Thursday, March 02, 2006

UW system capitulates to Christianists

RAs to be allowed to intimidate their charges, as long as they don't whack them over the head with a bible.

UW administrators apparently it is not worth the trouble to stand up to the anti-UW christianists when it comes to separation of church and state.

I suppose they won't mind me recruiting students for religious study in my office (do you think the wink/wink extra credit I shouldn't really promise will work?)



Inside Higher Ed :: Wisconsin's Battle of the Bible

11 comments:

Janine said...

Your argument, in my opinion, needs to be much more concrete than what you have made it so far.

You have said that RA's should be allowed to do what they choose to do behind closed doors. They also should not be allowed to recruit participants within the dorm system. That is what this new statement says. Still, you have a problem with this? Isn't that what you were asking for?

I come back to the fact that you don't want RA's having any religious gathering in their dorm rooms, however, a professor can use university equipment and time to promote his idea of religion and evolutionary theory. I don't see the difference.

Dave Diamond said...

As someone who cherishes the separation of church and state and utterly despises the degree to which Christian fundamentalists are trying to control our lives, I have to say your constant shrill tirades about "Christianists" aren't exactly helping our side of the debate. Accusing anyone who doesn't hold a hard-line position that religion ought to be banned on every square inch of the UWO campus of being a Christianist sellout doesn't reflect well on anyone.

Lammers said...

The sad thing about the RA Bible study problem is that with a little courtesy and respect, it need not have become a problem. If religious RA's had respected the lack of interest of areligious folks and not pressured them to participate, and if the areligious had respected the rights of the religious to "do their thing" without raising a fuss, there'd be no problem. There is only a problem because too many folks feel a selfish desire to throw their weight around and an unwillingness to see things through the eyes of others. Too many folks are just not content until they force everyone to do things their way.

I have no interest in religion at all, no faith in anything beyond what my five senses reveal, but I do not feel a pressing need to squelch every public expression of religiosity. For every demagogue jadedly USING religion to foster personal and political agenda, there are a thousand earnest folks who just *believe* and resent being pushed around and called names by us areligious folks.

Lake Winneblogo said...

The problem in this decision is that it denies the problem of power relationships between RAs and the students in their dorm.

As I said during the last go-round, rooms shouldn't be off limits to religious expression of RAs, but there should be very strict limits as to what is allowed in terms of allowing recruiting. The policy should make clear that religous practice in a dorm room is private business of an RA. If the RA wants to turn his/her bible study into a public event and start posting/making invitations, it needs to move out of the dorm and out of the RAs room.

From what I have seen, that is not the case. It seems that the system has simply decided they don't want to police the issue and are going to let RAs do whatever they like. Perhaps they will hand out bibles to all the students on their floor the first day. This seems to be perfectly acceptable, according to the new policy.

It should not be.

These policies are always driven by a shrill Christianist who complains that their right to worship is restricted if they can't do whatever they want in whosoevers' face.

If the RA who started this problem had been discrete and had not made others uncomfortable, there would be no issue.

Lammers said...

Hm. I lived in a dorm for two years. I don't ever recall thinking our RA had much "power" over me.

>>These policies are always driven by a shrill Christianist who complains that their right to worship is restricted if they can't do whatever they want in whosoevers' face.<<

That sounds more like a straw man, a stereotype, than a factual appraisal of actual events. But that's the benefit of being anopnymous, isn't it? One can say patently inflammatory things with little or no factual basis in an emotionally charged fashion and not be held accountable for it.

Of course, if I were going around playing loose and fast with facts, and spinning my verbiage for maximum emotionalism, I guess I'd be ashamed to sign my name to my comments.

Diamond Dave is right: you aren't helping; you're part of the polarization.

Janine said...

I totally agree with the idea that religion is a private matter and should not be pushed on another.

I still don't see the difference in power between an RA and a professor. The RA cannot have me thrown out of the dorms, and RA cannot affect my GPA, basically the RA can't do a whole hell of a lot to me. A professor on the other hand can fail me, which in turn affects my GPA, which in turn could affect my university standing and possible admission into grad school. Which one has more power?

Then I go back to the whole complaint against the RA's holding bible studies because of the this conflict between them being university employees and them pushing a religion on their fellow students. Because you see the RA's having power over these students which therefore affects how the students feel about the pressure.

However, it is OK for a prof. to use university time and equipment to talk about his ideas of religion and evolution. You completely disregard the power that the professor has over the students and how that may affect how a student will react around this prof. Do I not write a paper that I want to right because it will be construed as being against this prof's beliefs, do I not bring up different points in class for the same reason?

My view is that it is really all a bunch of bobblycock. The reality of the situation is that most students could care less what your religion is. Students really could care less what you are doing in your room, what the prof. is doing in his spare time, which prof. believe in Christ, which ones don't, etc.

The whole system is making a big deal out of both situations when in reality neither is affecting the students as you think.

tony palmeri said...

Janine,
I _love_ the term "bobblycock" and can honestly I had never heard it before your post! :-).
But in all seriousness, my view is that the UW system policy is a reasonable compromise that protects First Amendment rights. However, I predict that Christians (or at least certain Christians) will ultimately be the ones upset with the policy. Why? Because the System has now opened the door for Muslims, Buddhists, Jews (the "respectable" religions), along with satanists, pagans (the "controversial" religions) to hold their own religious study in RA dorm rooms. Certain Christians will immediately react negatively to this, in the process making Lake Winneblogo's point that at least part of this entire episode has been about favoring the "Christianists" over other religions.
I'm also not sure that I agree with the statement that "most students could care less what your religion is." My evidence here is purely anecdotal, but I have talked to several Muslim professors on campus who tell me that they have felt hostility from some students because of their religion, especially since 9/11. --Tony

Janine said...

Tony --

You've never heard of bobblycock before! My grandmother use to allow us to say that word instead of others that were less polite.

Anyway, I think there bible studying in dorms in other religions has always been happening. If this rule brings up problems for other Christians who think that only Christians have studies then those Christians have a problem. When I lived in the dorms we did have some that had study groups for the Koran, that has always been there.

Yes, I will have to concede that some students have had a problem with some of the students/prof. who are Muslim. However, I still don't see students thinking that a prof. (or RA's religion) has any power over the student. Rather, it is the actually power of a prof., in and of itself, that will influence a student rather than the implied power of an RA.

Dave Diamond said...

As I said during the last go-round, rooms shouldn't be off limits to religious expression of RAs, but there should be very strict limits as to what is allowed in terms of allowing recruiting.

Which is exactly why the new policy says that RAs/CAs can hold a religious study group in their dorm rooms, but they can't go around to their residents and push it.

Certain Christians will immediately react negatively to this, in the process making Lake Winneblogo's point that at least part of this entire episode has been about favoring the "Christianists" over other religions.

The most shameless part of this whole episode is the way Mark Green has exploited it. I'm sure, Dr. Palmeri, that the second someone complains about an atheist CA holding a Darwin Day vigil, you'll be sure and let Candidate--er, Congressman--Green know so he can stand up for that CA's rights.

tony palmeri said...

Diamond Dave,

It is no defense of Mark Green to say that he is not the first and will not be the last politician on the Right or Left to exploit an issue for perceived gain. I'd be happy to point out his hypocrisy.

I think a bigger task before us, much bigger than Mark Green, is to now make the UW System accountable for its newly found love of the First Amendment. That means that when people like Ward Churchill come to our campuses, or people complain about Zimmerman's website, etc., the System should openly and vigorously defend the free speech rights of the participants and openly and vigorously put down their critics as enemenies of free speech.

Lake Winneblogo said...

I have to admit I was wrong. The policy does have a line about RAs not prosetylizing. I missed it when I read the initial reports

That means, that RAs shouldn't do it, but it still shifts the burden back on to the supervisees, who have to report their RA.

Thanks also for everyone else's comments.