U. to hire first full-time Hindu, Muslim chaplains
The chaplains will be responsible for promoting programming for each community, counseling students, participating in interfaith initiatives and leading or enabling worship of each religion, Dean of Religious Life Rev. Alison Boden said in an e-mail.
Candidates for the positions — to be titled “Coordinator for Hindu Life” and “Coordinator for Muslim Life” — will be visiting campus before the appointments are made by a committee comprising students, faculty and ORL staff, Boden said.
The new positions were created in response to the growth of Princeton’s Hindu and Muslim communities in the last decade.
“Our Friday prayers used to only gather about 10-20 [students] a couple years back,” Wasim Shiliwala ’09, president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), said in an e-mail. “Now the numbers are up to around 40, even at times 50 students. As the Muslim population increases, it becomes more and more important that there be a figure on campus who can address their needs.”
Last year, Khalid Latif was appointed the University’s Muslim chaplain on a one-year, part-time contract as part of a pilot program in response to requests from many Muslim students. When the chaplain began working, nine students were involved in the program. By the end of the year, the number had increased tenfold.
“It was so successful that we now have established the position as a full-time, permanent job,” Boden explained. She said that, having seen the improvements that came to the Muslim community with the presence of a chaplain, Hindu students requested the same opportunity.
“We look forward to seeing if [it] will be just as successful,” she added.
Boden said these appointments were not made in the past because only a small number of students sought Hindu and Muslim spiritual guidance and because these communities do not have national networks that provide personnel at universities.
“Hillel [a national Jewish campus life foundation] provides support and personnel for Jewish students across the country, as do Christian denominations and para-church organizations,” Boden said.
The Jewish and Christian groups asked the University for the opportunity to work with Princeton students. The new Muslim and Hindu coordinators, on the other hand, will be University staff within the Office of Religious Life.
“I’m very happy that the ORL has recognized that the practice of Hinduism is now an important part of religious life on campus which deserves formal administrative representation,” Raj Ranade ’10, co-president of the Princeton Hindu Satsangam, said in an e-mail.
In the past, the Hindu and Muslim communities have received logistical and financial support from ORL.
Mariam Rahmani ’10, one of the students on the chaplain-hiring committee and former MSA vice president, said that despite the funding given to the MSA in previous years, the lack of an official leader for the community has been felt by students.
“It will be nice to have someone whose official responsibility is to help plan events, taking all the burden off the students,” she said.
Shiliwala said the hiring of a chaplain “reflects well” on the ORL and its determination to support students of all faiths.
“I am really looking forward to having a [c]haplain on campus who I can speak with whenever I need advisement or simply if I have a question about Islam in general,” he said.
Shiliwala said that Boden has encouraged students to get involved in the hiring process.
“[The ORL staff members are] always eager to hear our perspectives on what we feel would best serve the Muslim community and have been factoring our input in the search process,” he said.