TCU prides itself on diversity, but the religious listings of its Office of Institutional Research are very narrow.
The listings in the TCU Fact Book are limited to six Christian denominations – Baptist, Catholic, Christian Disciples, Episcopalian, Methodist and Presbyterian.
Islam, the world’s second-largest religion, which has more than 1.6 billion followers, is not listed. Nor is Judaism, Buddhist or Hindu.
“Kind of surprising because I know TCU makes a big deal about diversity each year,” Omar Khan, president of the TCU Muslim Student Association, said. “There is a growing diversity, so I think we should address that in terms of our fact books and what we send out.”
The Fact Book is meant “to serve as a ready reference which provides a point-in-time picture of Texas Christian University,” according to the book’s homepage.
Non-Christian religions like Islam and Judaism are lumped into an “Other” category, which accounted for nearly 25 percent of TCU students last fall.
“The fact that [Judaism is] not on there, personally, bothers me,” President of Hillel Rachel Rudberg said. “I know I go to a Christian school. I get that.”
Rudberg, a first-year nursing major, also said she was “shocked” and that it “feels weird to [her]” that Judaism and other non-Christian denominations aren’t listed.
Cathan Coghlan, director of institutional research at TCU, gave reasoning for the omission in an e-mail.
Coghlan explained that many Christian denominations are not listed as a specific selection, so those students compromise the majority of the “Other” category.
There are 67 different denominations reported by TCU students, Coghlan wrote.
“The non-Christian religions, self-reported to TCU by students (Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh), comprise about 1.4 percent of the undergraduate population,” Coghlan said.
Baylor’s Fall 2013 Fact Book lists nearly 40 separate religious affiliations, including Islam and Judaism, which combined make up only about 1.2 percent of the Baylor student population.
Sophomore biology major and MSA member Laila Abdeljalil said she thinks her religion, regardless of the size of its presence on campus, should be listed.
“It’s not just a minor religion,” Abdeljalil said. “It’s a pretty popular religion all over the world.”
Senior biology major Tariq Al-Farra, a lifelong Muslim, offered his own opinion on the omission.
Al-Farra has been an active member of MSA since he first came to TCU.
Along with the “Other” category, almost 3,000 students were listed as “No Preference/Unknown” in the TCU Fact Book. Combined with the “Other” category, 54.9 percent of the TCU population is left unspecified in terms of religious preference.
Angela Kaufman, director for the TCU Office of Religious & Spiritual Life (RSL), doesn’t think TCU’s book is entirely accurate.
Kaufman wrote in an email, “Unfortunately, the demographics we get from student admissions applications and even orientation information does not paint a perfectly accurate picture of religious preference.
“I say that because many students mark ‘Other’ or ‘No Preference’ sometimes for the sake of privacy, sometimes for the sake of being a quick choice,” she said.
The numbers regarding Muslim students at TCU aren’t unknown, though. RSL Administrative Assistant Cindy Rodriguez supplied her department’s numbers on Muslim students over the last 11 years.
In an interview with TCU Dean of Admission Ray Brown, the topic of Muslim students on campus came up.
The amount of Muslims on campus may be small, but Abdeljalil assures they’re not much different than any other group of students.
“We are small, but strong,” Abdeljalil said. “We’re just like all the other students on campus.”
As for the lack of specification of non-Christian religions in the Fact Book, Khan said he thinks it’s hypocritical of a school that prides itself on diversity.
“Diversity does not just include race/ethnicity, but it also includes different religious beliefs,” Khan said. “By presenting all of these different religions in the TCU Fact Book, it would help TCU present to others in the world the diversity it has and possibly lead to an increasing diversity in the school.”