BY MURRAY WHME
CATHOLIC STUDENTS AT Edinburgh University have hit back at "completely misleading" reports that they suffered discrimination because of their religious persuasion.
More than 400 students from New College, the University's Faculty of Divinity, were this week asked to complete a student union questionnaire describing any instances of bigotry they have suffered.
Allegations of anti-religious bias which have included reports that some Catholic and Jewish students were booed out of tutorials, were spat at and suffered verbal abuse at the hands of extremist Presbyterian students have featured in anonymous letters in the University's newspaper for several months..
But one Catholic first year student, Margaret Richie, said that she and fellow students were "very angry" at the allegations. "They are absolutely no way representative of the views of Catholic students here. The people who perpetuate this sort of thing are certainly not at the Faculty," she said.
Ms Richie stressed that relations between denominations at New College were good. Six Catholic priests and a nun were among the most popular students on one course, she said.
Student Union Vice President Moira Frazer said that the questionnaire was designed to put an end to the rumours that have circulated. "We don't believe there is a problem with a large group, it could be down to a few individuals. But if there is a problem for one student, that should be dealt with," she said.
Catholic Chaplain to the University, Dominican Fr Tom Kearns, was also sceptical about the claims. He told the Catholic Herald that no students have
come to him with first hand stories of being persecuted by Protestant students.
"It is possible that something is going on; maybe this questionnaire will uncover it. But all I have heard is of a very minor nature and is rather nebulous," said Fr Kearns. All the university's Christian chaplains enjoyed "excellent" relations, he said.
Concern over possible discrimination first arose when the Divinity Faculty Student Council questioned whether religious courses put too much emphasis on Christianity. Several members of the council resigned last week claiming they have been persecuted by a small number of extremist Protestants.
Staff at the faculty which has traditional links with the Church of Scotland are said to be considering changes to any academic courses which may display denominational bias.