Faith groups adjust to a smaller home in the campus center
Students and chaplains welcomed a new Interfaith Center this academic year with mixed reactions, as well as plans for the future.
Over the summer, the IFC moved from its spacious building on the edge of the UAlbany campus to the third floor of the Campus Center (CC343-349). The smaller space offers a more central location for visiting students. Rev. Sandy Damhof said,
“Nobody got lost opening service,” said Rev. Damhof who speculates she has seen an increase in students strolling through the new location, though their Center’s “no membership” policy makes official numbers hard to track.
The new location lacks a kitchen, a communal focal point of the former location had building, which makes ordering meals a necessity. Ordering meals has cost the Center triple what it cost to cook, according to Damhof.
“It’s closer and easier to find, but we miss our food,” said Benitha Muyizere, a sophomore and the vice president of Cornerstone Campus Ministry, one of the religious groups based within the Interfaith Center,.
The “no kitchen” dilemma is not the only criticism of the new IFC.
“It’s smaller and darker and tucked out of the way,” said Rabbi Nomi Manon, who noted she remains optimistic of the new year to come.
Several students remain in the dark regarding the IFC’s new location, including junior Ayushi Goel.
“I loved the old one,” she said. “I didn’t know they had a new one.”
The Center’s official website has not been updated to reflect the new location due to technical difficulties, though Damhof speculates the site will be updated soon as the new location.
Last October, tension between the IFC and university administration over plans to move the Center from its 1.4 acre location into the Campus Center boiled over.
Under the move, the Center was absorbed into the Student Affairs Division of the Intercultural Student Engagement Unit .
Leaders and students who utilized the center did not go down without a fight, springing a social media movement with the hashtag #SavetheInterfaithCenter.
Chaplains filed a complaint to the Attorney General after discovering a 1987 provision between the University at Albany Foundation and John Holt-Harris III, the man who granted the land to the IFC, which stipulated the property only be used for faith related purposes.
The Center was moved, despite efforts.
Leaders of the IFC are looking ahead, according to Damhof who said the ministries have plans for more casual events such as offering free juice and bagels on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“No one would have come to the old Interfaith building for a free bagel,” said Damhof.