Faith Column: Religion in the classroom
Are you comfortable talking with your professors about your faith?
Last year, after my first class, I left the room already angry at my professor. I immediately made an appointment with the Diversity and Human Rights office to make a complaint.
I was so disappointed because all the ratings on RateMyProfessor raved about how wonderful this professor was.
However, I did not see whatever those people saw. Instead, I had to sit through three hours of my professor ridiculing multiple religions, which included my own and those of my classmates. I was not the only one upset; many of my classmates left the room fuming and dreading going back to that class.
My appointment with Diversity and Human Rights was disappointing at the time, since I was told that my professor’s comments were just words, not threats, and that since he hadn’t mistreated or marked us poorly because of our religious beliefs, there was no case for discrimination.
However, in the end I was thankful that the complaint was not taken seriously as things drastically changed and I started to look forward to that class. The change happened because throughout the experience I quickly realized that this professor was not purposely tearing down religion, but he was instead just trying to incorporate it into a classroom setting, which most seem to avoid doing.
Sure, there were things that we disagreed on, but there should be room for debate in the classroom and I never again felt that he was attacking anyone’s religious beliefs. I grew an appreciation for the fact that he was not afraid to discuss religion and I think that it challenged me in a positive way.
One of the biggest moments in that class that made me realize this professor cared about me was when he began to say something about religion. I stepped in and said that I was Catholic and he backtracked, maybe realizing that what he was going to say would offend some of his students. It made me realize that the discussion was a two-way street — students can also challenge their professors. That is what education should be about.
These instances made me wonder if students often had a relationship with their teachers regarding their personal religious beliefs. Perhaps with the exception of sociology or religions studies professors, who discuss it for academic purposes only, rather than expressing personal opinions, it isn’t a common topic in the classroom.
Jasmin Bradley, a business student at MRU, said she thinks that professors, “kind of avoid the topic of religion.”
Despite not communicating their views on religion, Bradley says she believes that professors are “generally welcoming” and that thankfully she has never noticed discrimination from them.
I feel that I learned from my originally negative experience with my professor. I was convinced that I would dread that class every week, but I soon learned that he was a very caring person. Once he got to know his students, he took care to think of our feelings. Most professors do care deeply about their students, especially at Mount Royal.
However, if you feel that you are being discriminated against by your professor, go get help from an outside source like the counselors in Wellness Services Centre or the Multi-faith Chaplaincy because nobody deserves to be discriminated against.