Monday, February 20, 2006

Separation of Church and University?

How much should a secular, and in theory independent institution endorse (or appear to endorse) the views of a particular religious group?

I asked myself this as I sat at the official welcome for students in the Faculty of Education and Arts here at Newcastle. This function consisted in the Assistant Academic Registrar, Heads of School(s), Program conveners and the Pro-Vice Chancellor giving speeches to the mass of incoming students covered by this faculty(we accounted for 35% of the total intake this year). This part of the program was normal enough. At the end usually a representative from NUSA, (the Newcastle university Students Association) gives a quick talk about the support services they offer to students etc.

But between the academics and the NUSA rep, someone (and I know who) allowed two Newcastle Christian Students (NCS) members get up and make a short presentation on why people should become go to their functions and how they want to share Jesus' word etc.

NCS are well known for their activities on campus, and their somewhat conservative views on anything remotely fun. But this incursion gave the message to new and naive students that NCS is a part of structure of this university in the same league as the faculty officials or the student union organisation. It also gave the impression that Newcastle is a majority Evangelical Christian campus, which I would dispute (I think we are mostly apathetic as far as religion is concerned).

If they can get a spot in the official welcome, then we should have too, along with any other club or society that craves the limelight. I have had just about all I can stand of NCS taking every possible opportunity and using every possible resource and connection to promote their message. I think that the 'ignore them and they will go away' strategy that other members have adopted in the past has totally failed and that we should adopt a more aggressive attitude. Would Nietzsche ( a younger one at least) have taken this lying down? No. He would have burst something. ( I know I almost did).


michael said...

I'm activable and willing, but sadly devoid of thought. If there is a thought that could use the help and support of one so described, let me know. There was a lack of NCS pamphleting going on today, which I though odd for the first day of the new uni year (though of course no complaints).

Samuel Douglas said...

I'm activable and willing, but sadly devoid of thought

That is the first really accurate thing you have said in a long time!

I'm sure we can cook something up between us that you can mindlessly hand out to disinterested strangers.