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Association for College and University Religious Affairs Records

 Collection
Call Number: RG 327

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials related to the functioning of the Association for College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA) from its inception in 1959 until 2008. ACURA, formerly the Association for the Coordination of University Religious Affairs, was founded as an organization of university staff tasked with caring for the religious affairs of multi-faith student bodies. The bulk of the material dates from the late twentieth century and covers issues ACURA addressed in annual meetings and through conferences related to religious life and inter-faith experiences on campuses throughout the United States.

Series I, Administration and Governance, begins with the foundational documents which describe ACURA’s mission and structure as well as legal files related to the use of buildings on state-owned campuses for religious purposes. The bulk of Series I consists of extensive Executive Committee correspondence and files relating to the annual meetings of the Executive Committee from 1961 until 1993 (with addition of 2008), which often contain further meeting minutes. The final folders in Series I pertain to membership and financial records.

Series II, Correspondence, contains general correspondence arranged chronologically and correspondence arranged by topic or individual—including letters regarding ¬¬affiliations with other professional organizations, letters addressed to college and university presidents, and the limited correspondence of Franklin H. Littell, Jack W. Lewis, and Lloyd W. Putnam. For further correspondence, see the Executive Committee correspondence in Series I. For more on Franklin H. Littell, a founding member and longtime consultant for ACURA active in the NCCJ (National Council for Christians and Jews), see Series IV Publications Box 10, folder 15 “Inventing the Holocaust: A Christian’s Retrospect.”

Series III, Conferences, contains material related to conferences dating from 1958 to 1988. The conferences addressed relevant topics concerning the interaction between religion and the state, new religious movements, and the future of religious counseling and chaplaincy on American campuses.

Series IV, Publications, contains issues of the quarterly ACURA newsletter Dialogue on Campus from 1961 until 1981 (with addition of 1993), which disseminated administrative information and articles written by ACURA members, and correspondence related to Dialogue on Campus. Further publications within Series IV include, A University at Prayer by Alfred C. Payne, E Pluribus Fides et Mores: A Handbook for Religious Life Educators, and “Inventing the Holocaust: A Christian’s Retrospect,” by Franklin H. Littell.

Series V, Projects and Surveys, consists of gathered documents related to the planning and execution of publications and research projects, including surveys on the coordination of religious affairs in colleges and universities, minority religious groups, current issues, and the subsequent produced reports.

Series VI, Subjects, holds the information gathered in relation to the American Conference on Religious Movements, including documents on the reception of religions such as Hare Krishna and Scientology in the 1980s and 1990s. A further subject file addresses the controversy surrounding the American Family Foundation’s 1985 conference on cults and sects and the concern that psychiatric approaches to religious movements infringed upon religious liberty.

Dates

  • 1958-2008

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from Syracuse University Library Archives by request of the Association for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Life in Higher Education (ACSLHE), 2022.

Arrangement

  1. I. Administration and Governance, 1961-2008
  2. II. Correspondence, 1967-1986
  3. III. Conferences, 1958-1988
  4. IV. Publications, 1961-1994
  5. V. Projects and Surveys, 1966-1972
  6. VI. Subjects, 1975-1994

Extent

4.7 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

https://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/divinity.327

Overview

Administrative records, correspondence, reports, and publications document the Association for College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA) primarily from its founding in 1959 through the 1980s. ACURA was an organization for college and university staff tasked with caring for the religious affairs of multi-faith student bodies. It merged with the National Association of College and University Chaplains to form the Association for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Life in Higher Education (ACSLHE) in 2020.

Biographical / Historical

The Association for College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA), formerly known as the Association for the Coordination of University Religious Affairs, was founded in 1959 as an organization for university staff tasked with caring for the religious affairs of multi-faith student bodies. Funded until 1966 by the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), ACURA initially focused on state universities in the Midwest. ACURA later expanded nationally and to private universities.

Beyond general questions around secularism and pluralism in the public sphere, ACURA continually responded to the shifting landscape of American religious life through research and discussion. ACURA’s tenure in the twentieth century witnessed the growth of student affairs, the decline of funded chaplaincy, a shifting student body without denominational affiliation, the development of new religious movements, and the rise of the field of religious studies throughout American universities. Notable within the collection, in 1970s and 1980s ACURA legally addressed first amendment rights and the use of state-owned buildings for religious purposes, and in the 1980s and 1990s ACURA studied and responded to the growth of “New Religious Movements” and contemporaneous worries about cults.

Working closely with both NACUC (National Association of College and University Chaplains and Directors of Religious Life) and COSPA (Council of Student Personnel Associations in Higher Education), ACURA saw religious life—and the moral commitments it entails—as an essential part of wholistic education which the university could not provide alone. In 1981 president and longtime Executive Committee member George Jones wrote, “we seek to maintain an atmosphere of openness and respect within our institutions for personnel and programs deployed by any religious body,” which would create an environment for students where, “in the forum of a free university, what is true will commend itself to the sincere seeker.”

In 2020, ACURA merged with NACUC (collection RG 167 at Yale Divinity Special Collections) to become the Association for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Life in Higher Education (ACSLHE). Already in 1974, internal discussions within ACURA recommended the eventual merger—leading to decades of joint conferences and cooperation around the shared mission of placing religion thoughtfully and adequately within the life of the student body.
Title
Guide to the Association for College and University Religious Affairs Records
Author
Abigail Kromminga
Date
2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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