Since Hamas brutally attacked Israel over a month ago, college campuses have never been the same.
Once viewed as respected places for personal and professional development, higher education institutions are now making headlines as breeding grounds for intolerance, hostility and aggression.
A student from Cornell University was charged with making violent antisemitic threats.
A hit-and-run at Stanford University was investigated as a possible hate crime against an Arab Muslim student. A University of Massachusetts Amherst student was arrested after allegedly hitting a Jewish student and spitting on an Israeli flag. Unfortunately, the list goes on.
It’s alarming enough that the federal government is stepping in to assist colleges and universities with tracking hate-related threats.
The Biden administration also threatened to cut federal funding to colleges that don’t curb antisemitism and Islamophobia.
How did we end up here?
Campuses emulate what’s happening in our nation today — and it should startle us.
Since October 7, the Anti-Defamation League noted a 388% increase in reported antisemitism incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault across the U.S., compared to the same two-week time period last year.
And, the Council of American-Islamic Relations released data on complaints of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias in the month following the attacks showing a 216% upswing since the same time period the previous year.
College campuses are no different. Students, faculty, alumni and donors are at odds. Students struggle to focus on pursuing their aspirations due to threats to their safety.
The division, fear and malice in our communities weigh heavily on the minds of college leaders, myself included.
What we need more of today is people who live out their faith. It’s time for colleges, universities, communities and parents of faith to equip students for success in their personal lives just as much as they do their professional careers.
Yes, it sounds like a go-to answer. But the reality is that faith is what protects the future of our nation. Faith is what safeguards the principles our forefathers fought for. And faith teaches this generation and those to come of the importance of civility, equality and respect.
After all, faith guides morality.
Recent studies from the Pew Research Center show that Christianity is on the decline. In the early 1990s, about 90% of U.S. adults identified as Christians.
That number has dwindled to two-thirds of adults, and the number of Americans who have “no religion” has risen to 29%.
Faith in America is shrinking — and so is a clear understanding of morality.
A Barna report revealed that moral relativism is the majority opinion of Generation Z (people born between 1996 and 2010).
This generation believes that what is right or wrong changes based on cultural standards.
When students assume that morality is up to each individual, there is no clear understanding of truth.
What constitutes the sanctity of life, fairness, justice and violence will change based on feelings and opinions rather than universal standards.
In the classroom, at home and in churches, students must learn to own their faith and understand the foundation of their belief systems.
We should ask if we are challenging students on why they believe what they do is true. Are we creating a place to develop and nurture their theological foundations?
Faith is the moral compass that diverges good from evil.
Faith urges one to live out the characteristics of peace, love, joy, patience, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and goodness (Galatians 5:22–23) — something we all need more of today.
While faith guides our morality, it also shapes our worldview which ultimately impacts how we interact with our communities and the world around us.
Research has shown that people who are active in faith congregations are more likely to be civically engaged and tend to be happier.
Christian young adults are also three times more likely than their non-Christian counterparts to give money to religious and non-religious charities.
Students from Christian higher education institutions perform 5.4 million hours of community service each year.
Faith makes a difference in how we interact with each other.
It urges us to empathize with one another and to give to organizations providing hope.
It inspires us to get involved with our communities to create a better future. And it pushes us to be a solution for the problems in our world today.
At our university, we have been intentional about creating and requiring courses to help students develop a spiritual foundation and soft skills to make a difference.
Students take courses that focus on college success and vocational training, in addition to developing their biblical Christian worldview and habits of inquiry for lifelong learning and problem-solving — something often neglected in other higher education institutes.
Our students and alumni live out their faith by investing thousands of hours each year serving in their local communities and countries worldwide.
The time we have with our students — from the classroom to our homes — is foundational to developing citizens who positively influence and contribute to society.
When we teach students to not only understand their faith but to put it into action, we empower them to change the world.
We teach them how to provide hope in a fear-driven world. We teach them how to love people who disagree with them. And we teach them how to respond with kindness instead of out of anger.
In his farewell address in 1796, President George Washington warned us of how critical morality was to our democracy.
He said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."
For our democracy to prosper, we can’t forget that faith and morality are intertwined.
While college campuses seem to be bearing the brunt of division, cynicism and fear, faith institutions, communities and parents can make a difference in helping students understand why their faith matters.
Right now, the world needs to see faith in action.
It’s time the world saw that the Christian values of kindness, love, goodness, self-control and peace can overcome pain, aggression, darkness, lies and hate.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the author of "Framework Leadership.'' Read Kent Ingle's Reports — More Here.
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