The Chronicle’s View: Awareness Is Key In Classroom Discussions

Religion is one of the few topics that can get students riled up on this campus. The large rift between many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many members of other faiths sits just below the surface, ready to appear at any moment.

This constant underlying tension usually erupts onto campus after instances where either LDS or non-LDS feel slighted by the other.

The comments made by Amadou Niang calling the LDS Church institutionally racist fits the bill.

But discussion about the LDS Church or in-class comments referring to the LDS Church should not stop. For at least half of the student body, the LDS Church plays a large and meaningful role in day-to-day life. To take such a large part of these people and deem it academically out-of-bounds would hinder students’ education.

Instead, the U should adequately inform all faculty and teaching assistants about the LDS/non-LDS rift on campus and these educators should begin their classes with a comment about an open environment that respects students with differing opinions and perspectives.

Sociology Professor Theresa Martinez does it the smart way. She mentions religion at the outset of her classes and indicates that it may come up in discussion.

This way, no one is alarmed when it does, and students know she is open to hearing examples that refer to their religious affiliation.

Martinez can do this because she understands the rift, but many educators don’t.

No faculty should walk into a class without knowing a little bit about the culture of the students. And subsequently, no student should worry about offending either their classmates or their professor by mentioning the LDS Church in a class discussion.

Many students have heard someone refer to their “two years away from home.” These students should feel comfortable saying they went on missions.

If these educators create an open and constructive environment to begin with, maybe these students wouldn’t worry about sharing their experiences.