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Why an interfaith space is so important

By Meagan Lettko April 17, 2019

There are a lot of changes happening on our campus right now. Everyone is aware of the changes stemming from the Arch program and changes to the Greek community. As Grand Marshal, I am tasked with thinking about these changes and recognizing that many have been manifesting for years. One change that I would like to see prioritized is the creation of a new interfaith space.

Over the past year, the Muslim Students Association has been instrumental in advocating for a new prayer space on our campus. Currently, aside from the Chapel and Cultural Center, the only spaces we have for students to pray are in the Union and in a Folsom Library stairwell. The first location in the Union—Chaplain’s Office on the third floor—has specified hours during the week and is not open for prayer during the weekend. The second space is more accessible to students, on the academic campus, but as the description indicates, it is located in a stairwell. For those of you who have made it to the library during your time at Rensselaer, I am sure you are aware that the stairwells are dark and surrounded by cement. Personally, I do not know how anyone can focus or feel at ease while praying on the cement floor surrounded by cold cement walls.

It is very important that we identify a new space for prayer to occur during all hours of the day and night. Some students pray up to five times per day. This means that this location must also be accessible on the academic campus. For students who currently pray, an interfaith space is crucial to their daily routine. For students who currently do not pray as often as they would like, this space will be a resource to satisfy their needs. It must not only be accessible, but also inviting and well-advertised to the community.

Now, as you read this, you may ask yourself, “How can the Student Senate help with this?” The Student Senate has the ability to advocate for the ideas and changes that students would like to see on our campus. Recently, we have passed a motion detailing the history of prayer spaces on campus and the changes we would like to see. Because of this, and because of the efforts of the MSA and the Student Life Committee, we have open dialogue with the administration to try and solve this problem as soon as possible. This is an example of the productivity that can occur when students reach out to us for help with their cause. I would like to see much more of this in the future.

If your organization is facing a challenge, and you do not know what next steps to take, please reach out. As the Senate, we cannot possibly reach out to every individual on campus, but if you take the initiative we will hold ourselves accountable to support you. As always, my email is always open and so are our meetings, which are held on Mondays at 8 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery in the Union.