Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chancellor Reilly says RAs should be able to lead bible studies

Reilly, in an apparent suck-up to Christianist legislators, says that he personally thinks RA led bible study in the dorm is ok by RAs.

No need to be welcoming or inclusive if you are supervising dorm activities--go right ahead and prostyletize!! "Need help? Why don't you join the bible study, then I'll be interested. . ." says the Reilly's new kind of RA for Wisconsin.

The written policy is yet to come, and Reilly claims it will be difficult to translate his sentiment. I imagine that this policy will be saner, but Reilly is hoping to gain some Christmas goodwill from the radical right.

JS Online: DayWatch


babblemur said...

At my last place of employment, RAs were allowed to place bibles (new testament) in all of the welcome packs for new students on their dorm floors. The RA bible study groups were a test of a student's willingness to play the game. If a student didn't go, they were often ostrasized by the others on their floor at best, or called heathens and made miserable. I had talked to students who had been driven to tears by their roommates for refusing to participate. We had one student from Nepal who left school before finishing even one semester due to the challenges to her Buddhist faith and her unfamiliarity with American customs for dealing with religious pressure.

Eventually the faculty began to draft up a 'religious harassment' document that would treat religious pressure from peers much like 'sexual harassment', i.e. one over the top incident, or repeated casual incidents of religious pressure, would be considered 'religious harassment'. The document never made it to the Administrative Policy level.

That was at a private Christian college. I'd hate to see this level of 'religious outreach' at a public institution.

Anonymous said...

If Reilly is going to go through with this he should restrict it to meetings outside of the dorm and dorm grounds. These meetings could be held where clubs and organizations meet.

Would Christian Conservatives defend the RA's right if the RA is Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Satanist, etc?

Anonymous said...

I'm a student at UW-O and I don't see a problem with an RA holding a bible study in their room. As long as they are not forcing someone to attend, holding a study of their faith in their room should be OK.

I for one would love to attend a study of the Holy Qur'an (or as many Americans spell it - Koran). However, according to your judgements of this RA, I would not be able to attend such a study put on by my RA.

Freedom of religion? Freedom of speech? They must no longer be allowed, according to you.

Anonymous said...

First, according to which person?

Second, the ideas discussed do not infringe upon anyone's right to practice a religion or discuss religion. They put boundaries on the role of the RA. At what point does the RA become just another student? If a student who does not attend was treated differently by the RA who holds dorm meetings than a student who attends, could that student sue the university for religious discrimination?

What if a professor started every study session with a prayer? The sessions are optional but some people don't want to attend because of the religious aspects. Wouldn't students feel an inappropriate pressure?

The question comes down to how people are treated. I remember friends of the RA getting off easy because they were friends. The RAs behaved unethically. It would be easy to imagine RAs who hold religious sessions to favor those who have a similar interest. Babblemur gives an example of this problem. It is about creating space and tolerance for all people. Unfortunately these spaces overlap sometimes. Having RAs meet at a neutral site, or just letting non-RAs hold the sessions, seem like reasonable ways to protect the rights of different parties.

Anonymous said...

What would happen if the RA's were having a discussion about a religion class they are taking through school? Would that then be under your idea of a bible study? Yes, there are Christian religious study classes at UW-O.

Really the basis of the argument isn't really if the RA should be able to hold a bible study in their room. Rather the argument is if the RA will be ethical enough to not put pressure on those who do not share the same point of view.

Tolerance does not come from not allowing someone to hold a study in their room. However, tolerance does come about when people can learn to live side by side with others, practice their own religions, date whomever they want to date, and no one pressures anyone else to join choose one side over the other.

Lake Winneblogo said...

I have been off grading, but it is nice to see a lively discussion developing here.

Babblemur's example is great in giving us a sense about what a private college can do and a state university can't (and shouldn't).

The RA is an official state employee, even at low pay. Their job is to help students adjust to college and to supervise their activites while here.

Making people comfortable and encouraging tolerance is not done by holding sessions of bible worship in the workplace (i.e. the dormitory). Regardless of the ethics of the RA, the bible study in the workplace is exclusionary. Those who do not agree with the RA's particular interpretation of Christianity are not likely to be welcome.

It is not worth pretending that bible study is about discussing differences in interpretation, based on research, but to encourage a "proper" understanding of the verse in question.

Anonymous said...

A bible study is not worship. Worship is worship. Rather a study is simply a study. You tell me what you think this verse says, I tell you what I think it says. Sometimes we will agree, sometimes we won't. Exactly what a university is suppose to be wanting their students to do.

babblemur said...

Studying the Bible is fine, great even, it is a wonderful medium for debate and discussion.

The problem comes when one person has a position of "Authority" over another person (boss versus employee, faculty versus student, RA versus dorm residents). The power differential creates a situation where the lower position (employee, student, dorm resident) may feel pressure or obligation to comply with what may be only a simple invitation to a study group by someone in a position of authority over them (boss, faculty, RA).

This creates a situation of recognized or unrecognized pressure, the power differential, which can be difficult to deal with by the person in the inferior position. Especially 18 year olds who may be away from the 'power differential' of their parents for the very first time.

If your boss at work invites you to a prayer group at 7 am before work, what happens if you decline?

Anonymous said...

Babbelmur -- you are forgetting that this dorm room is also the RA's place of residence. Should not the RA have the same rights as any other person living on campus?

I think the power differential comes into view when the RA continues to ask individuals to attend the study, or hands out bibles to those people not in attendance, or does not treat each person the same. However, all those issues can be dealt with through a complaint process throughout the university. Then it is up to each individual to act as adults (which they are) and treat each other with respect or report the lack of respect.

By the way, our boss does have a bible study at his house 1x a week. Only 1 person in our company attends. None of us feels obligated to attend and none of us feels that he is treating this one person any differently than the rest of us. That is called tolerance -- accepting each individual where they are at, not where you want them to be at.

Jan said...

Faceless Pro-Bible study Person:
You say that RAs should be allowed to hold Bible studies in their dorms, them be expected to be trustworthy and honorable in their treatment of the residents under them -be they Christian or other. Right? But it's really not that simple. Perhaps many RA's would be completely tolerant and respectful. But would all of them, all the time? Your theory of just trusing that the RA's will be nice exposes non-Christian students to the painful struggle of proving that they've been made to feel uncomfortable or pressured. Should ANY student be forced through such an experience? I've been the victim of religious descrimination, and trust me, it's not fun, and not something a student should be faced with when attending a public university.

Lake Winneblogo said...

Well said, Jan!