On November 2, 2022, the American Humanist Association (AHA) presented its 2022 University Award for Philosophical Diversity to Tufts University. The award, which celebrates the expression of humanism in higher education, was accepted by Anthony Monaco, President of Tufts University.
According to AHA’s press release about the presentation, interfaith work is one of the most important bridges that can build during this difficult time of our socio-political landscape. For this reason AHA presented Tufts University with their award based on the school’s Humanist Chaplaincy.
AHA says that, “The Humanist Chaplaincy at Tufts has done an exemplary job of serving not only secular students but bringing together students from other religious minorities to reimagine a future where all people belong. From hosting an “Unlearning” event that explored the decolonization of our thoughts and social norms to working with Sikh students to create art together, the AHA is proud to recognize Tufts University for fostering an environment where collaborations are encouraged to better support their student body.“
“The Humanist Chaplaincy at Tufts has been a thriving hub for the rigorous and creative exploration of religious and philosophical differences. As a higher education chaplaincy, we are strategically positioned to realize a more just and interdependent world by supporting students in a critical time of exploration and identity formation,” says Anthony Cruz Pantojas, Humanist Chaplain at Tufts University. “As the first Afro-Boricua Humanist Chaplain, I aim to embrace the complexities of the human condition through narratives and experiences with students and create anew what has been historically erased or obscured.”
According to Cruz Pantojas’ biography on the Tufts University website, “Anthony Cruz Pantojas, MATS, MALS (they/he/elle/él) is honored to be the Humanist Chaplain at Tufts University. They joined the University Chaplaincy team in August 2021. In this capacity, Anthony supports the development and sustainability of ethical inquiry through co-constructed projects with the campus community. Cruz Pantojas earned master’s degrees in Theological Studies, and Leadership and Humanist Studies from Andover Newton Theological School and Meadville Lombard Theological School, respectively. Additionally, they hold a Graduate Certificate in Humanist Studies from the American Humanist Association Center for Education. Previously, Anthony worked with Faith in the Vaccine, a program under the auspices of the Interfaith Youth Core. They worked with youth community leaders to inform marginalized communities about the significance of the COVID-19 vaccine and to curate resources that address social stigma. With Faith in the Vaccine, Anthony focused on vaccine hesitancy, as well as spearheaded projects promoting civic engagement and critical consciousness through action research and narrative methodologies.”
The AHA created its University award to recognize colleges and universities that foster a culture of openness and academic inquiry that allows humanism and a diverse array of other philosophical perspectives to flourish. Beyond the swanky plaque and the press releases, HumanistFreedoms.com has been unable to determine what AHA’s University Award is comprised-of.
Via somewhat dated press-releases, we observed that criteria for receiving the University Award for Philosophical Diversity include: offering a course in humanist studies, employing a faculty member engaged in research relevant to humanist studies with already-published works in scholarly journals, and having a secular student organization recognized by the institution and existing in a supportive environment.
In years past, the award has also been presented to Pitzer College (2016 for being the first school in the United States to offer a degree in Secular Studies) for , Carnegie Mellon University (2015 for its Humanist League’s commitment to fostering dialogue about humanism and upholding the humanist values of reason, compassion and justice), Stanford University (2014 for making humanist inquiry and study possible for students interested in pursuing careers in the secular movement and beyond).
By offering the award, the AHA aspires to counter the prejudice faced by humanists and other nontheists who are good without a god as well as encourage schools to include humanist chaplaincies on campus.
The Tufts Humanist Chaplaincy was formed in 2014 to foster institutional support for the humanist community and to attend to the “many changing needs of students across the nonreligious spectrum.”
“We are delighted to recognize Tufts University and their ongoing commitment to the representation of secularism and humanism on campus,” comments AHA Executive Director, Nadya Dutchin. “It is vital that higher educational institutions encourage an open dialogue between different worldviews and philosophies, both religious and nonreligious.”
In addition to the University Award, the American Humanist Association also bestows an annual Humanist of the Year Award (HOTYA) to a prominent individual whose work and activism promote humanist values. In 2018, AHA revoked its award of the 2015 HOTYA award from Lawrence Krauss. In 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci was awarded AHA’s Humanist of the Year Award.
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