Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Yesterday, students Asma Noray ’17, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat ’17, and Salman Safir ’16, along with Religious and Spiritual Life Adviser Joyce Tompkins and Muslim Student Adviser Ailya Vajid ’09, presented a petition to create and sustain a Muslim Student Advisor position at Swarthmore to Dean Liliana Rodriguez.
At the time of the presentation, the petition had garnered 468 signatures, out of a goal of 500.
In addition, the group presented Dean Rodriguez with letters of support for the position written by different individual students and student groups. Many of these letters were written during a letter-writing party held last Wednesday in Shane Lounge. A video of the event can be watched here. Videos of students reading their letters aloud can be watched here.
A decision from the Dean, in conjunction with President Chopp and other administrators, is forthcoming.
Below please see a gallery of photos from the petition presentation, in addition to a copy of the petition itself, written collaboratively by a group of students and religious advisers.
This petition is to create a Muslim Student Advisor position similar to that of the Jewish and Christian Student Advisor positions at Swarthmore, with an endowment that pays the salary of the advisor to a partnering organization that will employ the individual in this position. We request the Development Office to provide assistance in building this endowment by creating a fund and identifying donors willing to support this cause. We will partner with the Development Office to create a task force that communicates with the various potential donors as we build this endowment. In the interim, we also request two years of seed grant money to fund the role of a Muslim Student Advisor.
While an advisor is beneficial for the Muslim students on campus as they explore and at times struggle with their identity and faith in a context very different to the ones in which they may have been raised, a Muslim Student Advisor’s role and relevance extends well beyond just the Swarthmore Islamic Society or even the campus community.
In a world where 84% of the world population follow a faith tradition and/or identify with a religious group/identity, building religious literacy is extremely important. Moreover, in a world in which so much conflict is attributed to religion or religious difference, the presence of religious advisors and students of faith fosters an environment in which we can discuss religion, and in which we can carry out interfaith programming that allows us to bridge differences and build understanding.
Furthermore, topics related to Islam are at the forefront of international affairs, and at an institution like Swarthmore that prides itself on providing an education that prepares students to engage positively with the world, we must support learning about a religion that is a prominent part of today’s interconnected world. A Muslim advisor position is essential to providing this literacy on campus by offering an educated presence and helping to lead informal discussion and meetings, as well as workshops, lectures and diversity training.
Additionally, promoting diversity is integral to Swarthmore’s larger goal of community. After last year’s spring collection, it is clear that maintaining faith in a secular campus environment is challenging and even sometimes alienating for students. Support for students of faith is essential to maintaining diversity and awareness on campus. Without funding this effort, Swarthmore would be neglecting its commitments to promoting diversity, conflict resolution, and social justice, especially given the Muslim community’s marginalized status in American society.
Photos by Elèna Ruyter ’14/The Daily Gazette.
Video by David Ortiz ’16.