“Diversity” has always been a favorite buzzword at the College of William and Mary. When it comes to diversity, many colleges talk the talk, and we want to applaud the College for walking the walk. A recent discussion of Christian biased schedules on college campuses should serve as a reminder to the College community to reflect on how it seeks to accommodate all students on campus. While we feel that the College does a good job in its attempts to meet the needs of all students, we want to remind the campus community that there is always room for improvement.
As a public university, we do not feel that it is the College administration’s job to ensure that all campus events are scheduled around religious holidays. For example, while Orientation for both the class of 2010 and the class of 2011 conflicted with Ramadan, the reality is that the College only has limited scheduling options for the academic calendar. The responsibility to make events available for all students lies with those running campus organizations.
The Panhellenic Council recently set a strong example of how organizations can work around religious holidays with its annual Bid Day celebration, which was scheduled for the day on which Rosh Hashanah began. The council moved its Bid Day festivities to earlier in the afternoon and encouraged all sororities to end events by 4 p.m. All campus organizations should work to ensure that their events and meetings do not conflict with cultural practices or observances that could prevent interested students from attending.
Efforts to accommodate all cultures does not extend only to campus life; we believe the faculty at the College does an excellent job of accommodating students in the classroom. Students are already granted extensions and excused absences from class for religious observances, which only serves to cultivate a more opening learning environment at the College. We believe the College should do a better job of informing the student body of these accommodations by highlighting them at the Orientation sessions about diversity.
Leaders of student religious organizations should also continue to facilitate discussions with campus leaders. Not only can these religious organizations act as a resource for students when they feel as if the College and their religious views conflict with each other, but they could also work together to advocate for improved cultural services. As dining services works to revamp the food on campus, religious student organizations should take this as an opportunity to ask for improved meal accommodations, such as better options during Passover and extended dining hours during Ramadan.
At the College, we put a lot of stock in diversity. As a community, we should continue to evaluate how we strive to accommodate all students — Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi — so that no student feels excluded for his or her religious beliefs. Over the last several years, the College has been making huge strides in accommodating cultural diversity; we only hope that the progress continues.