Editorial: Faith-based dorms should focus on avoiding discrimination

Specialized dormitories on college campuses are not a new concept. Many universities have housing specifically for honors students and for students pursuing the same major. However, some public colleges and universities are taking this a step further by creating dormitories centered around faith.

Opening faith-based housing on public university campuses appears to be a new trend. Faith-based housing is being pushed by the same Catholic ministry that runs Newman Centers on non-Catholic university campuses. 

Although creating faith-based housing can be a positive addition to a public university’s campus, issues arise when it comes to the representation of faiths within the dormitory. In order for the dormitory to be considered fair to all students living in it, all faiths must have the opportunity to be equally represented and catered to. One faith should not be the center of the dormitory and the events it holds.

This year, the Newman Student Housing Fund, a Texas organization that provides funding for faith-based housing on college campuses, helped open two new faith-based dormitories on public university campuses: one at Texas A&M University and one at Troy University in Alabama. The dormitory at Troy houses 376 students and meets what the university considers to be a growing demand for a more faith-centered living experience while attending the university.

Although the dormitory is no longer managed by the Newman Fund, a nearby archdiocese of the Catholic Church rents space inside for a chapel and a ministry center. Initially, the vice chancellor for advancement and external relations stated that the dorm would give preference to Christian students with an active spiritual life, and then students of other faiths would be able to live there if there was still room available. He then recanted his statement, saying that the dorm was open to all students who met some minimum requirements.

Although the dormitory is open to individuals of all faiths, there is obvious preference for Catholics. There is a Catholic-run ministry center in the building, which hosts discussions and activities led by priests and other clergy members. The building itself was planned and partially funded by a Catholic ministry. 

If universities want to include faith-based housing on their campuses, they must ensure that one faith is not held superior to others. Having only a priest available for students can be a source of contention for students who are not Catholic or Christian. Instead, universities should consider installing an interfaith council in order to cater to all faiths instead of just one or two. 

Students attending college often want to live with like-minded people who have similar responsibilities. Creating faith-based housing is a way to do this as long as discrimination against other faiths and forcing religion upon others is avoided.