MIT May Be the Next School to Have a Humanist Chaplain

Last month, MIT announced that graduation ceremonies would no longer have a religious invocation:

In response to recent requests that the Commencement Committee reconsider the nature of the invocation that opens the Exercises on Killian Court, we first gathered input from the student body via a survey that yielded nearly 600 responses. The next step was a meeting to review the survey data that included student leaders Anika Gupta and Sid Rao as well as representatives from the Secular Society of MIT. From this conversation and from the responses of students to the survey, consensus emerged that a neutral, non-religious invocation would be welcome and broadly appealing. Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph was engaged to discuss the universal nature of this message, and the desires expressed by a wide range of student voices.

The committee thanks the students who participated in the process and all those who shared their thoughts via the survey. In 2014 and beyond, Dr. Randolph will deliver an inclusive, secular invocation in which he calls on graduating students to reflect on their education with gratitude and hope as they commence to work wisely, creatively, and effectively toward the betterment of humankind.

Respectfully,

Chancellor Eric Grimson, Chair
Professor Les Norford, Commencement Marshal
Ms. Gayle Gallagher, Executive Officer for Commencement
Commencement Committee
May 9, 2014

The impetus for that change was an opinion piece in the The Tech written by the former president of the Secular Society of MIT, Aaron Scheinberg.

Now, Scheinberg is off and running on his next big project: Creating MIT’s first Humanist Chaplaincy.

Chris Stedman spoke with Scheinberg to understand why he wanted to do this:

A secular chaplain would also provide a type of counseling that is currently lacking for nonreligious students. Where a religious student might seek a priest’s guidance on existential, ethical or even social matters, to whom can the rest of us turn? The benefits of a Humanist chaplain would not be limited to secular students — everyone benefits when other community members are happier. Further, just as I can reach out to the Catholic chaplain for a nuanced and accurate view of Catholicism, so too will our chaplain be a resource for anyone interested in a fair view of the atheist perspective.

If Scheinberg succeeds, MIT would join the ranks of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Rutgers, and American as universities with a Humanist Chaplain.

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