Students at Ithaca College are fortunate enough to have a religious space as versatile as Muller Chapel on campus. A peaceful building at the edge of Chapel Pond, the chapel serves as a space for any and all religious communities to come together and worship.
But currently, the college only has Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains to serve the college community. There are no other official faith leaders on campus.
Sophomore Farwa Shawkeel, as well as other students and chaplains of the other faiths at the college, have been campaigning for a Muslim imam on campus to lead services and other aspects of religious activities.
A chaplain serves as a religious leader for college students, but is also hired to provide guidance and counseling for students in times of need. A student does not need to prescribe to any particular religious belief to receive guidance from the chaplains.
Having a Muslim faith leader could possibly encourage potential students who are faithful Muslims to attend the college. The percentage of students who are practicing Muslims right now may be low, but Muslim students already at the college might be more likely to practice with an imam on campus, and the addition of an imam could encourage more prospective students who practice Islam to enroll.
The fact that there are only a small number of Muslim students on campus — an estimated 10 to 15 practicing students on campus, according to Shawkeel — should not dissuade the college from hiring an iman. Religious students, regardless of their community’s size, should have someone to help nurture their beliefs.
At least 40 other universities in the country have hired full-time imams to lead their students. It is time for the college to follow their lead by bringing an iman to campus. Having the imam for Cornell University also serve as the imam for Ithaca College could be the best solution to solve the current problem. The two institutions already share Catholic chaplains.
With only a small number of practicing Muslim students on campus, sharing an imam would be a cost-effective solution. It would also serve help create a larger community for Muslim students at both Ithaca College and Cornell University.