Over two-thirds of US college students said that during college, they didn’t develop a deeper skillset to interact with people of various faiths, a survey has found. On surveying students across 122 campuses, the study noted a lack of skills and knowledge to blend into a religiously diverse country.
The Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) was conducted by Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit that promotes religious diversity education in universities. According to the study, colleges can do more to equip students with knowledge of religious diversity. Less than half of students learned about Muslims (46 percent), Jews (40 percent), and Hindus (27 percent).
At the beginning of college, over 60 percent of students interacted mostly with their own religious communities, avoiding addressing differences altogether. By the fourth year of college, however, more than 90 percent of students became friends with someone of another religion or worldview.
“Students are open to bridge the religious divides and get involved in related activities,” said Alyssa Rockenbach, lead researcher of the project and professor at North Carolina State University, to Word and Way.
According to the study, “not all students believe their campus was welcoming of diverse religious faiths.” On-campus incidents of antagonism and stigma create a hostile environment as per the study.
The survey recommends that colleges strive to prepare students for a diverse environment post-college. Ensuring that students of all religions feel welcome and get equal opportunities at social events is also important.
Additionally, educators must evolve through interfaith training to help students navigate around the diversity discourse. Every course on diversity needs to include religion as part of the curriculum, the survey recommended.