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Muslim students have requested a faith-specific adviser for the past three years.

More than five months after the Office of the University Chaplain announced that it would hire a new adviser for Muslim students—and after more than three years of student requests for such an adviser—the newly formed position of coordinator of Muslim life has yet to be filled.

There are currently 10 faith-specific advisers who work out of the Office of the University Chaplain, including six advisers for students across Christian denominations, three Jewish advisers, and one Ethical Humanist adviser. Most are sponsored by external grants and are not employees of the University.

Since last semester, University Senators, working in conjunction with Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, the Office of University Life, and the Muslim Students Association, have been coordinating the effort to appoint a new religious adviser for Muslim students.

The Office of the University Chaplain first vowed to hire an adviser specifically for Muslim students and to open up prayer spaces for Muslim students in Earl Hall and St. Paul’s Chapel over academic breaks in April, stating that the new position was made possible by an anonymous donation. These changes follow years of requests from Muslim students that were initially flatly rejected by the chaplain.

A University spokesperson said that the search has progressed rapidly, but declined to provide a specific timeline for the appointment. University senators have said they hope the position will be filled by early November.

The Coordinator of Muslim Life will provide religious advising to Muslim students and will work to connect the Muslim Students Association to resources from other offices, including Undergraduate Student Life and the Office of University Life.

In the past, however, students have voiced concerns about the transparency of the chaplain’s office.

Margaret Corn

“Every year, it’s been a battle getting things. It’s been like pulling teeth when we’re asking the chaplain for anything,” MSA Senior Adviser and former President Fatima Koli, BC ’17, said in an interview last March.

However, the University spokesperson emphasized that two students have been included in the search committee. The Muslim Students Association confirmed this in a statement to Spectator, adding that they have been working with the chaplain’s office over the course of the summer to fill the position.

All parties involved have expressed optimism about the search.

“It’s been a very collaborative process between the chaplain’s office, the Office of University Life, and the Muslim Students Association, and we’re happy to be a part of that,” University Senator Jay Rappaport, CC ’18, said.

However, other concerns voiced by Muslim students, such as the need for a prayer space that remains open around the clock, have yet to be answered. University Senator Josh Schenk, CC ’19, has hopes for a plan to repurpose a space in Lerner Hall to satisfy this request.

“On a day-to-day basis, in terms of the advocacy of student groups and student governments in the past, there just hasn’t been proportional representation for the need that exists,” Schenk said. “It’s just been a matter of really expressing the fact that there is a sizeable proportion of [Muslim] students who don’t have access to the services that they need.”

jesus.guerra@columbiaspectator.com | @columbiaspec

MSA muslim students University Chaplain University Senate
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