PRINCIPLES FOR RELIGIOUS LIFE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Association of College and University Religious Affairs
Nurturing the religious and spiritual life of students is a critical part of the mission of higher education in the 21st century. Our colleges and universities are explicitly committed to developing the whole person, creating global citizens, and promoting civic engagement of students throughout their lives. Finding one’s own spiritual, religious and moral compass is a key component of personal well being in adult life. At this challenging time in history, it is clear that interfaith understanding is central to the life of the planet. Therefore, it is important to articulate certain principles for religious life in higher education. Specifically, we need to provide resources to promote healthy spiritual and religious development for students, which will keep pace with their intellectual and emotional development in our institutions.
- Religious life structures:The institution is well served by an office established by the university or college, dedicated to religious, spiritual and ethical life. That office and its director will be strategically placed within the university structure so as to promote effectiveness and influence. The office will fulfill a coordinating and liaison function for religious professionals assigned to the campus. It will also create and sustain one or more student interfaith bodies. This office will enlarge its impact on campus through a variety of partnerships. These activities will be funded by the institution at an appropriate level.
- Access and oversight:Our universities and colleges are obliged to accommodate diversity of religious expression. This office has both advocacy and oversight functions for our institutions – promoting free religious exercise and association as well as maintaining a welcoming environment that is free from religious coercion. Through its loyalty to the institution and professional expertise, the office enhances religious freedom while also securing compliance with general university policies, calibrated to the particular forms of abuse endemic to religion.
- Intellectual inquiry and religious practice:The office brings to bear on faith and religious practice the academic values of inquiry, research, multiple perspectives and critical thinking. Likewise, the office translates beliefs, values and convictions born of religious study and commitment into the academic arena. The office affirms the compatibility of religious commitment and free intellectual inquiry.
- Religious PluralismThe office advocates for the well being of the entire community with special concern for the needs of religious observance and practice. Encouraging an understanding and respect for the multifaith reality of higher education, while embracing and engaging the particularity of each tradition, is a principal focus. Extending hospitality and meeting the needs of religious groups and individuals, especially under-represented traditions, is crucial. An important dimension of the institutional mission is educating the entire community about religious, spiritual and ethical life.