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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Community reflects on use of Muller Chapel and culture of religion at Ithaca College

Across+the+college%2C+there+are+eight+different+active+religious+and+spiritual+clubs+and+organizations+for+students+to+engage+with.+The+clubs+range+in+size+and+reach+with+the+largest+like+Hillel+at+Ithaca+College+supporting+nearly+1%2C000+students%2C+to+smaller+organizations+like+the+Muslim+Student+Association+%28MSA%29+that+serve+far+fewer+students.%C2%A0
Kaeleigh Banda
Across the college, there are eight different active religious and spiritual clubs and organizations for students to engage with. The clubs range in size and reach with the largest like Hillel at Ithaca College supporting nearly 1,000 students, to smaller organizations like the Muslim Student Association (MSA) that serve far fewer students. 

With more active religious and spiritual Spring 2024 programming at Ithaca College — which is a nonsectarian institution — members of the campus community have been sharing their thoughts on Muller Chapel as a general-purpose space.

Across the college, there are eight different active religious and spiritual clubs and organizations for students to engage with. The clubs range in size and reach with the largest like Hillel at Ithaca College supporting nearly 1,000 students, to smaller organizations like the Muslim Student Association (MSA) that serve far fewer students. 

Student opinions on Muller Chapel

Some leaders of on-campus religious organizations, like the Muslim Student Association and Ithaca College Students for Palestine, believe there is bias in the college’s treatment of smaller religious and activist organizations.

Any student can submit an event proposal to use the chapel space. The chapel space provides worship services to Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Muslim communities and is also used for organization meditation and events like weddings. 

Fabiha Khan, vice president of MSA, said the organization provides a community for her to feel safe on campus. Khan said there is a lack of support and understanding for what students of color and religious minorities experience on campus. 

“Our school on multiple occasions has shown completely transparent support toward Jewish students and Muslim students are an afterthought,” Khan said. “Our school doesn’t talk about its Muslim students, our school doesn’t vocalize Muslim students’ issues the same as other students.”

Khan said the MSA provides her with a sense of community through its programming.

“I’ve been able to find a really lovely community of the few core people who come to our events, and who always make sure to be supporting the club,” Khan said. “I go to bed a little easier at night because of MSA.”

According to NBC News, in 2023 there was a 332% and 172% increase in the number of reported antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, respectively, in the United States as compared to 2022. The exact increase in the rise of antisemitic incidents is difficult to determine as many rallies for Palestine have been classified as antisemitic crimes. In October, Patrick Dai, a student at Cornell University, was arrested after making threats to kill and harm the Jewish community at the university on an online discussion forum. 

Khan said the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life does help with programming and organizational needs but said she wishes there was more Muslim representation in the staff of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Khan said that ever since Yasin Ahmed, former director of the office, left the college in October, there has been a lack of representation.  

Austin Reid, interim director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, said something that he wished people knew more was the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life provides a Muslim chaplain, Ashraf Kanter, on Fridays. Reid said Kanter has group office hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the chapel to meet student needs. 

Khan said she appreciates Kanter as a resource for Muslim students on campus but would like to see more Muslim representation in the staff of the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life or a permanent staff member who can provide more assistance to Muslim students on campus. 

Quincey Fireside, president of Ithaca College Students For Palestine (ICSJP), said the organization has been denied for holding events in the chapel even when there was space available. Fireside said the organization requested their alternate “Side-by-Side” to be held in the chapel but were denied through a phone call with the Office of Student Engagement because the group was not a recognized organization at the college. 

“We ended up having to book another room which [was] easier to book,” Fireside said. “The chapel is much more locked down as far as being able to book events there.” 

Fireside said the process for booking events should be more open to all students on campus and have more processes that would increase fairness within all organizations on campus.

“I think something like an interview [with The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life] to talk about what event you would be hosting or [having] a third party non-religious entity that can decide what is or is not able to be held in the chapel [would be beneficial],” Fireside said.  

Spring 2024 programming

To help facilitate engagement, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life held an open house in Muller Chapel Feb. 13. Reid said the goal of the open house was to engage with students who enrolled at the college this spring, including transfer students. The event brought students and religious leaders from the Ithaca community together.

Reid said his proposals include inviting more student organizations to use the chapel on campus and casual lunches where students can interact with religious organizations and officials. Reid said he plans to continue making the space available for wellness events, like the noon-hour meditations held by the college. Reid said one of the challenges the chapel faces is balancing the need for active versus passive engagement.

“We try to be mindful that there are students who come into the space throughout the week, looking for a place for quiet reflection or contemplation,” Reid said. “We don’t want to approach a situation where the number of recitals or other individual events ends up limiting students’ abilities to use the space for contemplation.”

Reid said via email students can book events through 25live but can skip the process through emailing the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Reid also said meditation events and events for religious holidays take precedence in the chapel. 

Junior Olive Youngblood is the vice president of the Pagan and Witchcraft community at the college and attended the open house event. Youngblood said the community is a student-led organization and was started in 2015.  

Youngblood said the community will be trying to hold the full moon rituals inside the chapel this semester and said the community has received support from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. 

“We already use the chapel quite a bit. Our regular meeting space is in the Phillips room which is really cool because it’s nice to feel like we have a space in there as well and to feel like we are being treated as a legitimate religious group,”  Youngblood said. 

Reid said he would like to see more individuals on campus considering the chapel as a space for programming. 

“If students have an idea of programs they would like to see in this space [please reach out],” Reid said. “Muller Chapel is an iconic building on the Ithaca College campus. I think it’s especially conducive to meaningful conversations and group discussions.”

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Ryan Johnson, Assistant News Editor
Aubren Villasenor, Staff writer
Kaeleigh Banda, Assistant Photo Editor
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