Tolerance, Respect and the Pursuit of Religious Options
One of the unique aspects of UDM is that it is a Jesuit university. When Detroit College opened in 1877 it was run by the Society of Jesus. The Law school was established in 1812 making this our school’s centennial year. In 1920 Detroit College became the University of Detroit and retained its Jesuit roots. Then in 1990 the University merged with the Mercy College of Detroit run by the Sisters of Mercy, an Irish Catholic Order. This created what is now the University of Detroit Mercy, and also explains why our law school is also known simply as U of D law to many of our Alumni.
I was originally slightly apprehensive about going back to Catholic school. I’m from Ontario where Catholic schools are publically funded and spent all but two of my K-12 years in Catholic schools. If you didn’t guess from my topic sentence, my experience was mixed. There were no nuns with rulers measuring our dancing distance, but neither were my schools exactly open or overly tolerant and attending mass was a definite requirement.
I think UDM has hit the perfect balance. The Jesuit traditions are still alive and can be felt throughout the general congeniality of the school. Most rooms have crosses and the school is attached to a church. The Saint Thomas More Society is the main student faith group (although it welcomes anyone interested in social volunteering) and runs numerous community outreach initiatives throughout the year. The school is also host to one of the oldest Red Masses. The school first held it in 1877, to bless the coming year’s work. The tradition however, is much older dating back to 13th century Europe when all the law lords in their red robes would have a special service to bless the work of the court in the coming term. Now the mass is optional for students and staff, and attended by many members of the local bar and bench.
Alongside these Catholic influences the school also welcomes members of other faiths and is relatively supportive of sexual and gender diversity. There is a multi-faith prayer space open to students and all religious activities at the school are entirely optional. In fact in 3 years no one has tried to convert me or expressed concern over my eternal soul. Outlaws is the LGBTQ group on campus and this year partnered with the student chapter of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) to do a speaker panel on LGBTQ issues in the workplace. Overall, while the student body may not always completely agree with each other, the atmosphere is generally one of mutual respect and tolerance for all traditions and identities.