HEEDING OTHER HOLIDAYS

GVSU has a responsibility to increase interfaith efforts

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 3/27/16 9:46pm

editorial


It's no secret that Grand Valley State University isn't very diverse — racially, economically or religiously. We're doing better now than we ever have before, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

There's no better reminder of who and what the university really cares about than when popular Christian holidays roll around. During the Christmas season, the Office of Student Life sets up a Christmas-themed photo booth, but there are no photo booths for non-Christian holidays that fall around the same time, like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

March 27 was Easter, wherein Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection. Purim took place on March 23 and 24, a popular Jewish holiday that celebrates the saving of the Jewish people from Hamen, a Persian king who planned to destroy all Jewish people. Holi, a colorful Hindu holiday celebrating spring, also took place on March 24.

Yet, it was just one of these holidays that was celebrated on GVSU's campus this past week. GVSU hosted a campus-wide Easter egg hunt to celebrate the holiday. The entire campaign was all in good fun, promoting the university as egg-finders were encouraged to post their found eggs on social media, but even things as simple as an egg hunt can be frustrating to those Laker community members who don't find themselves among the majority.

When there is a campus-wide event featuring events very clearly tied to just one of three holidays being celebrated in the same time frame, it can feel alienating to those students, faculty and staff who do not participate in Easter celebrations.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing a little spring joy to GVSU, but that joy could have easily been spread around to include more Lakers.

Purim is commonly known as one of the more joyous Jewish holidays, as participants celebrate by dressing up in costumes and dancing. Purim is frequently marked with a parade or a carnival, which could have been a great opportunity to expose GVSU students to a little interfaith learning in a fun, hands-on way.

Holi is famously celebrated by applying and throwing colored water and powders on friends and family, something that sounds absolutely perfect for a little mid-semester merrymaking at GVSU.

Both of these holidays have a home at GVSU, and not just because there are students at GVSU who identify with these religions. Celebrating Christian and non-Christian holidays would not only help GVSU's interfaith efforts be more inclusive, but it would be a fantastic opportunity to expose students to unfamiliar traditions and celebrations.

GVSU has long had a bad history when it comes to being religiously inclusive. This years' Campus Life Night, which had to be rescheduled due to a large number of Jewish students celebrating Rosh Hashana, one of the most religiously significant Jewish holidays, on the day Campus Life Night was scheduled for.

In the 2011 Campus Climate Survey, 67 percent of respondents identified their religion as a Christian denomination. In the 2015 survey, that number dropped to 63 percent.

As GVSU continues to become more diverse, the university needs to understand that there is more to diversity than the color of someone's skin. Christian privilege is just as real as white privilege, and it's time that GVSU recognizes that. 

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