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of cultural sensitivity and curiosity as opposed to one of assured knowledge. By simply
expressing an interest in hearing another's story and experience, opportunities can occur.
This also provides a setting for residential life professionals to reflect on their own
beliefs and experiences and how they influence their attitudes in engaging in RSSI
conversations with residents. Once professional staff feel comfortable having a conversation
with a peer, this will open them to similar conversations with student staff and
residents. Even simply asking how one makes meaning of the world allows individuals
to express their beliefs and views in an authentic manner. There are several approaches
to enacting these dialogues as noted below.
Provide Staff with Tools for Conversations with Each Other
One of the easiest intentional opportunities to advance this work is to evaluate the representation
of staff employed by housing and residential life. While institutions cannot
ask about religion in hiring processes, the ability to carefully provide opportunities for
conversation amongst staff regarding all forms of identities, including RSSIs, offers
the possibility of more open dialogue regarding the needs of certain populations.
One way to significantly advance support for RSSIs is to provide adequate training
materials for all professional and student staff. Materials may include an orientation
to the practices of these traditions; definitions of terms; general understanding of how
religious, secular, and spiritual identities fit into the higher education diversity, equity,
and inclusion space; and what to be aware of when creating events and programs.
These materials should be developed with input from the religious and non-religious
communities on and off campus.
It is also important for professional housing and residential life staff to have a greater
understanding of the legal issues surrounding higher education's support of RSSIs.
This is especially true in public institutions, where First and Fourteenth Amendment
protections require that institutions uphold the free exercise of religion on campus.
These legal issues can be as simple as making sure that those involved in any and all religious
traditions can openly discuss their practices and that housing and residence hall
spaces prevent majority Christian communities from forcing religion onto residents.
To understand the concerns as well as potential legal issues, we encourage a leanin
approach in which professionals are open to learning more about needs rather than
simply dismissing RSSIs as a private concern. All staff levels, from RAs to senior housing
professionals, and all areas of residential life programs would benefit from engaging
in a set of curricular-designed trainings that include case studies. This pedagogy
allows for integrated learning and can help to draw out potential implicit biases that
housing staff and professionals may hold.
. . . RSSIs are rarely considered topics for programming and education;
instead, they are seen as individual experiences that have little to do with
the collective community culture or climate.
Volume 48, No. 2 * 2022 63

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

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