By Emily Devereux
A survey taken at NAIT last spring showed that religious students felt discriminated against on campus. NAIT offers an interfaith Chaplaincy Service to staff and students and Tanya Spencer, the lead of student counselling and chaplaincy, said the service began four years ago.
The program is a way to provide support for religious members of NAIT’s community, who may face unique challenges.
There are a variety of reasons students or staff, may choose to access the chaplaincy services. They include: struggling with a loved one passing away, being in need of advice about a conflict in the family related to spirituality or simply wanting to learn more about another faith.
“Some people have questions about religion or contradictions in their life that might relate to religion even though they don’t consider themselves all that religious,” said Spencer.
The chaplains work on a volunteer basis and a variety of faiths are represented, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, a variety of Christian denominations and even Atheism—the Atheist chaplain being Spencer herself. There is also a chaplain available specifically for LGBTQ2I+ services.
Anyone is welcome to access the chaplaincy services, regardless of religious denomination. The chaplains are focused on providing mentorship and support.
“The great thing about a service like this, is whatever shape or form your own beliefs take—or lack thereof—everybody’s welcome. And our chaplains are very open to even controversial discussions,” said Spencer.
Also connected to the Chaplaincy Services are the two reflection rooms, located at J207 and CAT406. The rooms can be used for personal reflection, meditation and religious observance. The larger room at CAT406 can be booked for group activities such as discussion groups or guided meditation sessions. Students can organize and run events or reach out to a chaplain to lead a program.
The chaplains also participate in events across NAIT. You may spot them at the Study Party around exam time and at Skate with the Ooks in late-January.
Spencer wanted to make it clear that the street preacher often found next to the pedestrian crossing on 106th Street is in no way affiliated with NAIT’s Chaplaincy Services.
“I don’t see his influence as a positive one,” said Spencer.
Because he operates on the sidewalk—public property—NAIT does not have the power to remove him. Spencer invites people on campus to submit recordings or written reports of anything the preacher says that could be considered hate speech, as she could then file a health and safety incident report that may lead to his removal.
To make an appointment with a chaplain, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Student Counselling Centre in the HP Centre in room W11PB. Some chaplains also have office hours that can be accessed. Information regarding the Chaplaincy Services, including office hours, related events, and the reflection rooms can be found on the NAIT website under Health & Wellness.