The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

THE STUDENT RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION

FROM the establishment of the Student Christian Association in 1858, the interest of the University in the religious life of the students was evident. Presidents Tappan and Haven provided University rooms for the organization and often addressed the student body at chapel and at other religious meetings. President Angell was active in soliciting funds for the building of Newberry Hall and later in seeking endowment for the Association. In recognition of services rendered the University, the Regents, in 1911, voted an annual payment to the Association of $500 (R.P., 1910-14, p. 267).

Both President Burton and his successor, President Little, had plans for saving the Association, when a depleted program, diminishing student interest, and lack of adequate endowment began to threaten its life. President Burton had been instrumental in wiping out a debt of $48,000 and in bringing about the appointment of a new general secretary, while President Little hoped to rebuild the organization by giving it back to the students in its entirety.

In 1934 President Ruthven created the position of Counselor in Religious Education as an expression of his belief that the University's concern for religion must be expressed within the educational scope of the University. Against this backdrop of assured administrative interest, the Student Christian Association trustees suggested that Lane Hall and Newberry Hall be transferred to the University and that the University accept responsibility for a student religious program. The transfer of properties took place in December, 1936 (R.P., 1936-39, p. 118). In March, 1937, a Board of Governors for the Student Christian Association was established, consisting of Dr. Raphael Isaacs, Professors Howard McClusky, William McLaughlin, Ferdinand Menefee, and Erich Walter, and alumni members Emory J. Hyde and James Inglis (R.P., 1936-39, p. 200). The name of the Student Christian Association was changed to Student Religious Association in May, 1937, in recognition of the fact that University sponsorship required the inclusion of all religions. From the first, the Board of Governors, which included two student members, represented the Catholic, the Protestant, and the Jewish faiths.

The constitution of the new Student Religious Association was approved by the Regents in July, 1937. The purpose of the Association was "to assist the student in recognizing the place of religion Page  1897in life; to help him in facing the real issues of the modern world; to counsel with him in developing a worthy sense of values; and to form such relationships with the religious forces represented in Ann Arbor as … contribute to the realization of these themes." The members of the Association included all who were interested.

It was clear from the beginning that no attempt would be made to establish a University church and that the work of the counselor in religious education, as well as curricular offerings in religion, was to be outside the jurisdiction of the Board of Governors.

When Kenneth W. Morgan was appointed, in 1937, as the first director of the Student Religious Association, the maintenance of the building had been a financial problem for many years. With a few students who had expressed an interest in the program, he began to work. The list of program activities in 1937-39 was an impressive one. As many as eighteen speakers were brought to the campus for lectures. A book-review group, music groups, and a choir were formed. A freshman Round Table, a Saturday luncheon discussion group, and special-interest groups, including one on anti-Semitism, were a part of the program. In addition, there were work holidays, a toy-lending library, the health service visit plan, student deputations to outlying communities, and the Bureau of Student Opinion, which played a large part in sampling student opinion at that time. Activities carried over from the days of the S.C.A. included the Freshman Handbook and Freshman Rendezvous, which in 1941 became a coeducational religious conference rather than the social orientation program for men, which it had been.

Perhaps the major event during the first two years was the series of lectures on "The Existence and Nature of God," given by Lord Bertrand Russell, Monsignor Fulton Sheen, and Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr. Attendance at these lectures ranged from 1,500 to 2,500.

The importance of the program under Morgan, however, lay in the philosophy of student work which he established and which has been followed by his successors. He believed strongly in the use of small groups in which all the members could participate. His methods included seminars, conferences, and personal counseling as well as lectures and the development of friendly relations with the local churches. Lane Hall, under his direction, became one of the most intellectually stimulating places on the campus.

It was not the purpose of the University at this time to encourage co-operation between religious groups, but to aid them in their work and to supplement it wherever possible. Morgan found that the work with Roman Catholic students was well established in its own center. Archbishop Mooney expressed a real interest in the University's program and a friendly relationship was established. The Jewish work was also in good hands. The Hillel Foundation building was inadequate, however, and so the facilities of Lane Hall were made available to the Jewish students for some of their activities. Several members of Hillel participated in the study of anti-Semitism carried on by the S.R.A., and Dr. Isaac Rabinovitz, Director of Hillel, led discussions in Lane Hall. Relations between Hillel and the Student Religious Association were most co-operative.

The development of the work with Protestant students paralleled to some extent that of the Catholics and the Jews. Some of the Protestant groups, although well equipped with buildings were not yet well staffed. This indicated that there was little co-operation among the Protestant groups. Morgan sought Page  1898to establish a co-operative relationship among them — because of the values in such co-operation and because it was not possible to have communication between Catholics, Protestants, and Jews until the Protestants had reached a point in their mutual development in which there could be a "Protestant" contribution.

Thus, the effort during the early years of the program consisted of making contributions to the religious organizations according to their various needs rather than attempting to build up a large degree of interreligious co-operation. The Inter-Guild Council was organized in November, 1937, as a council of Protestant student religious organizations. Inter-Guild conferences, held in the spring and fall, did much to improve relationships among the churches and between the University and the churches.

While the Inter-Guild Council operated as a student co-operative effort, in 1938, at Morgan's invitation, regular meetings of the Protestant ministers who worked with students were held. In February, 1939, an Advisory Board was formed, consisting of the Protestant ministers to students, the Catholic priests, the director of Hillel Foundation, and a layman from each of these organizations. This group met with the Board of Governors periodically to discuss the religious problems of the University and to clarify relationships between the University and the local religious groups. Co-operation was also maintained with the Christian Science student organization and with the local chapter of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, both of which met regularly at Lane Hall.

The problem of defining a state university's responsibility for campus religious affairs was ever present, and policy decisions had to be made without precedent from other campus situations. It was discovered, for example, that the S.R.A. could not maintain a contributing membership in the national Y.M.C.A., although this relationship made an important contribution to the work carried on in Lane Hall (Minutes of the Board of Governors [Minute Book], March, 1938). It was also decided that while a University building such as Lane Hall could be used by any of the religious groups for their own meetings, it would not be suitable for one group to hold a public meeting in the building strictly for the presentation of its own sectarian point of view.

World War II brought new problems. The program was continued insofar as possible with changes only where they proved to be necessary. Additional services were provided for the men in service and for those victims of the war who were in need of relief.

In the spring of 1942 Morgan resigned to serve in civilian public service, and the Regents decided that his position could not be filled at that time. An Advisory Board of students, faculty, and a member of the Board of Governors was appointed to work with Dr. Blakeman as adviser in directing the program of the Association. In reviewing his five years at the University, Morgan observed that in 1937 few girls had participated in S.R.A. activities, but by 1942 they were taking a natural place in the program, and although the number remained small, an increasing number of foreign students was noticeable. While the question of pacifism arose as a result of the war situation, this did not prove to be serious. The Board of Governors announced that the policy of the Student Religious Association would continue to be what it always had been — to encourage the discussion of any problem from the point of view of religion and that the discussion of moral and ethical views of the war was to be encouraged. The freedom with which such "unpopular" subjects was discussed, however, in such insecure times, contributed significantly to Page  1899the loss of Lane Hall's popularity as a center for student activity.

In November, 1942, William Muehl, a student in the Law School, and once S.R.A. president, was appointed as part-time acting Director. The significance of the work under Muehl's direction lay in two areas. While the program during the war was limited, still, with student aid, it was carried out. Moreover, with President Ruthven's support, Lane Hall was maintained as the religious center of the University when it might well have been taken over for war activities. The work, of course, was complicated by uncertainty concerning the future of the program and the various exigencies of the wartime situation. Student interest turned to some extent to more glamorous and patriotic activities and to the social aspects of the program rather than toward discussional activities concerned with attitudes and beliefs.

While the war resulted in a limited program, it also brought some significant advances in interreligious relationships. In March, 1943, a committee including the counselor in religious education, one rabbi, one priest, two Protestant ministers, and the director of the Association, was appointed to perform liaison duties between the military and the civic agencies — in this case the University and the churches. Thus began an experience in interreligious co-operation which was to mean much in the future development of interaction between the faiths.

The Board of Governors, in 1944, defined the position of the director as follows: (1) he was to be responsible for the organization and policy and for annual reports to the Board, (2) he was … free to discuss economic and religious problems within the Association although the emphasis was to be upon religion, (3) there was to be no attempt to win students from other religious groups, but to provide a program for the unchurched as well as for those affiliated with denominations, (4) the director would be available for counseling, and (5) he would not be concerned with promoting a large membership, but in providing a program in which students of various religious preferences would find something of interest.

Franklin H. Littell, who was appointed Director in 1944, faced many problems. For example Lane Hall was used by a number of nonreligious groups which had been moved into the building during the war. Littell established a policy which gave priority to student religious organizations, other recognized student groups receiving secondary consideration. While the early relationship with denominational organizations had been one in which the University provided services to them, a feeling of competition between University-sponsored work and the church-sponsored groups had arisen. Littell believed that students who did not belong to church groups should be provided for, but he also felt that each student should find his place eventually in a particular religious community. He, too, favored a strong inter-Protestant Council for the campus. The war had destroyed some of the gains which Morgan had made with Inter-Guild, but by 1945 the Council had been enlarged and was working on its constitution. At this time Littell urged the Protestant groups to form stronger affiliations with the Catholic and Jewish groups in an interreligious program. The Campus Religious Council, which was accredited as a body related to the Student Religious Association in August, 1945, represented a co-operative effort between the priest, the rabbi, the chairman of the Protestant student directors, and the director of Lane Hall. This group discussed important issues of religion and higher education.

Further stimulus was provided in 1945 by means of a Colloquium in Religious Education, carried on over a period of Page  1900several weeks, with research people from other universities participating. As a result the Council raised three questions: (1) What can a tax-supported institution do to establish the academic status of study in the various religions? (2) What can the University do to establish the professional status of the religious counselors? (3) What services and facilities can be supplied which will serve the unchurched students and deal responsibly and in a representative fashion with the student congregations? These questions represent the primary issues which have been raised over the years concerning the relationship of the University to the organized religious groups.

Inter-Guild, which had originally been a committee of the Student Religious Association and later a semi-independent agency, held its first independent convention in May, 1945, when a constitution and budget were proposed. At this time some of the Protestant groups were still not in a position to make a contribution to co-operative-Protestant student work. Within the next few years, however, owing perhaps partly to Littell's concern with this matter, the larger Protestant groups did provide well-trained staffs for their work. One of the results of the newly organized Protestant co-operation was the appointment in December, 1946, of Mrs. Christine Chambers as Protestant Consultant to Students from Other Countries.

The program under Littell's direction was based upon three well-defined principles. The first, called "intentional fellowship," was a method of working with small groups in which equal emphasis is placed upon the purpose for which the group is gathered and the dynamics by which individual identification with the group is accomplished. The second principle stated that the purpose of Lane Hall was to supplement and to complement the primary religious communities and to help the student to find his place in one of them. According to the third, no graduate of the University would be considered properly prepared as a citizen until he had acquired some understanding of faiths other than his own and some ability to work with people of other religions.

After the war, in order to re-establish the place of Lane Hall in the minds of students and faculty, lectures and luncheons were given. The program consisted of a Christmas Carol Sing, coffee hours designed to improve faculty-student relations, receptions, luncheon discussions, religious and work groups, a magazine called Insight, weekend retreats and conferences, and seminars. Littell was concerned about the lack of relationship between religion in the curriculum and extracurricular religious activities and felt that study of religion could never be successful at Michigan unless credit could be given for it. Leadership training included the training of student officers for interreligious activity and the conduct of various student initiative groups such as the World Student's Service Fund and Town Hall. Lane Hall and the S.R.A. also assisted in the relief program, which included the World Student Service Fund, Famine Relief, and other related projects.

By 1946 the growth of the Association and its related agencies had gone far beyond the provisions of the original constitution. The constitutional revision in the spring of 1947 made a greater distinction between the Association and Lane Hall, and thus gave the students more freedom to determine their own organization. In December, 1947, the Regents passed a new bylaw recognizing Lane Hall as the center for religious study and activities and placing it under the supervision of a Board of Governors. It was the duty of this Board to carry out a program designed to encourage student interest in religious study and to maintain co-operation on behalf of the Page  1901University with off-campus religious groups. The Board was to encourage and maintain within its jurisdiction the Student Religious Association as the student organization. This group, to be governed by its own constitution, would provide opportunity for student initiative and the development of extracurricular programs in religion. The Board was also to be responsible for appointments, budgets, and general supervision of programs and facilities.

While the new bylaw was a redefinition of the existing situation, the new constitution of the Association, passed in 1948, indicated that a closer relationship was developing between the religious centers and Lane Hall. Until this time, S.R.A. had been interreligious in the sense that it was open to all, and the Council included representatives of all faiths. In 1946-47 the Association considered its function to be largely that of working with students who were not interested in any church group. The Council, however, which consisted of representatives from almost all of the organized student denominational groups, formulated the policy and determined the program for the organization (Constitution of 1948). Those who were not members of church groups were welcome to participate, but the net result seems to have been that those not affiliated with student religious groups lost interest in an organization in which they had little part in determining policy and program. The new structure of the S.R.A. did, on the other hand, establish interreligious co-operation on the student level to parallel that on the professional level.

By 1945, the student religious groups were recognized student activities, and in 1946, John Craig was appointed as the first full-time professionally trained program director. Craig was succeeded in the fall of 1948 by DeWitt C. Baldwin, who, upon Littell's resignation in April, 1949, was appointed Director of Lane Hall and of the Student Religious Association. Baldwin also believed in informal education carried out in small groups and in weekend conferences and retreats, but he also advocated placing more of the program direction and initiative in the hands of the students. The S.R.A. program seems to have lost some of its intellectual appeal after the revision.

Under Baldwin intercultural activities as a means of approaching questions of religious distinctions and differences increased. Outings and seminars in comparative religions were included in the program, and summer experiences in work camps and human relations projects, both here and abroad, were emphasized. Baldwin was also instrumental in the formation of the Council for International Living, which resulted in the first international house for men at the University.

Relief projects begun after the war were continued and enlarged to include the placement of displaced persons. Two program assistants, William Miller and C. Bushnell Olmstead, were instrumental in carrying out this part of the program, both having had previous experience in working with refugee problems and world student relief operations.

Work with the Protestant groups through Inter-Guild had been increasingly turned over to the Protestant student directors. In 1954 Inter-Guild became the University Christian Federation in a slight constitutional revision, and in 1955-56 the Protestant Student Directors reorganized and became the Christian Federation Advisers. Each group is now composed of the same organizations, with each of the federation advisers devoting time to counseling and advising the Christian Federation Council and program.

One project of the Protestant directors, the Office of the Protestant Counselor for International Students, Page  1902has become firmly established. In December, 1949, Mrs. Chambers resigned, and Miss Doris Reed was appointed in her place. Miss Reed, now Mrs. Rumman, operates under the auspices of the Protestant Foundation for International Students, which in turn is supported by the United Church Women of the state, by the Protestant churches in Ann Arbor, and by the member groups of the University Christian Federation.

In 1953-54 the staff of Lane Hall prepared the manuscript for Chapter 3 of the pamphlet, And Crown Thy Good, a manual of interreligious co-operation on the college campus, published by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

During the time that Baldwin has been with the University, a consistent attempt has been made to define more clearly the many and varied facets of the work. The Lane Hall and S.R.A. program had developed as the result of activities centered in a specific location. To this function had gradually been added the co-ordination of religious affairs and the co-operative enterprise involving all of the religious groups of the University. With Dr. Blakeman's resignation in 1949, his duties as a religious counselor to students were transferred to the Director of Lane Hall, and shortly thereafter those student religious workers deemed qualified were recognized by the University as members of the University Board of Religious Counselors. This function was also co-ordinated by the Director of Lane Hall. It became evident that the Regents' bylaw passed in 1947 was no longer an adequate description of the duties and function of the Lane Hall staff. Some clarification had taken place in April, 1949, when the Board of Governors issued a statement defining the relationship between Lane Hall and the curricular offerings in religion. The decision was that there should be no formal administrative or financial relationship between the two though an effective working relationship was to be encouraged.

In 1954 the title of the Director of Lane Hall was changed to Co-ordinator of Religious Affairs. James A. Lewis was appointed Vice-President for Student Affairs in 1954, and Lane Hall, as one of ten student service agencies under his jurisdiction, began a full-scale evaluation and reorganization resulting in a new bylaw, adopted by the Regents in May, 1956, establishing the Office of Religious Affairs. The purpose of the new office, which replaces the Lane Hall staff and the Student Religious Association, is to encourage religious growth of the student as an important part of educating the whole person. This purpose is implemented "through creating and facilitating relationships between the University and the religious resources available to it, including those provided by the churches and religious foundations, and through a program which (1) provides services to the instructional program of the University and (2) builds attitudes which recognize religion as a valid area of intellectual inquiry and as an appropriate resource for the student's growth to responsible citizenship" (Regents' Bylaw, 31.08).

Administratively, the Office of Religious Affairs is under the direction of the co-ordinator of religious affairs, who is responsible to the vice-president for student affairs and the Board of Governors for Religious Affairs. The Board of Governors has one additional member — the presiding officer of the Association of Religious Counselors. The other exofficio members are the vice-president for student affairs and the presiding officer of the Council of Student Religious Organizations.

The Association of Religious Counselors, which includes all who work as advisers to the religious groups, has replaced the Campus Religious Council as Page  1903the interreligious council. The Council of Student Religious Organizations, made up of representatives from the organized student religious groups, has replaced the Student Religious Association Council, and provides for co-operation between the groups rather than for a program of interreligious activity. The Office of Religious Affairs emphasizes the relevance of religion to the educational process, and the effective integration of the intellectual and practical aspects of religion. It stresses the religious foundations as the primary agencies providing religious resources to the University; therefore the major emphasis is no longer upon a program of University-sponsored religious activities centered in Lane Hall, although program is seen as a necessary part of co-ordination. Freshman Rendezvous is carried on with the co-operation of Panhellenic, Inter-Fraternity Council, Inter-House Council, Assembly Association, Inter-Coop Council, and the Council of Student Religious Organizations.

To a large extent program sponsorship has been replaced by a counseling service. The program staff works with a student-faculty advisory board which is made up of representatives from the major campus organizations, graduate students, faculty members, representatives of the freshman class, representatives from the Eastern faiths, and three student members of the Board of Governors for Religious Affairs. The co-ordinator sits as a member of the Committee on Program in Religious Studies of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, working especially with the selection of speakers for lectures in religion. This represents the first formal relationship between curriculum and extracurricular religious activity.

In order to establish wider relationships among students, the Office of the Co-ordinator has been moved to the Student Activities Building. The staff, which now includes four full-time professionally trained religious counselors, has embarked upon a year of experimentation preparatory to the full implementation of the new program.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Annual Report, Student Religious Association, 1941-42.
Blakeman, Edward W., Letter to William McLaughlin, March 17, 1943.
Board of Governors of Lane Hall, "Tentative Statement Concerning the Contemplated Program in Religious Courses and the Functions of the Director of Lane Hall," April 18, 1949.
Campus Religious Council, Letter to William McLaughlin, January 8, 1946.
Constitution, Christian Federation Advisers, 1955.
Constitution, Student Religious Association, July, 1937; May 10, 1948.
Constitution, University Christian Federation, 1954.
Littell, Franklin H., "A Five Year Plan for Religion at the University of Michigan," March 19, 1946.
Littell, Franklin H., "Five Year Report of the Director," November 1, 1949.
Littell, Franklin H., "Proposals of the Director," April 3, 1945.
Littell, Franklin H., "Two Year Report, Inter-Guild," October 2, 1946.
Littell, Franklin H., "Two Year Report, Part Two, Student Religious Association and Lane Hall," November 1946.
Minute Books, Board of Governors of the Student Religious Association and Lane Hall, 1937-40, 1940-45, 1945-47, 1947-51, 1951-55, 1955-.
Morgan, Kenneth W., "Five Year Report, Student Religious Association," 1942.
Morgan, Kenneth W., "Two Year Report, Student Religious Association," 1939.
Muehl, William E., "Report of the Acting Director to the Board of Governors," 1942-43.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, Univ. Mich. 1910-39.
Robinson, Allyn P., Ed., And Crown Thy Good, a Manual on Interreligious Co-operation on the College Campus. New York: National Conference of Christians and Jews. 1954.