Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Spirituality integral part of college life

To the dismay of my proudly secular parents, I have been sucked in by the pull of organized religion. But my offense does not end there, oh no, I want to be a minister, and give my life to lead a congregation.

With my newfound religious tradition in hand, I bid the secular world goodbye and headed out to survey the religious landscape I plan to call home.

Still a stranger in this new world, I thought it best to learn a bit about the locals. As it turns out, I didn’t have to look very far. A recent survey of undergraduates at 240 American universities conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA on “Spirituality in Higher Education” found that nearly eight in 10 students attended religious services during the past year. That same number claim to believe in God, and more than two-thirds said they pray.

The list goes on. Evidence of the influence of spirituality and religion can be easily seen at NU.

On an obvious level, students clearly manifest religious observance in a variety of ways. The presence of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, smacked between Annenberg Hall and the Technological Institute, continually reminds the campus of NU’s Methodist roots. I also think of the hundreds of Jewish students who observed Yom Kippur last week, the Muslims currently fasting for Ramadan and those who head over to the Sheil Catholic Center each week for Sunday Mass.

But faith at NU is deeper than formal observance on Sunday or a holiday. NU has experienced a rash of hate crimes, mourned the death of a handful of students, and feared for students who were attacked at night on their way home. When faced with those challenges there is an understandable desire to know that though yesterday was bad, tomorrow will be better. Because the future is inherently unpredictable, it often boils down to a question of faith.

The trusty folks at Dictionary.com define “spiritual” as “of or concerned with affecting the soul.” The tools that students rely on in challenging times demand internal or “soulful” reflection.

Both secular and religious students remain an integral part of life at NU. This is not something that the dominant secular culture likes to accept. It often fears religion to such an extreme that spiritual life is marginalized.

Religious groups are advised completely separately from their secular counterparts. Secular groups are advised by the Center for Student Invovlement and the Multicultural Center while religious groups are advised by the Chaplain’s office. There is little communication and, with rare exceptions. very few instances of co-sponsorships between the two worlds.

In the academic world, employing spirituality as a justification for an argument is perceived as less academic, as it is more personal than fact. Yet, spirituality and the practice of religion, as the UCLA study suggests, are an extremely significant part of student life.

Students offering a religious and spiritual perspective should be taken seriously; their opinions deserve as much respect as any other.

Jessica Joslin is a SESP senior. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Spirituality integral part of college life