I am a non-Catholic, non-religious student at a Jesuit university. When I applied for schools, I worried I wouldn’t fit in at Seattle University because of my religious affiliation, or lack thereof. In some ways, that has been true. I sing religious hymns at Mass of the Holy Spirit with the Seattle U choir every year. I edit Spectator stories about Catholic culture, the Pope and the Jesuits on almost a weekly basis. Every roommate I’ve ever had in college, and most of my closest friends, are Catholic.
But my experience of religion at Seattle U doesn’t represent the actual demographics of the student body.
Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, the majority of students at this university are non-Catholic—an estimated third of students are “searching” like me—and yet the minority religion is the only one with the loud voices and adequate resources.
Mission and Ministry’s decision to require that the incoming Campus Ministry director be Catholic tells students like me, definitively, that Catholicism will always be privileged on this campus, with those of us who don’t identify accordingly left in its shadow. I know now that what I feared as a high school senior is true—religious affiliation is the single most important personal characteristic on this campus. It is more important than character, experience, and professional and academic qualification.
It is ironic that a Jesuit university—one that touts values of social justice and diversity—would actively exclude those who are already underrepresented. Yes, this is a Catholic institution, but we have always upheld Jesuit social values with pride. But now I see that the university’s knee-jerk response to religious diversity is more in line with conservative Catholic exclusivity.
The university does not have faith in its non-Catholic majority. And that has made me lose faith in my university.