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Minor in Religion Being Considered
September 27, 1999
A proposal for a new minor in religion will soon be presented to the University Senate for consideration.
The program, which would draw on courses from several disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, history, classical languages and English, would provide an integrated program for the study of religion, says Arnold Dashefsky, professor of sociology and head of the Judaic Studies program.
Dashefsky and Jocelyn Linnekin, professor and head of the anthropology department, have convened an ad hoc committee to consider program and curriculum design, assess student interest and bring the issue forward to the University Senate. The committee's first step has been to design an interdisciplinary minor in religion. If the Senate approves the program, it will require the approval of the Board of Trustees and the state Board of Governors for Higher Education.
"The program would provide structure for study of the nature and function of religion and various religious traditions in society and culture," Dashefsky says. "It would not promote religious study or observances."
It also would be a return to tradition: UConn offered non-credit religious education in the 1930s, he says. Many private colleges historically offered religion to prepare men for the clerical life. Subjects studied included Latin, Greek and Hebrew. "Today, these topics are no less worthy of study in a systematic way by men and women. Religion is an important area of human activity in all societies," says Dashefsky.
"A religion minor could be an exciting addition to the curriculum," he adds. "And it would put us in a league with strong public universities, such as the University of Virginia, and the University of California Santa Barbara, that offer similar programs."
If there is student interest in the program, he said, it could be offered as soon as next fall. "It is amazing how much religion seizes the public consciousness," Dashefsky said. "Many political issues are tied into religious concerns and the study of both history and political science are illuminated by the study of religion."
The course of events in countries such as Iran, Russia, and Ireland, for example, has been strongly influenced by religion, he says.
Linnekin says that, although the lack of a religion program at UConn is a gap in the curriculum, UConn already offers numerous courses that can be part of a program of study in religion.
Students or faculty interested in the study of religion may contact Professors Linnekin or Dashefsky.
Karen A. Grava