Panel discusses religious diversity

by Elliot Mattingly | 11/16/05 6:00am

A multifaith panel of Dartmouth students discussed their religious experiences at the College in front of a packed audience Tuesday night in Collis Commonground.

The event, entitled "Voices of Faith," was organized by the Student Multifaith Council and sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Tucker Foundation and the College.

The organizers said they hoped to spark discussion about perceptions of faith and the evolution of students' personal faiths at Dartmouth.

Panelist Adam Sigelman '05 opened the discussion by talking about how he found faith at Dartmouth in Zen Buddhism. He then told the audience how meditation helped him center himself.

"The newly found purpose in my life was simple: to live it. To be there. To appreciate it," Sigelman said.

Anjali Deshmukh '07 addressed the difficulty students of some faiths experience in her speech.

"I found being a Hindu at Dartmouth is a struggle that requires major compromises and constant innovation," she said.

Other students chose to address the religious questioning some students undergo upon arriving at a place where family and community no longer dictate faith choices.

"College is a journey of self-discovery," Meghan Feely '08 said.

Feely also addressed the changes students make when coming to college.

"For many college students, the journey to college means a vacation from responsibility and self control. Getting up for church early on a weekday morning is too big a sacrifice to make," Feely said.

Patrick Dunn '06, a member of campus group Christian Impact, said that although building cooperation between religious groups on campus might seem impossible, interfaith friendships enhance student life.

"Students from a variety of backgrounds, religions, clubs and fellowships are not merely talking a good game about love and respect but are living it out every day," Dunn said.

"We don't need to dishonestly assert that we all believe the same thing in order to feel connected."

Lydia Gensheimer '06 talked about the College's ever-changing attitude toward religion.

"Fifty years ago, quotas on admission for Jewish students reflected the College's unwelcoming attitude towards Jews. Last month, though, President [James] and Mrs. [Susan] Wright were sitting in the row behind me at the High Holy Day Services," she said. "Their annual presence there is symbolic and represents Dartmouth's present-day dedication to a diversity of religious groups on campus."

College Chaplain Rev. Richard Crocker helped start the annual event last year to give students an outlet to talk about their faiths.

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