MSU begins search for Muslim chaplain

The Muslim Students Union (MSU), a group of active Muslim students that addresses Islamic issues on campus, is currently drafting a proposal that would bring a Muslim chaplain to the College. In tandem with this proposal, College Chaplain Rick Spalding and his colleagues will write a similar proposal and then synthesize the two drafts.

The MSU has long hoped to hire a Muslim chaplain for the College. “We’ve been laying the groundwork for this for five or six years,” Spalding said.

In 2004, the College hired Parvin Hajizadeh as an advisor to Muslim students to nurture the campus Islamic community. The collaboration between the MSU and Hajizadeh has successfully strengthened the Muslim population here to the point that the MSU and chaplain’s office believe it is time to hire a religious professional who can address the expanding needs of the College’s Muslim community.

Yasmine Goelzer ’13, a MSU board member, has been drafting the MSU’s proposal for a chaplain. All of the MSU has been actively supportive of the search.

Spalding described a potential chaplain as a religious professional who “would have the knowledge and ability to lead and/or facilitate services and other religious events, including religious teaching, to offer spiritual guidance and counsel to Muslim students and to be an effective advocate for the needs of the very diverse Muslim community on our campus.”

However, like all chaplains at the College, a Muslim chaplain would also serve to cultivate the interfaith community. The chaplain’s office works to bring speakers to campus and open forums on spirituality in general, and a Muslim chaplain would be particularly helpful in broaching topics relating to Islam and its role in life the College.

Specifically, the MSU and chaplain’s office are looking for a chaplain adept in navigating diverse religious communities. Spalding expressed his hope that the chaplain would be “someone who is very much at home in, and excited by, a community as diverse as this one.”

The MSU hopes to submit its proposal in January to begin the official hiring process. Before the position can be created, Human Resources and the College’s senior staff must approve the proposal. Dean Bolton would then appoint a committee comprising students, College chaplains, student services staff and faculty.

“We would like to find a way to serve the spiritual needs of all the students on campus,” Bolton said. “We are thinking of creative ways to do that for student groups given [staffing and financial] constraints. I expect conversations through the budgeting process to meet [the students’ needs].”

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