Disclaimer: This article is meant to be strictly fact-based. I do not want my personal opinion to affect those of our readers.

This past week, two potential candidates for the Dean of Religious Life position visited campus for open forum presentations, and their résumés were sent to us via email. Shortly after the email was sent on Monday, a petition concerning one of the candidate's religious affiliation was created, and a counter petition was made later on Tuesday night.

After reading both petitions, I was curious and wanted to see where both students who created the petitions were coming from, so I interviewed them. Each student answered five questions based on the platform in their respective petitions. Because most of us students are not on campus and have expressed interest about the new Dean of Religious Life position, I am writing this article to keep the Rollins community informed as well as to see where both sides are coming from.

Here is what the interviews look like. I'll let you all decide which side to take.

"Protect Rollins College's Chapel and Congregational Heritage" created by Anna Reagan

Q: Why did you create the petition?

I wrote my petition against the consideration of the Buddhist candidate for the Dean of Religious Life position because I am a concerned Rollins student and I knew that there are others out there who agree with me. Because of the timing of the candidates' events on campus and the extremely short notice, students such as myself were limited in how they could voice an opinion that might actually be heard, making a petition the most effective option.

Q: Would a Dean of Religious Life who was of a non-Christian religious group bother you? Why, or why not?

Because of the longstanding history of the school, I do not believe it would be appropriate for a non-Christian to be the dean of religious life. The Congregational Church and those individuals within it who founded Rollins left a legacy that should be respected and maintained. Though the title may have changed from "Dean of the Chapel" to "Dean of Religious Life," one can see the direct influence the position has over the chapel. Because of this and the chapel's history, the position should be held by a Christian clergy-member.

Q: Why do you think the Zen Buddhist potential candidate is not qualified or right for the position of Dean of Religious Life?

As I said in my petition, the zen Buddhist candidate does not reflect the Christian history or culture of Rollins College, nor does she represent the majority of Rollins students. Though there are some Buddhists at our school, the majority of students are Christian. Because of this majority and the Christian founding roots of the school, it would only be rational for the position to be held by a Christian.


Lucy Cross as a founding member of Rollins (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)


Q: What do you expect from the Dean of Religious Life?

The Dean of Religious Life should care for the religious and spiritual needs of the student body, which again is mostly Christian. The position should be held by an individual who can relate to the students and guide them no matter what beliefs they have. Aside from caring for the religious needs of all students of all faiths, the Dean of Religious Life should have a close relationship with the congregation of the chapel as well as the ministers, who are all of course Christian.

Q: What do you want the Rollins community to learn or absorb from your petition?

I hope that the Rollins community will be moved to see not only the necessity, but the benefits of having a Christian Dean of Religious Life. I also hope that the Rollins community will see that Christians have as much of a right as any students on campus to have an opinion, and that I am not attacking any other religion by doing so.

"Protect Rollins College’s Mission of Diversity and Global Citizenship" created by Alexandra DeLucia

Q: Why did you create the petition?
The issue was brought to my attention when a friend showed me the original petition. The petition described a position that I did not think a Rollins student would actually support -- a closed minded discriminatory stance toward a candidate simply because they are of a different religion. Reading the petition gave me the impression of a fundamental confusion of the goals of Rollins and the duties of the Dean of Religious Life. I created the counter-petition because I realized that simply ignoring the petition would not be enough. There needed to be a counter-position so that not only one voice was heard.

Q: Would a Dean of Religious Life who was of a non-Christian religious group bother you? Why, or why not?

A Dean of Religious Life from a non-Christian religious group would not bother me at all. The Dean's responsibilities are to support student religious groups to promote interfaith interactions, build relationships with spiritual and wellness leaders on campus and community, schedule events for Knowles Chapel, and perform other representative and administrative tasks. The personal faith of a Dean in a position that supports interfaith interactions should not matter. The decision of a Dean should be based on the candidate's qualifications and whether or not their vision is aligned with the goals of Rollins.

Q: Why do you think the Zen Buddhist potential candidate is qualified or right for the position of Dean of Religious Life?

I want to note that I also think the other candidate, Reverend Jenkins, is also qualified for the position. However, personally, I think Jem Jebbia (the Zen Buddhist candidate) is the right choice for the Rollins community. This is shown through her outstanding résumé. She has prior experience in an interfaith leadership position, and she expressed her desire to facilitate students becoming global citizens through different worldview interactions. She herself brings a different worldview to the campus through her adherence to Zen Buddhism. She would be a great representative of Rollins because she embodies Rollins' goals of diversity and global citizenship.

Q: What do you expect from the Dean of Religious Life?
Honestly I was not aware of this administrative position before the controversy. So for that, I thank the student who created the original petition. In the spirit of promoting global citizenship, I think it would be great if the Dean provided opportunities to learn and experience other religions. This could be in the form of workshops, speakers, or, even better, celebrations of religious events/holidays that are welcoming to students outside of the religion.

Q: What do you want the Rollins community to learn or absorb from your petition?

I want the students and faculty of Rollins to think about not only what the mission of Rollins is, but how they can help Rollins achieve that goal. In this case, I want the community to realize that they can take a stand for Rollins' goal of diversity by recognizing and stopping discrimination.

While both students have their own opinions, the fact that these petitions were even made suggests the great strength the student voice has at Rollins. I hope the interviews were helpful and I encourage readers to do their own research by reading Anna's and Alexandra's petitions.