How would you feel if upon arriving at your university accommodation for the first time you found that a Bible had been placed upon your bed? For many years at Aberystwyth University this has been a common experience, however many of their students are now demanding that the university stops doing this.
More than half of the students are against this practice because presumption that all students would want a copy of the Bible is “unacceptable” and can be “uncomfortable” for some. Universities are highly multicultural establishments and therefore does this process grant a certain kind of preference towards one particular faith or is this just blowing the issue out of proportion?
Well firstly it is important to understand the difference between producing an accessible environment for the Christian student body and at what point this could perhaps overstep the mark and become offensive to the other students. Providing the Christian students with a copy of the Bible is a great idea, since it could perhaps provide them with a welcoming sense of security during the otherwise frightening experience of moving to university.
However, making it a matter of course that all students will receive a copy is most definitely not the best method of doing this. By allowing the distribution of Bibles across the entirety of the accommodation, the university is making an active assumption about the belief systems of their student body. It could perhaps suggest to many students that they are a minority amongst a predominantly Christian group of people and therefore produce the adverse effect of making them feel isolated at an already difficult period of their lives. Although it may make the transition of moving to university easier for those who are part of the Christian faith, it may in fact make the whole process much more difficult for those with different belief systems.
However, a compromise could easily be made. Why not make it so that students can opt-in to have a Bible in their accommodation? This way the university grants accessibility to those who wish to have a copy, whilst avoiding causing any potential offense to students who do not. In fact, the only way for the university to be both accommodating and respectful would be to offer their students with access to any religious text that they require.
It is not enough to just say that students can have a copy of the Bible if they want one, they would need to produce a truly equal system that grants fair opportunities for all belief systems to acquire the religious materials that they require. This is not about the university being politically correct, it is about the equal treatment of their entire student body.
It would be a shame if Aberystwyth University now stopped providing copies of the Bible altogether, since it is very much a welcoming gesture toward their Christian students, but they definitely have to rethink their methods. They cannot just be providing towards one faith because that clearly suggest a kind of preferentialism and they also cannot just assume that all their students would be okay with finding a Bible in their room.
It is great that they provide support for the Christian faith, but now it’s time for them to step up their game and extend this attitude to the beliefs of all of their other students!