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Guidelines for Religious Life Staff and the Campus Community
Amherst College encourages the free expression of religion for all individuals and groups and values the religious beliefs and commitments of all members of the campus community. The College has entrusted the religious advisors with the oversight of religious life on campus. Our commitment is to assure that students have reasonable access to religious services and practices of their own choosing. We believe that religious life involves respect for all beliefs and traditions as well as considerate interaction with and learning from one another.
We recognize that there is a dynamic tension between adherence to one's own beliefs and tradition and exploration of the beliefs of others; between particularity of one's own faith and the commonality shared with the faith of others. We consciously choose to maintain this dynamic by honoring the aspects of each tradition that are specific while also appreciating the large sphere of areas that are held in common.
The college years are a time of intense learning when students are on a trajectory of growth and change. Identities are shaped, beliefs examined, and perspectives are altered. This process of reflection, examination, and alteration takes place no less in the areas of religion and spirituality. Religious advisors are available to support and encourage students throughout this time.
Members of the Amherst community, whether they are people of faith or of no faith, are encouraged to discuss with one another the richness of their own heritage, values and beliefs. In doing so, the worth of each individual and the principles that he or she holds dear is affirmed. We recognize that, in discussing topics of deeply held conviction, some offense is always a risk. Such dialogue requires sensitive listening and humility. It is through the work of communicating about our individual convictions that we will learn to appreciate one another and to live with our most significant differences. Religious advisors, adjunct religious advisors and religious affiliates have a special responsibility, as religious leaders, in helping to develop a campus culture of respectful dialogue with all people.
The religious life staff desire for people of differing beliefs to cooperate in joint programming, activities and conversation. Educationally, our goal is to be informed about our shared beliefs and values, better understand our differences, and respect our varying traditions and practices. Ultimately, our hope is to deepen our relationships and increase meaningful multifaith involvements. Based on research conducted at Amherst College , we recognize:
• All religious students have a commitment to a set of beliefs, symbols, regulations, rites and practices; and they want these particularities to be respected, valued, guarded and understood in multifaith interactions;
• Provided the first condition is met, religious students are eager to learn about and from the faith of others. This is especially true in informal settings and multifaith dialogue, as opposed to multifaith services.
• Multifaith events are valued primarily for their educational benefit, cultural expression, and potential to deepen relationships.
It is with the above principles and goals in mind that we offer the following recommendations for multifaith involvement:
- People should be invited to participate in multifaith events only to the extent that they are comfortable.
- People should not be put in the position of feeling pressured to compromise their own beliefs, practices or values.
- No person or group should be denigrated, whether by written or spoken words or through images. This is not a prohibition of free expression of ideas, but a commitment to present all views in a way that is respectful of others. There is a legitimate distinction between critique for educational purposes and maligning the beliefs of another.
- People should explain their own faith with sensitive regard for other people's spiritual integrity and be respectful of others' freedom to make their own decisions in matters of faith and identity.
Amherst College supports Religious Advisors from the Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions who, in turn, are encouraged to develop a culture of respectful dialogue with people of all faiths and no faith. All official religious groups at Amherst College must register with the Director of Religious Life in the Cadigan Center. All members of a religious group, including advisors, must be willing to subscribe to and function in consonance with the spirit and the specifics expressed in this document. Non-student Advisors to a student group should apply for Adjunct Religious Advisor or Religious Affiliate status by application to the Director of Religious Life.
The adjunct religious advisors are not paid by the College, but have a commitment to working with the religious advisors to enhance the religious life of the College. They are a significant part of the religious life staff. Adjunct religious advisors meet one or more of three criteria: 1) they serve a particular population on the campus that is not fully served by the religious advisors and for whom adequate services are not readily accessible in the surrounding community; 2) their primary ministry focus is the College; or 3) the institution they represent has a significant historical connection with the College. Adjunct advisors may use campus facilities, receive a parking permit and an e-mail account. Adjunct advisors are listed in the campus directory, student handbook and on the web site. Other privileges may be provided in special circumstances; these should be arranged with the Director. Where more than one person represents an organization, only one of these shall be an adjunct religious advisor and any others will be religious affiliates. The adjunct, in that situation, will be the primary contact person for the College. Adjuncts are expected to attend the regularly scheduled religious advisor meetings and are invited to special meetings with administration, faculty and staff.
Religious affiliates, including local clergy and campus ministry workers, are welcome on the campus at the invitation of members of the Amherst community. Religious affiliates receive an identification card that recognizes their official status on campus. The card is good for the academic year of issue. Affiliates are expected to attend at least one of the religious life staff meetings each year and to meet annually with the Director.
All advisors and affiliates of the religious groups at Amherst College must meet with the Director of Religious Life to discuss the Guidelines for Religious Advisors, Affiliates and Religious Organizations at Amherst College and to complete an Information Sheet . Advisors are responsible to communicate to their respective campus organization the principles contained in the Guidelines . A letter of endorsement from a national organization and a local/regional contact person is required at the initial application for adjunct religious advisor or religious affiliate status. Religious advisors approve all adjunct religious advisor and religious affiliate appointments. Appointments are for one year and are renewable after an annual review with the Director of Religious Life. After one year and 500 hours of service, adjunct advisors and religious affiliates will be eligible for discounted meals and use of athletic facilities. Recognized religious groups may send direct mailings to individuals who identify themselves with their particular groups and may make general mailings in accordance with the College's policy for activities and events that are open to the public.
We respect the volitional nature of religious involvement and recognize that religious advisors have a special responsibility to honor and respect student wishes and choices. As such, actions on the part of religious leaders that are deemed to be coercive, either physically or emotionally, or that significantly damage a student's academic pursuits, financial status or relationship with parents and peers, shall be grounds for loss of all campus privileges.
The Religious Advisors have offices in the Cadigan Center for Religious Life and can be reached through the Center secretary, Cindy Dumais-Holubowich, at 542-8489. Religious Groups and individuals may request permission to use Chapin Chapel and the Cadigan Center through the Administrative Assistant to the Religious Advisors, Diane Dix, 542-2181. Ongoing use of campus facilities will be in accordance with the College's customary guidelines. Ultimate responsibility for the use of Chapin Chapel and the Cadigan Center rests with the Director of Religious Life for the College, Paul Sorrentino, 542-8149.