Religious bulletin boards raise questions in residence halls

By April Dejarlais

Alongside conversations of classes, friends and what’s at Café Mac, Macalester’s residents of Doty, Turck and Dupre are encouraged this month to talk about religion and spirituality. Doty-Turck RHD Finn Schneider and Dupre RHD Venson Curington worked with RAs in the dorms to create bulletin boards on each floor with four religious themes: religious pluralism, Christian privilege, dismantling religious stereotypes, and the role of religious, spiritual and inner identity and meaning making while at Macalester. While religion and spirituality have not historically been the most highly discussed subjects at Macalester, assistant director of ResLife Peggy Olson said she has seen more student interest in exploring that part of their identity. Curington and Olson called the bulletin boards the “passive” part of the religious conversation at Macalester, designed to pair with more “active” college events. The particular connection this month was the Muslim Students Associations Islam Awareness Week and Islamic Cultural Day. “Students can see it [religion and spirituality] in a number of different ways,” Olson said, referring to the dorm conversations and broader campus participation. The bulletin boards are part of a larger semester project on behalf of the first year RHDs, who research literature for different topics each month for the broader theme of the semester. Ultimately the bulletin boards are meant to facilitate a conversation between RAs and first year residents, not only amongst underclassmen. “The theme focuses on identity exploration and questions about what it means to be part of a community,” Schneider wrote in an e-mail. “The bulletin boards are intended to provide thought-provoking information for students.” “Christian privilege” may raise the most eyebrows in the Macalester environment, but Schneider justified the choice by writing “an integral part of working toward a more just and equitable society is acknowledging the dynamics of privilege and oppression that impact us all. When we benefit from a particular form of privilege (white privilege, male privilege, class privilege, etc.) it is important for us to be aware that even though we may not have asked for that privilege, we are benefiting from it.” The religious, spiritual and inner identity board in Dupre is equipped with markers for students to write down their thoughts to questions like “Where do you values and beliefs come from?” “When and how have they been challenged?” and “How do you make meaning of life’s trials and tribulations?” An anonymous student answered the second question with: “Here at Mac! There are so many people with different beliefs/values, my own are constantly being challenged.”