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Campus News

Warren Wilson Community Meeting Focuses On Religious Tolerance

by Christian Diaz, News Editor

Last semester President Sandy Pfeiffer received an anonymous email lamenting the “outright hostility” one student experienced geared toward their religious affiliation. While he noted that Warren Wilson is not plagued by an epidemic of intolerance, any level is too much he said at the first community meeting.

Attendants were split into groups of eight that incorporated all perspectives of the community, linking small groups of teachers, staff and students. The prompt given by Den of Students Deb Myers asked participants to ponder what the social environment is like for people who adhere to a particular faith here.

A consensus was expressed by several community members deeming that Warren Wilson was not reliably keen on respecting the Christian faith and several reasons were given. Christianity is part of the mainstream and most of us are here because we didn’t fit into that worldview, said one student. Another acknowledged that Christianity had blood on its hands. Both were careful to emphasize that the true practice of Christianity is to love everyone unconditionally.

Some students rejected religious “tolerance” and instead pushed that differences should be celebrated. Other staff felt it was necessary to draw distinctions between religious views and practices because they are a beautiful plethora of different ways of interpreting reality. People shouldn’t politely agree with one another, one staff member said, instead people should learn from their differences.

“I was surprised, first, by the size of the group,” said chapel pastor Steve Runholt. “I thought the turnout, especially of students, was fantastic, much higher than I was expecting.”

“I wasn’t so much surprised as I was pleased that we could have an honest, heartfelt conversation about a topic that is often very divisive on this campus and in the wider culture. I think we needed to have that conversation, and I was very happy with the outcome,” Runholt said.

Community meetings were designed to provide a safe space for staff, faculty and students to gather and discuss their experiences at Warren Wilson. Last year several emergency meetings were held to discuss issues in residence life. With the introduction of monthly community meetings to balance policy related events such as Forum and Caucus, it is hoped that these events will promote lively debates in a pleasant setting.

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  1. [...] Pfeiffer and friends hosted the college’s first community meeting on Wednesday, September 7 to outline the college’s efforts to marry religious tolerance and food [...]

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