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Education Reporter

Students Challenge 'Our Lord' Wording on Diplomas
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A group of students at Texas Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas lobbied to have the phrase "in the year of our Lord" removed from student diplomas. "A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their homes and offices," said Sidra Qureshi, a Muslim and president of the Trinity Diversity Connection (TDC).

Qureshi objects to the wording because it "directly [references] Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ." Her arguments persuaded student government representatives and a campus commencement committee to back the TDC request.

The debate began last year when Isaac Medina, a Muslim convert from Mexico, noticed the wording on a sample diploma in the student bookstore. He said he felt he was "a victim of a bait and switch" because when he applied to Trinity University, he was assured the school maintained only historical ties to the Presbyterian Church and was not a religious institution.

College Republican president Brendan McNamara pointed out that the school exhibits numerous signs of its Christian heritage including the chapel on campus and a Bible etching on the Trinity seal, not to the mention the name of the school itself. "Once you remove that phrase, where do you draw the line?" he asked.

Although the board of trustees ultimately rejected the request to drop the phrase, the rationale for their decision was framed in terms of the university's "heritage and culture" rather than any religious doctrine or commitment. The bulk of the board's resolution stressed the school's dedication to diversity and an inclusive campus environment.

School officials have made a concerted effort in the last decade to diversify the student body, increasing the share of international students from one to nine percent during that time. The student body self-identifies as 70% Christian and .6% Muslim.

Founded in 1869 by Presbyterians, Trinity University's name is both a reflection of the historic Christian doctrine of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and of the three locations the school occupied before moving to its current campus. The school became an independent, nonreligious university in 1969, though it maintains a "covenant" relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA). (San Antonio Express-News, 3-29-10; 4-23-10)

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