Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2 - 64

Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Identities
Provide Students with Opportunities to Connect
Once housing and residential life staff are comfortable engaging in the topic of RSSIs
in regards to their own beliefs and experiences, it is important to provide further tools
for conversations with residents. One way to ensure this is through formal training
in religious literacy. Providing a basic understanding of RSSI language will improve
religious literacy, but because RSSI language is ever evolving, staff will need to revisit
these ideas regularly. It may be useful to collaborate with philosophy or religious studies
faculty, who can help introduce these terms and briefly describe beliefs held by
different religious traditions.
Validate Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Diversity as a Safe Educational Topic
Professional staff should consider programming opportunities in which RSSIs can be
more generally discussed. For example, an RA may create a program about different
stress management techniques. In this scenario, a student may bring up their religious,
secular, or spiritual beliefs, and the staff member can then intentionally validate
religious, secular, and spiritual diversity as a safe topic. Additionally, RA staff can offer
programs that include campus partners skilled in building RSSIs (e.g., directors of
centers of spirituality or equity, diversity, and inclusion professionals trained in religious
equity concerns). Additionally, RAs could escort residents to campus events that
are supported by a campus partner trained in and equipped to support RSSIs on their
campus. Examples of these might include teaching Shabbat services where Jewish professionals
host non-Jews or offering events focused on understanding various religious
communities across the world.
The U.S. context is that Christian-identifying individuals have a privileged status
and are identified by recognizable practices and symbols (Edwards 2018; Small, 2020).
Perhaps this is most prevalent during the holiday season, a time in which traditionally
Christian holidays are celebrated and the campus calendar provides breaks to accommodate
them. While housing and residential life professionals are unlikely to influence
changes on the magnitude of altering the campus calendar, promoting practices
that provide visibility and affirming markers of other traditions-as well as educational
opportunities-can help shift the focus to other religious, secular, and spiritual identities.
This means taking extra care to not over-promote Christianity by, for example, displaying
only Christmas trees in campus housing during winter holidays. Staff might
consider other traditions and take advantage of opportunities to promote a variety of
traditions throughout the year, including Eid, Holi, Vaishali, and Sukkot. In offering
these opportunities, professionals intentionally validate religion as an identity that is
considered as part of the campus experience.
Create Conducive Environments
Physical environments are often indicative of values held by the individuals and institutions
that occupy and control them (Strange & Banning, 2001). One easy step for housing
and residential life staff is to consider the current ways in which they celebrate and
honor RSSIs within residential buildings. Some institutions may have prayer and reflection
spaces that are located within the residential community. But very few residence
64 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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