Taking Back the Campus
5:30 PM, Dec 23, 2011 • By THERESA CIVANTOS
Much of the conference focused on outreach and grassroots activism, tactics typically associated with the left and now being appropriated for a more conservative cause. Students could choose from workshops like Wall Street Journal writer Bill McGurn’s on spreading “The Good Word on Marriage” or a session called “From Dorm Room to Classroom: Effectively Responding to Critiques from Friends, Peers, and Professors.” McGurn warned his audience, “Don’t expect your article or blog post to change someone’s life. People are not won by argument but persuaded by example.” Since so many of the students attending the conference find themselves in the minority on their campuses, however, learning to explain and defend their position is crucial. “One thing students ask for often,” Crouch said, “is more education and training on how they can communicate this message to their peers and the wider campus community.”
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the majority of students attending the conference come from religious backgrounds. “A lot of the faith traditions have a strong set of principles and values that they convey to young adults,” Crouch explained, “so they have a preexisting set of values that they will seek to uphold when they enter the university.” One of the most popular conference sessions was an interfaith panel held Saturday night with representatives from four faiths: Jewish doctor Miriam Grossman, Mormon professor Thomas Holman, Muslim author Asma Uddin, and Evangelical Christian professor John Van Epp.
The various religions share an emphasis on chastity, modesty, and faithfulness to one’s spouse, the speakers said, but the way they express these things greatly differ, from the Jewish prohibition on touching unrelated people of the opposite sex to the Muslim practice of veiling women. “Many students initially get interested in these issues because of their religious beliefs,” Crouch said. But the topics the conference raises aren’t just for people of faith. “Even if students approach the issues from a particular religious lens, they have a lot of interest in reaching out to other students. They want to approach these issues through academia and from an interfaith perspective.”
Professor Donna Freitas of Hofstra University moderated the interfaith discussion and her introductory comments helped reveal why LFN is growing in popularity. On college campuses, she said, “everyone wants to date, but nobody is doing it. It’s the norm to dissent from the hook-up culture, but not to tell anyone about it.” At the LFN conference, students finally have a chance to talk about it, in the company of hundreds of like-minded young people, and to take that message back to their campuses.
Theresa Civantos is an editorial assistant at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
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