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vocabulary that housing and residential life professionals can adopt to better understand
the population they serve. Next, we review the demographic shifts that have taken
place in religious identity among college students to help housing and residential life
professionals forecast the needs of their constituents. This is followed by a discussion
of critical issues that emerge at the intersection of religious identity and frontline work
in housing and residential life. Finally, we offer guidelines for effectively integrating the
concept of religious, secular, and spiritual identities into the practice of housing and
residential life to better serve student needs and advance their holistic growth.
A CHANGING NOMENCLATURE FOR RSSIs
To engage in a discussion about religiously forward practices in housing and residential
life, we must begin by developing a shared nomenclature to frame that discussion.
Love and Talbot (1999) used " spirituality " as a term to describe the identities on
which this article focuses. At the time, spirituality was often seen as a catch-all term
for religion and a wide range of practices across a variety of religious and spiritual
communities. Utilizing the word " spirituality " could have been seen at the time as
progressive, encouraging audiences to think beyond the scope of the traditional silos
of religion. Other language in the religious space includes terms like " interfaith, "
" multifaith, " and " multireligious. "
In response to the need for more critical evaluation, one of the authors (Nielsen)
was offered an opportunity to oversee revision of the Council for the Advancement of
Standards' (CAS) Religious and Spiritual Programs guidelines. This opened the door
for a significant discussion about the language used to identify religious and spiritual
individuals within higher education. The revision process involved professionals from
a variety of religious and non-religious identities, including university chaplains, vice
presidents of student affairs, and organizational leaders from Hillel International and
the Secular Student Alliance. These professionals illuminated the need to consider using
more inclusive language. In discussions during the CAS revisions, the terms " interfaith "
and " multifaith " were considered to be too deeply aligned with Christianity, seen
as off-putting to non-theist identities, and exclusive of particular identities of individuals
on campus. Contemporary scholarship suggests that labels such as " interfaith " are often
used to mask the activities and characteristics of communities that are Christian in
nature (Small, 2020) and that initiatives considered to be interfaith may be dominated
by Christian voices that dictate the settings and expected outcomes. Joshi (2020) takes
this further, arguing that Christian normativity has been used as a weapon to marginalize
religious minorities and deem their practices as less deserving of equal concern
on campus.
In response to such concerns and critiques, the 2014 CAS group settled on the
term " religious, secular, and spiritual " identities, often abbreviated as RSSI, which arranges
the words in alphabetical order: R(religious), then SE(secular), then SP(spiritual).
This term treats the embedded identities more equitably than did previous labels
(Nielsen & Small, 2019). More specifically, the RSSI nomenclature seeks to dismantle
Volume 48, No. 2 * 2022 57

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

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