Religious requirements for student leadership limits applicant pool

There is a certain standard that Whitworth University expects from its students, especially from students in leadership positions. As a Christian university, the descriptions of the requirements and duties for a student leader calls the student to demonstrate “responsible behavior personally, academically, and socially both on campus and in the community,” according to the Resident Assistant Selection Process Packet. Fair enough.

Most would agree that this is a reasonable request. But when this code is breached, and a small group coordinator or a resident assistant is fired because of their actions, an interesting question arises. Is there a division between students on leadership at Whitworth University and students that are not?

Members of the Whitworth community know how much effort our university puts into creating diversity across campus, from ethnicity to religion. There is no required faith statement in order to be admitted to Whitworth, and I have many close friends here that are not Christians. While dissecting this question about leadership and student body at Whitworth, I noticed a particularly juicy part of the resident assistant application.

Item “A” of Section II in the resident assistant application reads as follows: “(Serve as a positive role model by) affirming the mission, goals and Christian heritage of Whitworth University.” I have some problems with that.

Do not misunderstand. I am a follower of Christ and I am very grateful for the experiences that I have had at Whitworth in my faith. However, I am also proud of the diversity of thought and belief systems that is – supposedly – fostered at our university. Only, when important campus leaders like resident assistants are required to “affirm the Christian heritage of Whitworth,” some problems are created.

By including this requirement (or any similar requirement) there is a fairly significant population at Whitworth that is ostracized from applying or participating in leadership. Student leadership is supposed to accurately and effectively represent our student body and make informed decisions on the student body’s behalf. This makes me wonder how many students at Whitworth have thought about applying for a leadership position, but decided against it because their religious beliefs or lifestyles don’t fit Whitworth’s requirements. What does that say about the student body at Whitworth?

It says that there are voices at Whitworth that are potentially being quieted. What happens if a Muslim student wants to be a resident assistant? Do they have to help “affirm the Christian heritage of Whitworth”? What about a student that likes to party on the weekends but has a vision for positive change at our university? How do those voices get heard?

I agree that resident assistants in particular should be responsible, well-behaved role models. RAs need to set a positive example for their younger residents. But do they need to be Christians in order to do that? Based on the resident assistant application, it seems that way.

I want you to think about this: Are there groups at Whitworth that have no platform to let their voices be heard? Is it, or is it not appropriate for Whitworth University, a Christian institution, to require their student leaders to adhere to a Christian-based code of ethics? I don’t have the answers, but together as a student body, we do.


Max Carter


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The Qadim Ensemble promotes unity through music

Melissa Voss Staff Writer

When people think about the Middle East, they first think of the political turmoil that frequents the news. However, On Friday night, Sept. 18, the Qadim Ensemble showed a different perspective of the Middle East that is often overlooked.

The Bay Area-based music group performed ancient, soulful music of the Near East in the HUB Multipurpose room. Their repertoire included music spanning several centuries. From traditional Andalucian music written over 700 years ago to modern Arabic style music incorporating western and flamenco influence, the trio’s array of music was as wide as it was beautiful. Similarly, the band performed music from many Middle Eastern regions: Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and Turkey being among the nations represented.

The Qadim Ensemble offers an important look into the Middle Eastern culture. The trio, comprised of Eliyahu Sills, Bouchaib Abdelhadi and Faisal Zedan, are all from distinctly unique cultural and religious backgrounds, a fact that they were open about throughout their performance. Despite their differences, they come together to make incredible music.

Whitworth senior Marianne Sfeir attended the event and was enthusiastic about the message and the music that the ensemble had to offer to Whitworth students and the world. Due to her half-Arab identity, Sfeir said the music reminded her of back home.

“Given the political conflicts in the Middle East, the common pleasure of music to unite religions in important for the Middle East,” Sfeir said.

The event was put on by the Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU) cultural events coordinator, senior Kaysee-Li Tomkins.

“The goal of the event was to destigmatize diversity by showing students how we are all diverse,” Tomkins said. She also lauded the ensemble for their ability to express religion through music, stating that people often overlook religion as something that makes us diverse.

“Everyone is diverse,” Tomkins said. “From race and religions to hair color and eye color.” Tomkins hopes the event helped students to expand their horizons on what it means to be diverse, as well as give them an opportunity to listen to good music.

Not only was their message inspiring, the Qadim Ensemble also provided an exciting performance. The band was very involved with the audience, encouraging them to clap, sing and even dance along to the music. They played numerous exotic Middle Eastern instruments including a Riqq, which is similar to a tambourine, an Oud, the predecessor of guitars, and several reed flutes known as Ney, each with distinctive regional identities.

Photographer: Stuart Beeksma The Qadim Ensemble performs a historic song from Arabic culture during their concert on Friday, Sept. 18.  They play traditional instruments from several Middle Eastern countries. Photographer: Stuart Beeksma  

In Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and Turkish, the word Qadim means “ancient,” but it is also commonly taken to mean “moving forward”, Sills said. The ensemble embodied this meaning in their artful of ancient music and instrument, making music that connects the past with their goal of moving forward into the future, as well as providing a picture of global unity through the increasingly divided world of the Middle East.