Recent acts of violence against religious groups prompt urgent need for administrative attention
On April 27, the last day of Passover, Lori Gilbert Kaye was fatally shot after a gunman opened fire on the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, Calif. Gilbert Kaye sacrificed her life in an act of protection of her faith and community, jumping in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein to protect him. In addition to this tragic death, three other members of the synagogue were injured. This attack was undoubtedly fueled by anti-Semitism; the shooter posted a racist and anti-Semitic letter to 8chan, a website for discussion groups and image boards, just before the attack. The Poway synagogue shooting fell on the six-month anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which claimed 11 lives on Oct. 27.
Faith-based attacks run rampant in the world around us. On Easter Sunday, three Christian churches in Sri Lanka were bombed. On April 23, a man injured eight people in Sunnyvale, Calif. after driving his car into a crowd while targeting a family he presumed to be Muslim. And on March 15, 51 people were killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand. The first half of the calendar year is filled with major holidays for several faiths, and what is usually a time of love and celebration has become a time of fear.
Religious students at UC Davis find themselves in a predicament in the face of these tragedies. In a time of doubt and hopelessness, they are organizing their own vigils and creating their own safe spaces while simultaneously grieving for their communities. From 6 to 7 p.m. on May 1, the evening on which Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) began, six Jewish student organizations came together to host a vigil for Chabad of Poway on the Quad.
Several universities are just now beginning to see how religious students need support from faculty and staff, and they are implementing changes. On April 30, it was announced that a new law will require professors in the state of Washington to accommodate religious holidays. UC Berkeley recently said it will accommodate those celebrating Ramadan, and Chancellor Gary May recently announced the same for students at UC Davis via a Facebook story.
Even as progress is made, a need remains clear: College students deserve campus resources and support from their administrations to deal with situations that often escape what mere words can describe. The Editorial Board asks the university to recognize that many students, such as those of the Jewish community just days ago, are actively experiencing discrimination and feelings of danger. Knowing how to deal with this subject matter is obviously intensely difficult — but fostering open communication with these communities of faith is the starting point to support these groups. Since May’s investiture as chancellor, task forces have been established on the subjects of housing, food insecurity and mental health. The Editorial Board urges the administration to institute something similar to get feedback from religious students. While the University Religious Council meets five times a year for two hours (in a closed setting), this small time commitment placed on just a handful of religious leaders is not nearly enough to gauge the full scope of the spiritual well-being of the campus community. A task force to dig deep into what it means to be a student of faith (or no faith) at UC Davis is the only way the administration can know the breadth of experiences that form students’ lives.
Written by: The Editorial Board