I received some troubling news this morning from my dear friend Iolair regarding his personal possessions in his dorm room at his University. He sent me a rather startling text message this afternoon saying that he suspected his University of going into his dorm room and taking some of his things, specifically his candles, smudge stick, incense and ritual athame. He also said that it seemed as though his books and tarot cards had been disturbed, though none of them seemed to be missing.
Let me first preface this by saying, that we don't yet know for sure whether or not these actions were taken by the University or by students. I will also say that the burning of candles/incense is expressly prohibited in the housing policy of his University. However, to my knowledge his RA has said to him in the past that storing these things in his room was not a violation of the policy. The athame, as a blade, is more likely than not prohibited, but it isn't as though he leaves it lying out in plain sight (and anyone who knows anything about paganism knows that a ritual athame is typically not used for anything violent).
It still isn't clear whether or not the University has confiscated his things or not, and I should get a call from him sometime in the nest few days, but this incident brings up important topics for anyone practicing witchcraft at a University, particularly in University or College Housing.
First, knowledge of your University's housing policy is extremely important. Most universities don't allow the burning of candles or incense in dorm rooms, though having these things typically isn't against the rules as long as they aren't lit. Ritual blades (athames, bolines or swords) tend to be prohibited because they are viewed by some as weapons. Knowing these policies and acting in accordance with them can typically prevent most issues.
Discrimination is something else that can be encountered at a university, especially if that school is small or has a decided religious affiliation. Religious affiliation does not mean that the University is discriminatory, but that it can attract a more religiously homogeneous group of people, some of whom may discriminate against someone with a less-mainstream belief system. All colleges have policies regarding discrimination based of religion and it is also valuable to be familiar with these policies so that if discrimination occurs it can be dealt with in an official capacity.
These are just some of the issues that can come up when you're a witch attending and living at college. College Wicca is a great website with tons of information about all sorts of other topics pertaining to practicing Wicca (or other types of Pagan traditions and witchcraft) at college. The site hasn't been updated in a while but it's still a good tool for current and prospective college Pagans and I think it has a somewhat active forum.
Living in college housing isn't too restrictive when it comes to practicing witchcraft. I attended a small state college in Southern Ohio my freshman year and there was a very active community of college pagans, and it's fairly easy to make do without candles and some ritual tools in a dorm (or dorm-ish) environment. Even if there isn't an official university-backed pagan group, there tend to be some fairly open people (who aren't necessarily pagan) everywhere who can form a useful support system in college life.
Bottom line, it's not totally hopeless to be a witch at college, and many people will attest to that. And I should be back with an update on Iolair's situation fairly soon, with some concrete info and a summary of his University's response.