Wednesday, April 5, 2017
I have spent most of my education and career in Christian universities. They, like all institutions, struggle with their identities in various ways, wrestling to understand themselves as parts of ancient traditions, within rapidly evolving worlds, seeking the ideals of liberal education while adhering to faith commitments and obligations.
This Inside Higher Ed piece from my friend and colleague, Prof. Michael Helfand, is wise and right. He writes from his experience as an Orthodox Jew at our university affiliated with the Churches of Christ, my home tradition. He discusses a commitment to religious diversity as a core commitment for a university with a faith mission, not as an exception to it. This is one of the things we get right, I think, at Pepperdine Law, and our Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Catholic, Mormon, Church of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical, Etc. law faculty is all the stronger because of it.
Next year, I will be one of the faculty advisors for our Interfaith Student Council, and I believe Michael's words are true:
The key to maintaining this balance is a university administration and faculty that does not simply expect faculty members of other faiths to work parallel to the university’s faith-based mission. Capitalizing on religious diversity within a faith-based university works best -- both from a student and from a faculty perspective -- when the university actively seeks to incorporate that religious diversity into the faith-based mission of the school. It gives students a more multifaceted educational experience and gives faculty an increased sense of institutional value -- and, in turn, increases buy-in to the institution’s mission.