What does equity truly demand?
This is a critical question that religious communities at Ithaca College are currently grappling with. For the past couple of years, concerns have been raised about the way the college treats its religious communities. The three religious communities housed in Muller Chapel receive programming funding from the college, but all other religious communities on campus receive money either through the Student Governance Council’s allocations budget or by other avenues — therefore, their budgets are much smaller.
A new position was recently created in part to address these concerns that some religious communities were being favored over others through funding. The position, director of religious and spiritual life, has been filled by Hierald Osorto, who recently said he will be working out a new budget to fund the different religious communities more equitably. Funds will now be allocated to organizations other than the Protestant Community, the Catholic Community and Hillel. Additionally, Osorto said he is taking action to make Muller Chapel a more collaborative, inclusive place.
This move has caused tension — on Oct. 25, it was announced that Protestant chaplain Rev. James Touchton is resigning from his position at the end of the semester. In a Facebook post obtained by The Ithacan, Touchton expressed frustration that the ICPC would lose a portion of its funding and also said the college is changing its funding for religious communities on campus “without any transition period or dialogue with us … .”
Touchton’s concerns are understandable, and he wants what’s best for his religious community. However, we need to think back to the question we started with — what does equity truly demand? We need to acknowledge and critique structures on our campus that may be benefiting some and not others. Many in our campus community continually talk about building an “equitable, inclusive” community. How can we say that we want to work toward these goals and still become angry when these goals begin to be met?
The changes being made to Muller Chapel should be cause for celebration. Equitable distribution of funds for each religious community at the college is what religious students deserve, regardless of their religion. This structural change to Muller Chapel is one that is long overdue, and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life is correct to implement it quickly to make sure that all religious students have equal opportunities, not just some.
If we wish to live up to the inclusive and equitable institution we claim to be, we must push forward in making all aspects of our college community equitable, regardless of what power structures are disrupted along the way.