Students call for more diversity in religious groups on campus

Written By Mitchell Drake, For The Globe

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Point Park University currently has two Christian student organizations, yet no student has created an organization for students of differing, non-Christian

S.A.I.L. hosts two existing Christian student organizations such as Coalition for Christian Outreach at Point Park and The U. This Fall 2018 semester opened with no organizations that catered to other religions.

Grace Tyler Frank-Rempel, a freshman studying intelligence and national security, identifies with Reform Judaism. Frank-Rempel was able to connect with others of the Jewish faith when she met other girls on her dormitory floor wearing faith-based jewelry, including her own ring that featured her Hebrew name.

Sara Buchdal, another Reform Jewish freshman studying theatre performance and practices, was “not expecting to meet so many” other Jewish students. Of the seven students she knows, five were freshman. Buchdal discovered them when she mentioned her trip to Israel.

Jewish students across the U.S. sometimes meet in an accredited Judaism Club or Hillel: an international organization that forms Jewish communities on college campuses and facilitates the celebrations of Shabbat among other Jewish holidays. Point Park, as of Fall 2018, is not connected with a Hillel, according to Hillel International.

Buchdal’s family has had various ties to Jewish leadership organizations in schools. Her grandmother, Sheila Buchdal, became the first female president of the UC Berkeley Hillel, and Buchdal also led a Jewish student organization in
high school.

Both students travel to the Hillel featured at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland, which Buchdal said to be an inconvenience. Buchdal also had to travel via public transportation alone, which she described to be a scary, unfavorable experience.

“I didn’t know many observants to travel with,” Buchdal said.

Buddhist students looking to worship could travel to Sgi-Usa in Crafton or the Zen Center of Pittsburgh in Sewickley. Muslim students can also travel to The First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh located in the Hill District or The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in North Oakland.

Point Park University does feature an Inner-Faith Meditation Room located on the second-floor hallway of Lawrence Hall, but these two students have not yet used it. Frank-Rempel was never informed of the room but expressed that she wouldn’t go even if she had known about it. She realized that her faith was a minority and “not seen as normal” by other students, Frank-Rempel said.

“I think I, and a lot of other non-Christian students, want to keep our faith private,” Frank-Rempel said.

Buchdal said that the darkened window of the room confused her, thinking that the room was private or just not in operation. She also said she would never use it, as she feels it would be

Laurence Murphy, Professor Emeritus of Humanities, claims that this is typical of group psychology. According to Murphy, Western Christianity is mainly focused on worship when done in churches, whereas Eastern religions tend to envelope believers in cultural ways of living such as dietary restrictions, headwear and garb. Focusing all worship into one room or structure has unfortunately had the effect of creating “to some degree a kind of schizophrenia between the organized religions and the spiritual beliefs of original Christianity,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, the initial mission of the room would be beneficial, if the room were used enough to create bonds between students of different faiths.

“The more one understands the spiritual belief systems of these religions, the less different these faiths, beyond differing cultural paradigms, tend to be,” Murphy said.

Murphy, Frank-Rempel and Buchdal are all in agreement that Point Park would benefit from opening accommodations or promoting the creation of student clubs for non-Christian

“As a liberal arts university, Point Park would do well in expanding its metaphysical horizons,” Murphy said.

Frank-Rempel said that she was a member of the National Federation for Temple Youth, an organization that promotes Reformed Jewish teens to understand their beliefs, and would love to see a similar program interact with Point Park.

Buchdal felt that as a religious minority, being able to conveniently worship with other Jews on campus would make her enthusiastic towards possibly leading a Judaism club in the future.

“There’s more diversity in religion here than this school realizes,” Buchdal said.

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