The University of Dayton (in Ohio), a private Roman Catholic school, just denied registration to a potential Secular Student Alliance group because open discussion about religion apparently contradicts what they want students to learn on campus:
Nick Haynes and Branden King said they began planning their club, the Society of Free Thinkers, in April….
The group was designed for religious and nonreligious students to discuss topics related to both religion and a secular philosophy, Haynes said.
The group submitted the necessary paper work to Student Life and Kennedy Union before this year’s deadline, he said.
“Student Life said we were a religious group so we had to get approval from Campus Ministry before we would be recognized,” Haynes said.
Pause here for just a moment.
They were called a “religious group,” so the Ministry had to approve their existence?! I see two problems with that sentence.
But it shouldn’t have been a problem… there’s already a Muslim Student Association group on campus and surely their beliefs contradict Catholic ones. Why wouldn’t an atheist group be approved?
They didn’t answer that question. But they rejected the group anyway.
Haynes and King said they met with Amy Lopez-Matthews, director of Student Life and Kennedy Union, and Crystal Sullivan, director of Campus Ministry, to get approval for the group. They said this meeting took place approximately two weeks before fall classes started.
Sullivan and Lopez-Matthews both said to them that UD could not back their group, according to Haynes.
Lopez-Matthews said their reason was because the group would contradict UD’s values.
“I don’t know, as a religious, Catholic university, how we can promote this,” Lopez-Matthews said. “It’s in direct contrast to what we believe.”
(But Islam isn’t?)
What are these values that the atheist group would contradict? Here’s what I could find on the school’s website…
The University of Dayton is not a place where learning ends at the door to the classroom. Our courses spark curiosity — provide foundations — sharpen intellects — and inspire our faculty and students to dare to be exceptional.
I don’t see any contradiction.
UD said they’re opposed to the affiliation with the SSA. Because, I mean, just look at the SSA’s mission:
SSA’s mission is “to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human-based ethics”…
“Automatically there were some questions about the viability of this group [SSA],” Lopez-Matthews said. “Giving SOFT [Society of Free Thinkers] recognition allows SSA to use the University of Dayton name. How can an institution that’s founded on faith OK an organization that says faith doesn’t exist?”
Why don’t you ask California Lutheran University? Or Elmhurst College in Illinois? Or Luther College in Iowa? Or Southern Methodist University in Texas? They’re all founded by religious organizations and they all have SSA affiliates.
Actually, if SOFT affiliated with the SSA, we would simply put their group’s name and contact information on our master affiliate list and that’s about the extent of it. Meanwhile, SOFT would have access to grant money for speakers and material for tabling, and they would be part of a larger network of SSA students doing amazing things on their campuses.
Even institutions “founded on faith” ought to be comfortable with students who are questioning it and who want to explore another side of it. If there’s one place that shouldn’t demand that you agree with their beliefs in lockstep, it ought to be an institution of higher learning.
But the students said if SSA was the problem, they’d just forego the affiliation and run the group independently.
Would that make everything better?
We have yet to find out.
“We want first and foremost for SOFT to exist on campus,” Haynes said. “We’re flexible. … Having this organization exist is more important than our affiliation with SSA.”
Lopez-Matthews said Student Life supports dialogue of all religious views.
“We’re all about helping students in development of faith, whatever their beliefs may be,” she said. “If students are atheist, having a place on campus where they can gather or talk is a great thing.”
Haynes and King said they are currently waiting for their next meeting with administrators, and said they are trying to build support on campus. He said they also have prepared a letter to President Daniel Curran and other administrators explaining the organization’s goals.
“We’re not trying to come on campus with an agenda,” Haynes said. “There are stigmas attached to being atheist, and I want to expel those.”
“We’re all about helping students in development of faith, whatever their beliefs may be,” unless those beliefs challenge my beliefs, in which case screw you.
UD is a private school. They have every right to say no in this case, but they might as well be honest about it. Just say you don’t want anyone to challenge Catholic dogma. Or that you’re afraid the atheist group might become too popular. But don’t give students the run-around for idiotic reasons.