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Religious Groups: Are UMBC “Accommodations” Enough?

In today’s society religion may seem like an afterthought especially among Gen Z. According to a poll conducted by the American Survey Center, 34 percent of Gen Z considers themselves non religious. However, the University of Maryland of Baltimore County has been a place where religion continues to thrive.

Three  groups in particular, Catholic Retrievers, The Muslim Student Association (MSA), and the Bethel Campus Fellowship (BCF), all have a strong presence on campus. Students are able to find these groups in a multitude of ways.

“I found out about Catholic Retrievers through social media,” said UMBC junior and psychology major Aaron Belmonte. Aaron continued, “One of the current leaders at the time also lived in my dorm and she posted in our dorm group chat a flier about Catholic Retrievers.”  

UMBC junior and environmental science major Feben Abiy found out about Bethel Campus Fellowship  through word of mouth saying, “ I saw that this one girl kept on evangelizing to one person and then I went to this open mic and she was there again.” 

Feben said it was a team effort to get her into BCF when a friend from high school began telling her about the fellowship. “I was ambushed,” said Feben with a laugh.

Some students even have taken leadership roles within their groups. When asked what led him to become the president of Catholic Retrievers, UMBC senior and computer engineering major Peter Janquet said, “I had a good group of guys who were encouraging me, specifically the chaplain of Catholic Retrievers Father Matt Himes and my brother.”

However Peter’s desire to become president did not stop with peer pressure. Peter got to see the Catholic community at the University of Maryland College Park and he wanted to bring something similar to UMBC.

“I had seen their campus ministry there and saw all that potential and I said we can do this at UMBC.”

While the religious groups certainly have a presence on campus, finding space for their events can be a struggle.

Religious meet in a variety of places with the main location being the Center for Well Being gathering space. However Bethel Campus Fellowship will typically do their Bible studies in Lecture Hall 1.

UMBC junior and mechanical engineering major Emily Kosloski who is the vice president of Catholic Retrievers, when asked about space on campus said the spaces provided are not adequate.

“It’s not the University’s fault,” says Emily, “because everywhere campus organizations are dealing with a lack of space.” One of the obstacles that Catholic Retrievers face is finding space to celebrate mass on campus when the Center for Well Being gathering space is unavailable.

The mass is the highest form of worship in the Catholic Church. So it is necessary for space on campus to be available for catholic students especially on feast days that require them to go to mass.  

Having a quiet place for prayer has also been a struggle as well. “ In the Center for Well Being they built the kitchen hangout area next to the gathering space,” said Peter. “When most groups pray there’s a silent component to it and having it right there does not make sense.”

The Center for Well Being has done what they can to accommodate the religious groups. Matt Hoffman who is the assistant director with the Center for Well Being has led the effort to ensure students get the space they need.

When asked about his role with Center for Well Being Hoffman said, “Support, advocate and love on students with closely held religious identities and help those students feel a sense of belonging and community on campus.”

Hoffman also looks to build relationships with religious groups in order to learn more about their practices and accommodate them. Hoffman said,  “I love religious work and helping students feel seen and helping them celebrate their holidays.”

While Hoffman does understand the struggles that students face with the space provided for them, the Center for Well Being gathering space cannot accommodate all of the religious groups’ needs, though this has not stopped Hoffman from doing what can to fulfill those needs elsewhere.

“Part of my role is to help use this space and conference rooms associated with the Center for Being,” Hoffman said, “but also to really partner with student organizations, student organization leaders, and religious council members to help students find other spaces on campus too that might meet their needs.”

While the efforts of Matt Hoffman and the staff with the Center for Well Being go a long way, they still are not enough due to the lack of support from UMBC. UMBC senior and chemical engineering major Ndeh Tadzong, who is the president of Bethel Campus Fellowship, has experienced the restrictions from the university when attempting to schedule a worship night in the Commons Plaza.

“I know that we made the reservation for the space,” said Ndeh, “but we were told weeks after we reserved it that we could not have the space one or two days before the event.” 

Due to this Ndeh had to scramble at the last minute to find an alternative space. However this also proved to be a challenge.

“Alternatives were provided,” said Ndeh, “however they would then give reasons as to why we could not use those alternatives.” 

Some students do not feel that space on campus is an issue. When asked if Lecture Hall 1 was an adequate space for Bethel Campus Fellowship bibles studies Feben said, “Yeah I do think so, just because it is huge.”

However some students feel there needs to be more to accommodate the religious groups. When asked about solutions to fix the issue UMBC Junior, computer science major and Muslim Student Association member Moosa Mota said, “I believe what they could do is have a building like the Center for Well Being for all the religions whether it be Muslims, Christians, Jews, or Hindus.” 

When asked about his own thoughts to fix the problem Ndeh mentioned believed the school could improve the website 25live, where room reservations are made. “Sometimes it would help if I had a visual aid for what the room looked like.” said Ndeh.

Ndeh believed the school can make the search for space even easier saying on 25live saying, “If the school could send out a survey to religious organizations to fill and find out what types of spaces meet their needs and create a filter on 25live with those spaces.

Ekene Ezeh is a junior media and communications studies major and is an opinions writer at The Retriever

Contact Ekene at