Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2 - 58

Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Identities
Christian hegemony, the " institutionalization of Christianity as the norm, including
in language, beliefs, and practices " (Small, 2020, p. 15). More than anything, though,
the nomenclature is responsive to the changing demographics of the RSSI community
in the United States, to which we now turn our attention.
CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS OF RSSIs IN HIGHER EDUCATION
While colonialization normalized Christianity as the dominant spiritual identity in
the United States for centuries, the demographics of RSSIs in the United States are
presently moving from mostly Christian to being much more multireligious, or pluralistic,
in nature (Schmalzbauer & Mahoney, 2018). Two groups-those who identify
as religious but non-Christian and those who ascribe to a wide spectrum of non-religious
or fluidly religious identities-are of particular interest in the context of higher
education and therefore relevant to housing and residential life professionals.
First, we have seen a significant increase in religious identities outside of Christianity.
Via the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1917 (better known
as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act), and the Immigration Act of 1924, or the Johnson-Reed
Act, the United States government has created barrier after barrier preventing Asians
from entering the United States (Waldman, 2019). East and South Asian-identified individuals
who potentially also ascribed to religious identities outside of Christianity were
restricted from immigrating into the United States. The Immigration and Nationality
Acts of 1952 and 1965 subsequently overturned this legislation, allowing a new wave of
Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Confucist immigrants to enter the United
States (Waldman, 2019). Not only did they establish themselves in U.S. society over
the next 50 years, but they also became some of the most educated people in America
(Pew Research Center, 2014). Largely absent from higher education during the Baby
Boomer years, the number of students with non-Christian religious identities is now
growing almost every year (Higher Education Research Institute [HERI], 2019). In the
2019 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Study, Muslims,
Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists combined made up more than 10% of the total population
of full-time first-time U.S. college students (HERI, 2019). While still minorities,
these identities have been consistently increasing on campus, largely due to second and
third generations of immigrants gaining access to higher education.
Even though non-Christian students are more prevalent on today's campuses,
Muslims are the target of more hate crimes in the United States than any other religious
community since the turn of the 21st century (Uddin, 2019). Ahmadi and Cole
(2020) highlighted the experiences of Muslims, specifically Muslim women wearing
RSSIs must be situated in concert with other more salient identities such as race,
gender, or LGBTQIA+. When understood in this way, professionals are able to
more easily identify power dynamics in which being White and Christian is both a
privilege and a potential oppressive force.
58 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

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

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