The Lloyd P. Young Student Center was buzzing last Tuesday, March 6 with casual conversations about various religions “to promote acceptance and true cooperation in the midst of so much division in our nation,” according Keene State College’s website.
“Ask a __”, pronounced, “Ask a Blank”, was held in the student center on Tuesday, March 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Seven tables were set up with knowledgeable representatives from various religious backgrounds. The tables were labeled with the respective religion of the representative. The religions presented at the event included Atheism, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Protestant.
According to Diversity and Multicultural Student Support Hunter Kirschner, cultural and religious foods were funded through Sodexo and honorariums were given to spiritual representatives that traveled from far away, although most representatives were local residents. As students mingled their way through the atrium, they were welcomed to ask the religious representatives any questions that came to their minds.
Kirschner said that the goal of the event was to expose students to different religions and cultures, and give students the chance to learn about spiritual practices they were unaware of. “It’s not often that you can be in a space and know what someone’s faith is, but just [to] feel empowered to ask questions, in a way that you aren’t afraid of being offensive or feeling awkward about asking a question. That’s what the event is about… [it’s] not about converting anybody to any particular religion, but about exploring and understanding more about all these different ways that people celebrate and engage in their faith,” he explained.
Kirschner also added that the diversity of faiths at the event offered students a chance to gain acceptance of the different religions people on campus are connected to. “Granted we didn’t have every single possible faith represented, but having a good range, in part reflects different experiences and religious identities people hold on campus [and] also normalizes that fact that, yes, there is a whole range of spiritual practices that people may engage in,” he said.
Kirschner said that the student center served as a great setting for this event because of the atmosphere’s flexibility. “The student center atrium is such a great place just in terms of traffic, and accessibility, and ease. It’s the idea that the conversations are suppose to be more… comfortable,” he explained.
Kirschner said that the Office of Multicultural Student Support and Success would happily sponsor this event again in upcoming years.
Sophomore psychology major Tali Kutzen said the environment allowed her to feel casual conversing with the religious representatives. “I think the atmosphere made me feel better about talking to people and asking questions… If I didn’t feel comfortable having a conversation, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did,” she said. She continued by saying the event gave her a new outlook on people with different religions. “Being able to talk to someone with different spiritual standards gave me a better understanding of them, and their religion, and their background,” Kutzen added.
First-year Tommy Cressey attended the event as well. He said that the variety of religions at the event intrigued him and that was enough reason for him to begin a conversation. “I liked this event because it had a lot of different religions… It’s cool to learn about things you don’t know about and I’ve never even heard of Baha’i, so immediately that table grabbed my attention,” he said.
This was the second year “Ask a __” was held on the KSC campus. The event was sponsored by Keene State College organizations including the Office of Multicultural Student Support & Success, the Newman Center, the Catholic Student Organization, Cru, Delta Xi Phi Multicultural Sorority and the Panhellenic Council.
Ashley Arnold can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org