Interfaith Center chaplains didn’t know about a UAlbany license agreement
Campus chaplains wanted to ask the University at Albany Foundation to scrap Interfaith Center plans.
But they learned Friday when informed by the Albany Student Press, that’s not up to the Foundation.
The deadline to move interfaith programming into the Campus Center falls under university discretion despite the property being under Foundation ownership. Under an agreement following the land’s sale in 2016 — a deal unbeknownst to chaplains until late last week — UAlbany was licensed to keep the property operating.
Rev. Sandy Damhof of Cornerstone Campus Ministries claimed to have heard differently in a conversation last month with Ed Engelbride, associate vice president for Student Affairs. She asked him if chaplains could ask the university to stay until State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made a final verdict on the property’s transfer.
“He said that was obviously not up to the university because obviously if the transfer doesn’t take place, the Foundation still owns it,” she claimed.
Engelbride, who tossed an original email request for comment to media relations, did not immediately respond to inquiry regarding Damhof’s portrayal of the conversation.
He is one of several members of UAlbany administration to work with chaplains on making IFC accommodations. Student Affairs held several listening groups last semester to assess the needs of interfaith student groups and chaplains moving forward.
Chaplains bumped heads with administration throughout the fall, trying to push back on plans to vacate the IFC with a short-lived social media movement, #SavetheInterfaithCenter.
After discovering a request between the Foundation and John Holt-Harris III to kill a provision in the property’s deed, Damhof, Cathy Reid of Newman Catholic Association, and Rabbi Nomi Manon of Hillel sent a complaint to the state attorney general office.
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Damhof believes their complaint, along with other church closures across state, could bog down the legal review process as long as two years. Mike Nolan, UAlbany communications specialist, said last fall that the transfer is likely to occur this spring.
“I would say we don’t have any reason to believe why it wouldn’t [occur], but it isn’t a process under our control,” said Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, director of Media and Community Relations, last week.
Regardless of the transfer’s final verdict, interfaith programming remains on track to move into the Campus Center by June. Carleo-Evangelist said the move-in deadline accommodates summer orientation and the fall 2018 semester.
Interfaith programming’s future office is undetermined.
According to Michael Jaromin, director of Student Involvement, while the chaplains’ location remains unclear, they will likely have individual offices in the Campus Center. A document from a meeting between Student Affairs and Facilities Management in September showed one potential temporary interfaith room located on the Campus Center third floor.
UAlbany officials including President Havidán Rodríguez believe the new location will provide greater support services and ease student access for interfaith programming.
Katarina Kitt, an undeclared sophomore who regularly attends Cornerstone Campus Ministries events, is vigilant about the move. She fears lack of sanctuary space will alter interfaith programming in the Campus Center.
“I know if we do go over there, we’re going to make the best of it and make it work,” she said. “It’s just not the same.”
Correction: In the print edition, it’s mentioned that there was a request between the university and John Holt Harris III. There was a request between the Foundation and John Holt-Harris III.