Religious diversity takes center stage at Norman Levan Center

Religious diversity takes center stage at  Norman Levan Center

Tyler Gaucher

Spencer Pruett gives his perspective on being student and a Catholic.

Robert Mullen, Reporter

Student Government Association hosted a religious diversity panel in the Norman Levan center Feb. 27. The panel had two speakers, a Muslim and a Catholic, both Bakersfield College students.

The panel began with a brief introduction from Nick Acosta, the SGA general counsel, and each speaker was given a ten minute window to discuss their religion, what it meant to them, how it shaped them, and how religious diversity is important to both the college and community.

A question and answer session followed, which took up the greatest part of the hour-long panel.

The first speaker was Marshel Blackmon, a Muslim and child development major. She greatly enjoyed the panel and hopes to be part of future discussions. She felt that as a Muslim woman she could bring a certain perspective from her religion that isn’t often seen.

“I think we kind of get the short end of the stick when it comes to how society looks at us,” she said.

She feels that people often judge Muslim women because of their appearances, especially because they aren’t often represented when the rest of the world views their religion. “They don’t know who we are, they don’t know what we can do, they’re constantly looking at what we have on our heads, and they’re not looking in our heads.”

The second speaker was Spencer Pruett, a Catholic and math major. “It was nice, I’ve actually spoken about my Catholic faith a lot, though to a group of Catholics, so I’ve never actually discussed it in front of such a large group of people who weren’t Catholic.”

Pruett said he’d enjoyed the panel and hopes that there are more, and that they can be larger and more varied, even though he plans on transferring after this semester.

The panel was the brainchild of Jack Hernandez, but run by Acosta. Acosta said Hernandez needed someone to help run the panel, and he wanted to do it. “I’ve always been interested in religion, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

“When I first talked to [Hernandez] one of the big things he wanted was for it to be student run, student involved, student managed. He didn’t want people from outside the college, from religious organizations, coming in to talk about [their religion], he wanted it from the student perspective.”

While Acosta notes there are difficulties, including two speakers who did not show up, he doesn’t think finding people who are willing to talk about their religion is that hard. “I think the most difficult part about it, is actually finding people of other religions, it’s hard if they don’t stand out.”

Though Acosta says he won’t be returning next semester he hopes to expand the panels, adding more speakers, including running some that are more specialized and focused on the Abrahamic or eastern faiths.

“We want to do something, maybe twice a semester, or maybe once a month. It would be a little more work on the speaker’s part, but I think the benefit of having that would be great,” he said.

With elections coming up and other SGA business, Acosta can’t really focus on running any more of these panels during this semester, but he is hopeful that they can continue. “My main concern is finding someone who is going to take up the call to do this, to basically set this stuff up. Jack has all the resources to do this, he just needs someone to do the footwork for this, to talk to the speakers.”