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June 9, 2022 4:00 pm

US Colleges Failing Religious Minorities Says New Study

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

An empty classroom. Photo: Wiki Commons.

A new study that surveyed nearly two thousand US colleges and universities found that two-thirds don’t have student groups for Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim students.

Only 25% of schools have groups for Jewish students, 28% for Muslim students, and just 5% for Buddhist and Hindu students, according to the study.

“That most college and universities lack minority religious student groups means that many students lack resources that could make them feel more welcome on their campuses,” wrote researchers Jonathan S. Coley, Dhruba Das, and Gary John Adler Jr. on Monday, arguing that such groups are “safe spaces” for students who “do not feel welcome” in the wider campus culture.

They continued, “Minority religious student organizations also play important roles in transforming their campuses’ policies in ways that make those campuses friendlier to students from minority faiths. For example, national-level organizations such as the Muslim Students Association and Hillel International instruct leaders of local college chapters on how to establish prayer rooms on their campuses. They also provide guidance on how to persuade schools to serve halal or kosher meals, foods that conform to Muslim or Jewish dietary regulations, respectively.”

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The research team also found that the presence of student groups for religious minorities is determined by an institution’s wealth and religious affiliation. Schools with small endowments, they said, are limited in their ability to employ as many student affairs professionals, who oversee and support the founding of new clubs, as wealthy schools, and wealthy schools have more money overall to spend on student life.

Around 40% of public colleges and universities have minority religious student groups, while only 27% of private Christian colleges and universities had similar organizations, the report said.

Colby, Das, and Adler Jr. said their findings could lead to more research that examines why some schools have “active” and “effective” religious minority student groups.

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