CCNY students protest downsizing of college's prayer space


City College of New York students from organizations such as Women in Islam, the Muslim Student Organization and the Catholic Newman Club showed up to silently protest the recent decision to downsize prayer and club areas in the college. To express their discomfort and unhappiness, numerous members of WII and MSO as well as other Muslim students gathered Friday evening at the historic Shepard Hall to conduct prayers and stand in solidarity against the faculty’s announcement.

The president of CCNY, Vincent Boudreau, announced last spring that the school will be cutting prayer and club areas to make space for lockers for public safety officers. The organizations were informed that they will be sharing their new space with other faith-based clubs on campus. This monumental decision left some students of the college feeling confused and upset.

Since this announcement greatly impacts the students and various clubs and their members, the students adamantly complained of their exclusion during the decision-making process. Ahsanul Abeer, the secretary of MSO and a biomedical engineering student, led the prayers and expressed his frustration afterward.

Abeer explained, “We understand President Boudreau’s decision. We are upset about losing our prayer space, but we are more frustrated at the exclusion. As students of the school, all we want is a say in the changes occurring on campus. We want the faculty to hear us, to give us a chance to be a part of the conversation.”

Bryan Wigfall, a political science major at CCNY and an active student on campus, agreed with Abeer.

“I attended the prayers because I support their cause. I believe we students should be given a voice, should be heard before such decisions are made.”

Abeer added that this is not the first time the faculty has come to a decision without the organization’s participation.

Since the decision was announced, no other information was provided by the president’s office and no inquiries were made to ensure the students were accommodated.

“We emailed the office following the announcement for more information,” Abeer said. “We also emailed them letting them know the interfaith-club space was not enough for all our students, however we did not receive any proper responses. It was like they were avoiding us.”

Abeer also emphasized, “We are not standing up against our school and its decisions, so I would not even call it a protest. The prayers were simply held to show the president’s office the large population of the Muslim students on CCNY’s campus that need this prayer space. It was a peaceful way to bring our organization together and to express our frustrations to the faculty.”

The prayers took place on Thursday, Sept. 27 as members of MSO and WII were not able to fit into the new assigned prayer space.

Sarah Al-Silwi, the treasurer of WII responsible for spreading the word of the prayers across campus attended the prayers on Thursday.

“The interfaith space is not big enough for all of us, so we are requesting for a bigger space. As board members of the club, it is our job to make sure are students are [sic] needs are met,” Al-Silwi said.

The president’s office has not responded, although students of CCNY hope their silence means the faculty are working together to accommodate the students’ request.

In their final statement, the clubs of CCNY stressed, “We do not hold hostility towards the president’s office but are frustrated by the lack of communication. We hope we come to a resolution soon.”

As fellow students of CUNY, many Baruch students share the same spirit as students of City College and hope they reach a resolution.

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