The University of Mary Washington credits itself on the diversity of its campus.
In fact, an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “was created to provide leadership and to develop the university’s academic and programmatic diversity and inclusion efforts.”
The goal of this office is “to increase and promote an institutional infrastructure which harbors the acceptance of everyone,” according to its website.
On top of that, it’s nearly impossible to explore the university’s website without encountering a webpage that fails to mention the word “diversity.” However, in many aspects, UMW fails to be diverse, particularly regarding religion.
Of the 132 clubs that exist at UMW, and are represented on the Student Activities website, eight are affiliated with Christianity, one is affiliated with Judaism and one is affiliated with Islam. While this may merely reflect the evangelical aspect of Christianity, as well as the potential that there is a greater number of Christians in the student body, it does not account for the diversity that supposedly adorns the university.
Surely, religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism should, at least, have some presence on campus.
Although there is no demographic that illustrates the religious identity of all the individuals on campus, there is no justification for the lack of campus representation of certain religions, even if those demographics are smaller.
If the university is so diverse, then why are only three religions represented when there are many more religions existing and practicing in the world, and, most likely, here at UMW? If the University is as diverse as it says it is, then why isn’t that diversity present in student clubs?
This is a country built on freedom, including religious freedom, and this campus should reflect the composition of the country. Although I have never been religious, I can appreciate a person’s need for religion and its capacity for helping people both understand and appreciate life, which is why I believe campus representation is so important.
Just as the University explores the different cultures of the world through its Cultural Awareness Series, it could adopt a similar series that would both explore the facets of the world’s religions and encourage students of those religions to establish their own niche in the community.
These students could also establish a presence on campus by starting a club that would provide a community for other practicing people, or maybe for people interested in learning more about a certain religion, or even converting to that religion. The Student Activities Webpage outlines the steps for a student to start a club. Even if the number of students in a religious group is too few to be officially recognized as a club, those students could still work with the University to expand the whole of UMW’s knowledge of that religion.
UMW may credit itself on its diversity, but there are definitely changes that must be made before this campus can truly be diverse.