Creating a Climate of Safety for Religious, Spiritual, and Secular Students

with Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, J. Cody Nielsen

About This Course

Every single year, millions of college students come onto college campuses with little to no understanding of their rights related to religious, spiritual, and secular identities. How we protect them and their identities is a question that we have yet to solve.  Evangelical groups at times have caused marginalized religiously affiliated students to feel uncomfortable, while atheist students have indicated difficulty in certain campus environments. How can a university provide safety for students to express and live out their identities as whole persons?

A college experience should come with knowing that you are safe to express yourself and your identity fully and without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, students often feel as though this is not always true with religious, secular, and spiritual identity. The beginning of a school year often finds dozens of evangelical groups on campus who may accost students regarding their beliefs. These groups are aggressive, violating student conduct rules like knocking on doors in dorms, handing out information or religious materials on street corners and around campus, and often target international students who may be more vulnerable. Students tend to lack knowledge of their rights in these situations, and every year thousands of incidents like this go unreported.

The backlash from this may be that marginalized religiously affiliated students may feel uncomfortable. The same may be true for atheists or humanist identifying students on campus. How do we as student affairs professionals address aggressive religious behavior and protect the safety of our students? How do we create campus environments that speak to the diversity of beliefs without stifling anyone’s identity? Join Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, Ph.D., Brown University Chaplain and expert in residence, J. Cody Nielsen, for this lively discussion.

Participants attending should expect to gain knowledge related to policies needed to provide safe environments for students, things to look out regarding aggressive religious behavior, and be offered case studies on effective practice in dealing with situations on campus. We especially welcome any case studies other professionals would like to offer to this discussion and would welcome them to be submitted to j.cody.nielsen@gmail.com.





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