2011-05-19 / Editorial

Students find ‘In year of our Lord’ offensive

Make It Plain By Glenn Schicker

Editor’s note: The following column was written by the late Glenn Schicker and published in the Resorter May 5, 2010. The Resorter plans to rerun some of Glenn Schicker’s columns in future editions.

Some at Trinity University in Houston are hoping that when they graduate, their diplomas will lack six words which traditionally have been on Trinity diplomas.

A student group called Trinity Diversity Connection, with support from the student senate and a campus commencement committee, is asking the university’s board of trustees to drop the phrase, “In the Year of Our Lord,” from diplomas. According to the Houston Express-News, Isaac Medina, a Muslim student from Mexico, complained last year that when he applied for admission to Trinity, he was told it was not a religious institution, although it maintained a historical bond to the Presbyterian Church.

So the “Our Lord” reference “came as a big surprise,” a victim of a bait and switch,” he said. Medina asked the university to drop “In the Year of Our Lord” from his diploma and those of others who were offended by it. But the university said the phrase had to be on all diplomas or none.

…“People want to proudly display [their diplomas] in their offices and homes,” Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection, told the Express-News. “By having the phrase ‘In the Year of Our Lord,’ it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ.”

Somehow, this reminds me of listening to Dr. Ben Browne, founder of Judson College in Elgin, IL, speak in a chapel service one day while I was a student there. Browne waved a piece of Judson stationery and read the slogan on it: “A College for Christian Youth.”

“That’s not what I intended this institution to be,” said Browne, who had retired several years earlier as president. “I wanted it to be ‘A Christian College for Youth.’”

Many of our country’s major colleges and universities–from Harvard and Yale to Kalamazoo and Alma–were founded by churches. Over the years, many of them have drifted away from their religious roots, but remnants of the past remain. Others, like Judson, unashamedly maintain their Christian beliefs, but welcome a diversity of students.

In Trinity’s case, the college has been governed by a non-church board of trustees for over 40 years, but still has a chaplain, a chapel, a Christmas vespers service and an etching of the Bible on its official seal. And the school itself still bears the name “Trinity,” a clear reference to the God of Christianity.

Since the number of international students at Trinity has increased from 1% to 9% in the past decade, I could understand if students of other faiths objected to those vestiges of the college’s Christian past. But “In the Year of Our Lord”? It’s merely a formal way of stating the date of the commencement ceremony. Probably most colleges and high schools have that phrase or “A.D.” (which means the same thing in Latin) on their diplomas.

Ben Browne had the right idea: rubbing shoulders with a diverse student population is an important part of the maturing process for students at any college– Christian or otherwise. But giving in to petty complaints does nothing to promote diversity and a lot to diminish students’ exposure to sound reasoning.

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