Affinity and religious groups at Swarthmore, like all student-led groups, receive funding through the Student Budgeting Committee (SBC). However, due to funding issues, student groups have had no choice but to comply with severe budget cuts and limit spending for club activities. This has especially impacted affinity and religious groups at Swarthmore. We, The Phoenix Editorial Board, believe that the college should provide more financial support to affinity and religious groups on campus so that these communities’ activities are not entirely reliant on a funding source which has proven unstable and inconsistent.
For example, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) is a student-led religious group that strives to support and provide space for Muslim students on campus. Their role is especially important during the month of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims. The month, which this year spans from March 22 to April 21, includes a twelve-hour fast from sunrise to sunset.
In recent years, Ramadan has occurred during the academic year, meaning Muslim students have had to juggle both academics and fasting. The MSA has served as a key resource for these students, working with Dining Services to create a food pantry where students can access food before sunrise as well as organizing communal dinners for students to break their fast.
SBC’s current budgeting issues have already had an impact on logistics for Ramadan this year. Last year, the club could afford to organize two to three dinners a week. However, the budget for this year will only cover the costs of one dinner per week. These Ramadan dinners enable Muslim students to partake in the communal aspect of the holy month — it is tradition for fasts to be broken with fellow Muslims and members of the community. Getting a takeout box from the Dining Center, although an option, is inconsistent with traditions of communal fast-breaking in many Muslim communities.
Because of budget constraints, MSA’s funding has significantly decreased, making it harder to balance both general club and Ramadan-specific events. Financial support from the college for groups such as MSA and Kehilah would demonstrate an investment in the important roles these organizations and their leaders play in facilitating affirming spaces for their communities.
Although the Intercultural and Interfaith Centers are a helpful resource for student affinity and religious leaders, students are able to provide valuable peer-to-peer support and build spaces to share in traditions and celebrate shared identities. Thus, providing financial support to student organizations themselves is the best way to ensure continued support and community for students of these affinity and religious groups.
This issue is not exclusive to MSA; it impacts all affinity and religious groups on campus. Swarthmore students look to these groups to locate community and sense of belonging. By denying funding to religious and affinity groups, the college is creating a barrier to religious, racial, and ethnic equity on campus. As a predominantly white institution, Swarthmore continues to fall behind in providing support systems and scaffolding for minority students. Students of all backgrounds deserve spaces dedicated to helping them navigate the struggles of the college experience. Due to the current lack of funding from SBC and uncertainty around budget allocations moving forward, the unique academic, religious, and community resources that affinity groups provide are under threat, to the detriment of us all.