Diverse religions find acceptance on campus

There are over 40 Christian traditions and denominations on campus, yet there are also students who practice other faiths; so how can these students maintain their faith?

Adam Gamwell, program coordinator for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and staff adviser to TCU’s Interfaith Council and Community, said there are several resources available to students through the office.

“Hit up the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, that’s a good place to start,” Gamwell said. “I myself am a Humanist, so I am particularly happy to speak to students who don’t fall into the category of Christian.”

Gamwell added that everyone in the office enjoys talking to students of all faiths.

“Some of them may have the term ‘Reverend’ or ‘Father’ but it doesn’t mean that they’re close-minded,” Gamwell said. “These people are here for students.”

Gamwell said there is also a non-sectarian prayer space within the office.

“If you need a space to worship that’s private and with your own type of ceremony, and it doesn’t endanger anybody, we offer that space to everybody,” Gamwell said.

Hina Tareen, a sophomore biology major from Colleyville who is Muslim, said the prayer space has prayer rugs available, so students who are unable to drive to a mosque can still worship on campus.

The office will move in the fall from the Brown-Lupton Student Center to Jarvis Hall, but Gamwell said it will continue to offer resources to students and will expand to include new resources, such as a library where students will be able to check out books about religion.

Gamwell said the office’s Web site, www.faith.tcu.edu, is another great resource for students.

“We’ve made it very comprehensive. We list all of our programs and when they meet. We list links to places of worship and resources like books and stuff you might want to look up,” Gamwell said.

Student Groups

Currently, there are three religious groups on campus that are not Christian-based: Jewish student organization Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, and the Interfaith Council and Community.

Gamwell said the Interfaith Council and Community acts as a crossroads for all religions at TCU and often attracts students with minority religions that do not have their own on-campus organization.

“When we did the Spring Break trip we had an atheist, we had a Daoist, we had a Buddhist,” said Gamwell, describing Interfaith Council’s annual Interfaith Service and Study Trip. “So, it depends on the program, but this is a pleasantly diverse group, and it’s encouraging to see people that are brave enough to come out and share their faith but share it in a context that works toward unity and peace.”

Students in Hillel and MSA said the benefit of being part of their organizations is getting to meet other people who want to represent their faith on campus.

“It’s important to represent all the different religions and beliefs on campus. Since we’re a minority, I think it’s important that every Jewish student join this organization,” said Shani Zanescu, a sophomore communication studies major from Fort Worth.

Khaled Alrashed, a sophomore business major from Al-Ghat, Saudi Arabia, said being part of MSA was helpful because he met a friend with a car who gave him rides to a local mosque.

Finding Transportation

Needing transportation to off-campus religious sites is a common problem among students without cars because many non-Christian places of worship are not located along bus routes, and some religions do not have sites in Fort Worth.

Udit Dodeja, a junior economics major from New Delhi, said he goes to Hindu temples in Irving and Dallas a couple of times a year for holidays such as Holi.

Like Alrashed, Dodeja said he found transportation by making friends with people at TCU. He said though there is no Hindu group on campus, he met other Hindu students through Students for Asian Indian Cultural Awareness, a cultural group that represents Southeast Asia.

“TCU is really small, and I pretty much know all the Indian students at TCU,” Dodeja said.

Food Needs

Dodeja said he follows a Hindu restriction against eating beef, but said he has not had trouble finding food to eat on campus that complies with his religion.

However, Dodeja said Hindu students who are vegetarian might have a hard time.

“They just can’t live on salads everyday or cheese pizzas. I would suggest to them to be prepared and to know how to cook,” he said.

Dodeja also said there are several stores in Irving and Dallas that sell typical Indian dishes.

Tram Tran, a sophomore nursing major from Arlington who is Buddhist, said her religion only requires her to follow a vegetarian diet when she is at temple.

“To tell you the truth, I love temple food (vegetarian based). It is a lot better than regular TCU food,” Tran wrote in an e-mail.

Zanescu said she does not follow kosher law except to avoid mixing milk and meat, but said she hasn’t had a problem finding food on campus either.

Tareen said she personally has not had trouble with the food on campus, but said other Muslim students, who follow Islamic food laws that require animals be killed a specific way and that the meat be prepared a certain way, would probably not want to eat the meat at TCU.