Cutting the religious studies department would be a mistake

commentary

Before coming to McDaniel College, I never knew that Religious Studies was a real academic department. I did not realize that there is a clear distinction between studying religion (commonly referred to as the study of theology or the study of a religion in order to be able to practice it more fully) and religious studies (an academic field that solely analyzes religious peoples, practices, institutions, and beliefs).

Even before I arrived at McDaniel, I was immediately influenced by the novelty and objectivity which the discipline seems to portray. My first-year seminar professor, Dr. Gregory Alles, encouraged me to take classes in the department in order to broaden my understanding of different cultures and to expose me to the variety of disciplines that a liberal arts college provides.

I was not disappointed. After my first semester at the college, during which I took two religious studies classes, I quickly decided to declare a minor in Religious Studies. I now love learning about the study of religion. This brings me to the point of this article – McDaniel is considering cutting the religious studies department and I do not think that we can allow this. How can we consider ourselves a liberal arts college when we get rid of the departments that help to diversify student’s education?

How can we promote ourselves as a college that challenges a traditional education when we cut departments that help to change students’ perceptions of the wider world? The religious studies department has opened my eyes to different cultures, different ways of thinking about the world, and different conceptions of human relationships. To not offer classes that broaden our education in this way would be a misstep on the college’s part, in my opinion.

McDaniel prides itself on its standing as a liberal arts college and markets itself based on the diversity that a liberal arts education implies. However, if the college begins to cut departments such as the religious studies department, it can no longer predicate itself on diverse education. Furthermore, McDaniel College would lose two of the most passionate professors that it employs, Dr. Alles and Dr. Brad Stoddard, which would be a great loss.