What's Happening Now: Rollins And Religion

What's Happening Now: Rollins And Religion

Students' voices prove strong in the midst of controversy.

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.

Cover Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1R3al4U

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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