By Sukhi Borse | Contributor
Baylor’s religious requirement for being a Community Leader (CL) reflects the university’s Christian-centered mission, yet some students express that it excludes students of other faith backgrounds.
Baylor’s identity as a private Baptist Christian academic institution offers a rigorous education for students while allowing them to grow in Christian faith and commitment within a tight-knit community. Because of their promise to provide a community deeply embedded in its faith, one of Baylor’s qualifications for becoming a Community Leader (CL) is they must have an “active and growing Christian faith.”
A CL’s job on the Baylor campus is equivalent to that of a resident assistant, or RA, at other universities. They are responsible for peer mentoring a group of students within their residence hall and acting as a resource for student to use when they need advice or a friend, and in Baylor’s case a possible source for religious guidance as well.
Centennial, Colo., sophomore Sahiti Donthula said she was told she cannot become a CL because she is Hindu, and that the requirement can upset students who apply only to find out they are not eligible due to their religion.
“Last year, I was recommended by my own CL to apply for the position; it meant a lot to me because I thought I would be contributing to the Baylor community,” Donthula said. “Then I was told that I couldn’t because I was Hindu; I felt out of place as if I was doing something wrong. I felt inadequate.”
The requirement has also caused some questions among Christians at Baylor. Sanger freshman Emma Johnson, who recently applied for a CL position, said that she views the policy as exclusive to those of other faith traditions.
“Baylor claims to be loving to all, but then they require CLs to be Christian… it seems hypocritical,” Johnson said. “So many sources are readily available for Christians to discuss their faith on campus, but then religions like Islam and Buddhism among others have close to no where to go; I’m a Christian and I think excluding other religions from this opportunity doesn’t seem very Christian to me.”
Rob Engblom, associate director for resident learning, gave insight as to why the rule has been created and how he said it has helped the residents at Baylor.
“One of Baylor’s primary goals, being a Christian university, has always been to provide a campus that promotes spiritual growth within individuals,” Engblom said. “It is what gives Baylor such a unique experience.”
Engblom said that other positions within Campus Living and Learning are open to students of other faith traditions.
“I understand how other people of different religions could feel excluded, but there are many other opportunities within Campus Living and Learning that do not have religion requirements,” Engblom said.
Donthula said that she hopes the CL religious requirement can create conversation about Baylor’s attitude toward those of faiths other than Christianity.
“I love the friends I’ve made here and I am grateful to be exposed to a lot of new experiences,” Donthula said. “In the back of my head, though, I will constantly feel out of place, and never really feel at home here.”
Johnson said that it can be difficult for students to feel welcome if they aren’t able to apply for positions that promote being active in the Baylor community. She said it’s best to lead by Christian example while still giving a voice to minority religions on campus.
“Loving thy neighbor… it’s not simply letting them experience the Christian faith, it’s about inviting them to a conversation where we all learn from one another’s religious experiences,” Johnson said. “Maybe we’ll start to realize we’re more similar than we are different.”
For more information about Baylor Campus Living and Learning requirements and opportunities, visit the Baylor web page.