Dear Wellesley Community,
As the semester comes to an end, we as members of the Class of 2018 and Muslim students on this campus have been reflecting on our Wellesley experiences. Year after year, we notice that students advocate for their needs, and although the administration acknowledges their concerns, nothing changes.
We realize Wellesley College is a microcosm of the real world and ultimately reflects existing oppressive structures. We’ve experienced microaggressions, Islamophobia, classism, racism, whiteness, xenophobia, nativism, anti-blackness and white saviorship from other students, faculty and staff members. When reflecting on our experiences and other incidents that continue to happen, it leads us to ask: where can we truly feel sustained on this campus? Are Muslim students’ needs actively being met?
One of our observations is that, for many students, a physical space on this campus is vital for a community. We all want a place where we feel cared for and to which we can turn for support. Currently, there is no space on this campus that is designated for Muslim students, despite the fact that we make up a significant portion of the student body—5 percent of the student body self-identities as Muslim. Many Muslim students are not involved with Al-Muslimat, the Muslim student organization on campus and are also active in all parts of this community. In addition to the lack of space, Muslim students struggle with the limited options of halal food on campus. But this is only part of a larger issue in which the needs of Muslim students are not being met.
As seniors, we’re excited for our final semester at Wellesley College and of our upcoming Commencement Program, as we’re sure the rest of the student body is as well. However, we want to bring to your attention the observance of Ramadan, which coincides with the finals schedule for Spring 2018 and the Commencement, that will be impacting many students andas well as their families of the finals schedule for Spring 2018 and the Commencement Program.
Ramadan will begin tentatively on Tuesday, May 15 and end on Thursday, June 14. Ramadan, a holy month observed by Muslims worldwide, is spent fasting to commemorate the first divine revelation. As a result, many Muslim students will be entering reading period and final exams while fasting.
An anxiety that has been expressed by Mmany Muslim students are anxious about is being able to eat throughout this period. The pre-dawn meal (suhoor) and the opening of fasts (iftar) both occur outside of dining hall hours. This is also an anxiety that students are anxious that they face as they will observe the month of fasting during Senior Week and the period between finals and Commencement. We are asking that we have support in organizing communal iftars and suhoors for students so that they we do not have to worry about getting food outside the dining hall hours.
In the past, we relied on our Chaplain, Amira Quraishi, through the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life for this support. However she works part-time and the support we ask for necessitates greater bandwidth. She cannot do this alone—only, alongside other students.
Furthermore, this will majorly affect students’ families as they begin arriving for Commencement activities beginning Wednesday, May 30, 2018. We have noted that on this Wednesday and the following Thursday there are the following events: the Senior Class Brunch, Senior Class Family Brunch, Picnic Lunch and Reception. All of these events bring the community together for great company and food. Unfortunately, many students and their families will be unable to partake, as they will be observing fasts. We would like to ask if community meals could be centered around dinner—after sundown—so that Muslim students and families could open their fasts and share in the festivities with the rest of the senior class. We also ask that Muslim students’ families be provided seating in the shade during Commencement, especially if it is a warm day, as it is difficult to sit under the hot sun for hours while fasting. Finally, we ask that the Provost’s Office recognizes Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha and Ramadan in the academic schedule and respects the observance of these religious holidays. As of this year, they are still not properly captured in the current email released at the beginning of the academic year.
Ultimately, this is not just an issue for this year; the Class of 2019 will be addressing this matter as well. And this will continue to be an issue as long as the lunar calendar reflects Ramadan through Commencement and through the finals period. This is an issue of providing support for Muslim students that we have to continue asking for throughout the years. Ramadan will continue to be observed through the academic calendar as the lunar calendar moves, and we demand these changes not just for our Wellesley siblings now, but also for those to come when they have the support that we struggle to receive ourselves.
We are addressing this to you, the Wellesley community, because this affects each and every one of you. We, as Muslim students, are your classmates, peers and friends. We want to be able to enjoy our final semester(s) at Wellesley and celebrate this milestone with family and friends.
We want the Wellesley College administration to consider our needs when creating programming that affects all students.
Sumaya Sheikh, Maryam Mustafa, Sarah Benamara and Maryam Khan