Bible studies on dorm floors generate debate

Gabe Davis

A rising number of bible study sessions being held on dorm floors has led some students to question of their appropriateness at Iowa State. While some students are divided on whether or not to have bible studies on dorm floors based on their personal preferences, Director of Residence Randy Alexander said students have the right to decide.”My interpretation is that it would be violating the First Amendment right to tell students that they can’t have a bible study in their room,” Alexander said.Alexander also said he has no problem if a floor’s resident assistant holds bible study sessions for their residents.”There is no policy for RAs or any other student against having a bible study in their room,” he said.Residence Life Coordinator Sally Deters said bible study leaders, especially those who are RAs, need to be careful about keeping an inviting environment on their floors.”You need to be very sensitive about what message you’re sending out to the rest of the dorm floor,” she said. “RAs need to be sensitive not to exclude others because they aren’t part of their personal religious group.”Some RAs have been exercising their right to lead bible studies on their floor.Adam Penning, RA for Johnson House in Wilson Hall, said he holds a bible study on his floor weekly.”The bible study I lead is for other bible study leaders from other floors,” he said. “I think that the guys are really receptive to it.”Penning, senior in art and design, said many students come to college with religious curiosity.”Whether you come from a church background or not, most people I meet have an interest in learning more about the bible, even if they’re atheists,” he said. “Some guys that come to college with no religious background get involved in bible studies and learn that God created them and that he wants to have a relationship with them.”Penning said he also is involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, which holds around 20 men’s and women’s bible studies each on dorm floors weekly. The SALT Company, another Christian ministry on campus, also hosts around 40 bible studies each week on dorm floors, said Matt Waite, senior in mechanical engineering.Alexander said he thinks the groups are responding to a large part of the university community.”There’s a very large Christian community on campus,” he said. “I’d expect that it’s close to a majority of the students that go to a Christian organization on a weekly bases.”Doug Fuller, junior in computer science, is a member of the ISU Atheists and Agnostics Society and was recently invited to speak at a bible study in Storms Hall. Fuller said he is not opposed to the public bible studies. “There were times when we all were very passionate about what we believe in, but they were all very respectable of my opinion,” he said. “It was nice to find Christians that respected me even though I was different from them.”While he sometimes encounters Christians with a negative attitude toward his beliefs, Fuller said it is not a common occurrence.”Bible studies on dorm floors have never really bothered me,” he said. “I often see an air of respect from Christian groups towards those who believe opposite of them.”