Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2 - 62

Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Identities
Further, instead of direct programming, there may be a tendency for housing professionals
to lean into a Christian cultural experience, which is often seen in programming
that privileges Christianity and its practices. This sometimes comes in the form
of bible studies in residential halls or in invitations by RAs to attend church services or
said bible studies which they themselves might lead. Due to the dominance of Christian
normative tendencies in higher education, these activities are often allowed.
Recognizing that these programs are seen as unremarkable in residential spaces
further exacerbates issues of marginalization amongst minoritized religious and
non-religious students. It seems more expected that in recent years the secularization
of higher education would seek to eliminate these events; however, both authors can
attest that bible studies and invitations to Christian religious services and other events
remain a frequent occurrence in housing and residence life culture.
Inclusive Environments
Ultimately, the work of housing and residential life is situated in physical spaces. The
physical environments of housing spaces are often sterile, but during the month of
December ( " the holidays " -a phrase most often utilized regarding Protestant and Roman
Catholic Christmas and Easter) this often changes. Physical displays and decorations,
use of language which preferences these holidays, and the celebration of such days
is not in itself a problem. What can become a clear concern is the disregard, questioning,
and dismissal of other religious holidays. A lack of programming and educational
outreach regarding RSSIs thus illustrates a concept that Small (2020) described as false
neutral secularism, wherein the attempt to support no particular religion continuously
preferences Christian, and often White Protestant Christian, practices. While a Christmas
tree in a residence hall may not appear to be problematic, especially because such
displays are not overtly Christian, their presence helps to demarcate Christmas as a
holiday that is celebrated. Honoring other religious, secular, and spiritual holidays can
strengthen inclusion efforts, and housing and residential life can benefit from a greater
awareness of other traditions.
One lingering concern is that, when addressed, religious traditions or non-Christian
communities are likely to be appropriated into " Christian-like " status. For example, some
institutions may consider highlighting Hanukkah, a very minor but often appropriated
Jewish holiday, which is deemed to be comparable to Christmas, while observances like
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover are often not celebrated or honored within
the housing experience.
PROPOSED SOLUTIONS FOR BETTER INTEGRATING RSSIs
INTO RESIDENTIAL LIFE WORK
One way to build comfort with RSSIs is to practice these conversations with peers in
order to understand their thoughts and experiences. These conversations are often
challenging, as individuals vary greatly in their own personal knowledge and experience
with religions. As staff approach these conversations, they should adopt a posture
62 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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