UVA Task Force Will Examine Religious Diversity and Belonging on Grounds

December 13, 2023

(Photo by Dan Addison)

University of Virginia leaders have created a task force on religious diversity and belonging with the goal of ensuring that UVA is welcoming to students, faculty and staff across the full spectrum of religions and cultures. 

The task force will meet with members of the UVA community, study survey results and review any relevant institutional data, including data on reported incidents of antisemitism, Islamophobia or other religious bias. Its aim will be to understand how Jewish and Muslim students, faculty and staff, as well as those of other religious backgrounds, experience life on Grounds.

Final Exercises 2024, Learn More
Final Exercises 2024, Learn More

The group will explore opportunities for meaningful engagement across religious differences and examine the scope of UVA’s educational offerings related to religious cultures and histories, including histories of religious discrimination. 

“Every member of our community belongs here, regardless of their religious faith,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “It’s critically important that we more fully understand the experiences of students from different faith traditions on Grounds so that we can help to ensure all feel welcome and supported. I’m grateful to Dean Christa Acampora and the task force members for leading this work.”

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza have stirred strong sentiments at UVA and across the world, as well as national concerns about antisemitism and Islamophobia, particularly on college campuses. University leadership continues to explore the best ways to support students and to use its academic resources and expertise to create opportunities for greater understanding about the conflict and its origins.

College of Arts & Sciences Dean Christa Acampora will chair the task force. (Photo by Evan Kutsko)

“The deep human impact of the conflict in the Middle East has shown how important it is to learn with and from one another, and how much knowledge, education and the free and civil exchange of ideas matter as we support the members of our Jewish and Muslim communities, and those from all religions,” Provost Ian Baucom said. “We want every student, faculty member and staff member to understand that they are a vital part of this place and how profoundly they enrich our common life as we take on that fundamental work of the University.”

The new task force, launched by Ryan and Baucom, is an outgrowth of those efforts. Task force membership includes:

  • Christa Acampora (chair), dean, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
  • Nichole Flores, associate professor of religious studies.
  • Brie Gertler, vice provost for academic affairs.
  • Sarah Goraya, student, College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Kevin McDonald, vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and community partnerships.
  • Oludamini Ogunnaike, associate professor of religious studies.
  • Jahan Ramazani, University Professor and Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English.
  • Rabbi Jake Rubin (Hillel at UVA), executive director of the Brody Jewish Center.
  • Cedric Rucker, interim senior associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
  • Rachel Wahl, associate professor, School of Education and Human Development.
  • Nathan Welz, student, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

“Supporting members of our community in engaging across religious and cultural differences is an important element of our mission as an educational institution,” Acampora said. “I am honored to work with this group to make UVA the best place it can be for people from multiple faith and cultural traditions.”

The task force will deliver recommendations by the end of the spring semester. 

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