Getting A Room of Worship to Live Up to its Title
By Andrea Karshan-Bhatti
The prayer and meditation room in the Campus Center is supposed to be a place where everyone feels welcome to worship when they need to, but right now it is being monopolized by one faith group.
If you ever go there you will only see Muslim students. Muslim prayer articles and religious materials are always left in the room. For the Muslims this is fine, but students of other faiths feel like they are “interrupting” the Muslims when they enter the prayer room.
Students of other faiths have commented that with religious materials from other faiths in a prayer room makes them feel uncomfortable worshipping their religion there. Others have commented that the prayer room is in disarray. For example, one might stumble on a worshipper’s shoes upon entering the room.
Bottom line is everyone is not happy. And the prayer room isn’t serving the interfaith spirit it was created in.
Amy Posner of the Hillel says if there were a more collaborative environment on campus to show more mutual respect and a reverence towards each other’s traditions, then the prayer room could be a calmer place to worship.
Hillel doesn’t want to see anyone feel unwelcome in the prayer room. Amy hopes that everyone has the time they need to worship and feels comfortable coming to the prayer room.
Sister Kathleen Logan of Catholic Campus Ministry says she would like to see every faith be able to celebrate their faith. She hopes students would be able to use the prayer space effectively and with that purpose.
Hillel and Catholic Campus Ministry have been told in the past that time slots would be assigned to them if they requested to hold events, but they didn’t want to displace anyone from the prayer room that was using it.
Carol Brower, director of the Office of Student Life, says that a time slot system has always been in place, and that only Muslims have reserved the space. Brower expressed that she is going to sit down with representatives of the Multi-faith Center and encourage them to also reserve slots so that others have time to worship. She further said religious articles are supposed to be left in the file cabinet.
At Queens College, according to Student Affairs, Muslims, Jewish and Christian worshipers share a floor, but they each have their own separate room. The Student Activities office at Hunter College said that worshipers don’t share a room but have their own, separate place.
At Queensborough Community College, everyone shares a room but they have found an interesting way to make it work. Staff sits outside and everyone signs in with their ID. Staff helps mediate when students want to enter when another student is inside. There is also a window looking into the prayer room so students can see from outside whether they want to enter and join whoever is praying. This meets the needs of students who only want to pray with solely women or men present.
Also the room is cleaned out periodically to make it a “blank and neutral space,” Debra Rosenwasser from Student Activities says.
Once Ms. Brower gets more faiths represented on the time schedule this will help the student body be equally represented in the prayer room. It will hopefully give an opportunity for a more diverse group of students to come and worship. These changes will greatly help build interfaith relationships on campus and help build mutual respect.