The college opened spaces for Muslim students to practice their faith in at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester and continues to search for a Muslim chaplain.
The new Center for Spiritual Life in 172 Tremont St. features both an ablution room, where students can complete a cleansing ritual before they pray, and a private prayer room.
The prayer room does not lock and is available any time 172 Tremont St. is open. To ensure privacy for students while praying, the room has different door hangers to indicate whether it is in use.
Director of Spiritual Life Julie Avis-Rogers said the prayer room contains a variety of faith-based vestments and Muslim prayer rugs. The room also includes a privacy screen, a collection of interfaith books, and an indicator on the wall pointing to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, so Muslim students know which way to face while praying.
“This is really open for students of any faith background, no faith background, all spiritual identities and practices, to just have a place for quiet contemplation, but for our Muslim students that becomes particularly important because there is [the] five times a day prayer requirement,” Avis-Rogers said.
CSL also installed prayer kits for Muslim students who are not near the prayer room during the five daily prayer times. These kits include a prayer rug, prayer beads, a Hijab for women, a welcome booklet, and a yoga mat for comfort. The kits are located in the Iwasaki Library, the Paramount Center, and 172 Tremont St.
The college has been searching for a Muslim chaplain since Avis-Rogers arrived at the college in February. She said she hoped to have the position filled for the fall 2019 semester. Avis-Rogers credits her predecessor, Harrison Blum, with identifying the need for a Muslim chaplain.
“In my mind, the Muslim chaplain is like one piece of a pie to make sure that Emerson is a place where Muslim students can, at the minimum, practice their faith freely and not need to hide or go to other places,” she said.
Since not many colleges have a Muslim chaplain, Avis-Rogers said part of the difficulty in finding a chaplain is that the Center for Spiritual Life had to create the job description with little reference material. Avis-Rogers spoke to members of the Muslim Students Association and looked at how schools such as Northeastern University, Harvard University, and Tufts University defined the roles of their Muslim chaplains.
Avis-Rogers and the MSA had two priorities for the college’s search—someone to lead Friday Jumu’ah, prayers and an advisor to help students with their faith. Avis-Rogers says CSL is now in the process of making connections with the Muslim community and finding suitable candidates for the role.
Junior Maysoon Khan, founder and former president of the MSA, said she is glad for CSL’s Muslim facilities and the search for a chaplain.
Both Blum and Avis Rogers discussed the college’s process to create the position with her.
“I think it’s great that we’re getting a Muslim chaplain, I wish I had one for my whole time here because college is a place where you question everything and I think it could’ve helped me early on, but I’m still happy that it’s happening,” Khan said.
Correction 9/19: A previous version of this article misspelled Maysoon Khan’s name. It has been updated with the proper spelling.