While Southern Adventist University is a Seventh-day Adventist institution, several students do not identify with the Adventist belief system.
In a poll conducted on the Accent’s Instagram account, students were asked if they considered themselves to be Seventh-day Adventist. Out of 416 responses, 38 students, or 9%, said “no.” In a separate poll, students were asked if they considered themselves to be Christian. Out of 410 responses, 16 students, or 4%, said “no.”
One non-Adventist student, junior finance major Yechezkel Sisler, is a Chassidic Jew. He was raised in an Adventist home, but converted to Judaism when he was 21.
Sisler decided to attend Southern because he received a full scholarship, but his differing beliefs have led to some obstacles in his experience on campus.
“In some ways, you know, people are friendly,” Sisler said. “In others…I don’t feel as welcome [at Southern].”
One area Sisler has struggled with is meeting the worship credit requirement in past semesters. Since his beliefs prohibit him from entering a non-Jewish place of worship, he is unable to attend vespers and other such events.
“I made several attempts in order to solve the worship credits problem to see if I could lead a few small groups, and I’ve been barred from that,” Sisler said.
According to Student Development Vice President Dennis Negron, students of different religions can get worship credits for attending religious meetings in their church, mosque or synagogue.
“Basically, what we have always required is that someone from the institution that [the student] is attending confirms their attendance,” Negron said. “We try to make sure that we work with our brothers and sisters of other faith denominations.”
Sisler also mentioned other areas of difficulty, such as expressing different views in his religion classes.
Even living on campus has presented some challenges..
“I can’t leave my room [on the Sabbath] because I can’t use electronics, and you know, the lock is electronic,” Sisler said. “Anytime I want to cook, I have to kosher the surface that I cook on, which always adds time. Like, for example, the oven — I’ll turn it on for two hours, do homework in the same room, and then do my baking.”
Another setback for Sisler is Southern’s location; the nearest Jewish synagogue is 25-30 minutes from campus. And, since none of his friends at Southern share his beliefs, he is unable to take part in many Jewish, community-oriented customs.
Despite all these challenges, Sisler has had positive experiences at Southern, such as being able to keep the Sabbath and feast days and not worrying about exams being scheduled on Saturdays.