 

Religion in higher education

I'm recently come across a couple of interesting articles dealing with spirituality and higher education.

From Mirror of Justice (a blog I hadn't encountered before) comes: No Catholics at Wheaton?

Wheaton College is a Christian college in Wheaton, Illinois. Wheaton is a Protestant college in particular. Their Board of Trustees, faculty and staff must annually reaffirm a Statement of Faith that states:

" WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say." (from here).

The president of Wheaton holds that this statement is incompatible with the Catholic faith, which regards the Pope as fully authoritative as the Bible. This posed a problem for Joshua Hochschild, who taught philosophy at Wheaton. When Hochschild accepted his position at Wheaton he was an Episcopalian, but he later converted to Catholicism. Because of this he was asked to leave Wheaton (he currently teaches at Mount St Mary's, a Catholic school).

The article is a very good read.

I wouldn't be comfortable at a place like Wheaton. My religious beliefs are a very personal thing, and I would get very annoyed at a place that required me to annually affirm my beliefs. I do think that people have a right to form and attend schools like that though, and I think they had a right to fire Hochschild. I enormously admire Hochschild for converting when he knew that it might cost him his job.

" Mr. Hochschild, 33 years old, who was considered by his department a shoo-in for tenure, says he's still willing to sign the Wheaton faith statement. He left last spring, taking a 10% pay cut and roiling his family life, to move to a less-renowned Catholic college.

Mr. Hochschild's dismissal captures tensions coursing through many of America's religious colleges. At these institutions, which are mostly Protestant or Catholic, decisions about hiring and retaining faculty members are coming into conflict with a resurgence of religious identity."


The article has a very interesting discussion about the climate in religious colleges in the US. I was interested to read this about Notre Dame:

" Addressing faculty at the University of Notre Dame, the school's new president, the Rev. John Jenkins, recently expressed concern that the percentage of faculty who were Catholic had fallen to 53%, compared with 85% in the 1970s. Today's level is barely above a line set in 1990 by the late Pope John Paul II, who decreed that non-Catholics shouldn't be a majority of the faculty at a Catholic university."


When I think about it I realize that Notre Dame is a Catholic school, but honestly it doesn't usually cross my mind. I think they do well academically, and that's where I usually stop. I think that's the way a lot of academics (or at least most of the academics I know) are – religion isn't something that we think about in our professional lives. This holds true for the religious academics too – their religious life is separate from their professional life. You don't need the Bible to measure stable isotopes for example.

This leads me to the second part of my post. Spirituality in Higher Education at UCLA.

" What is the level and intensity of spiritual experiences among today’s college students? How are spiritual searching and behavior changing on campus? And what does this mean for higher education institutions and students?"


The reports they have are fairly long, and I'm not done going through them yet. There are several interesting statistics though:

" In 2003, the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA began a major, multi-year research project to examine the spiritual development of undergraduate students during their college years. Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the study is designed to enhance our understanding of the role that spirituality plays in students’ lives and to identify strategies that institutions can use to enhance students’ spiritual development."


The report is a little fluffy (for lack of a better word) for me, and I wish I could see the raw answers to the questions, but there are some things about the religious beliefs of incoming undergrads that surprised me.

" Table 2. Indicators of Students’ Religiousness
Indicator Percent
Believe in God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Pray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . 69
Attended religious services . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 *
Discussed religion/spirituality with frien . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 80 *
Discussed religion/spirituality with family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 *
Religious beliefs provide strength, support, and guidance. . 69 **
Follow religious teachings in everyday life . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . 40 ***
* Occasionally or frequently
** Agree strongly or somewhat
*** Consider it essential or very important"


and

" Table 7. Students’ Religious Preferences
Religious Preference . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Percent
Roman Catholic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
None . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Baptist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Other Christian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Methodist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Lutheran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 5
Presbyterian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Church of Christ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Other Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Episcopalian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Jewish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Buddhist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 1
Eastern Orthodox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Hindu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Islamic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
United Church of Christ . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) . . . . . . . . . .4
7th Day Adventist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Unitarian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Quaker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2"


I would love to a study that tracks the evolution of students' religious views (the report I linked to describes a pilot study of juniors). I would also love to know the percentage of students who hold religious beliefs because of cultural reasons (i.e., they were raised Catholic, they call themselves Catholic, but they aren't practicing Catholics. I would also love to see a study applied to grad students and faculty.

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