Earlier this semester, Ohio University announced that the Classics, Classics-World Religions and Classical Archaeology departments will combine to become the Department of Classics & Religious Studies.
While some students were informed about the change by their professors early in the semester, the Classics & Religious Studies Department Chair Dr. Brian Collins issued a statement and an explanation for the new name in late January.
“As of this semester, the Department of Classics & World Religions will become the Department of Classics & Religious Studies, and the World Religions major and minor will soon be renamed the Religious Studies major and minor,” he said.
For most students, this new name will change very little about their classes and academic schedule. World Religions majors and minors will now be Religious Studies majors and minors, and all the courses from the Classics (CLAS), Classics-World Religions (CLWR) and Classical Archaeology (CLAR) departments will be cataloged under the CARS acronym in OU’s course offerings.
While the functional differences with this new name are minor, Dr. Collins emphasized in his announcement that this is more than merely a cosmetic change.
“The name ‘World Religions’ was chosen to distinguish the work done in the department from the old style of studying religion in seminaries and divinity schools, emphasizing that the focus would be on the side-by-side study of religions from around the world, rather than Christian theology. But over time, this phrasing became confusing.”-Dr. Brian Collins
According to Dr. Collins, the classics departments are comprised of professors from many different backgrounds, including archaeology, history and anthropology. He further explains that under the banner of the unified Classics & Religious Studies Department, the work done by students and faculty who study classics and religions from many different perspectives will be better represented.
“Religious Studies is an interdisciplinary field, meaning that there are many ways to study religion,” Dr. Collins said in his announcement. “For example, you can choose to read sacred texts like the Rig Veda, study sacred sites like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, learn the history of religious institutions like the Catholic Church, or simply talk to religious people.”
Dr. Collins explains that changing “World Religions” to “Religious Studies” as the department’s classification is intended to account for the plurality of research methods and the diversity of motivations for studying religion.
The full explanation from Dr. Collins can be read in the College of Arts and Sciences newsletter.