EDITORIAL: Establish permanent Dharmic prayer center
The temporary Dharmic Prayer Center officially opened last night in the Shapiro Campus Center’s art gallery. The center will be the University’s home for four religious communities — Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism — and will be open to practitioners of other faiths. The move was announced in a March 26 email from Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes to the student body.
In Sept. 2014, students first petitioned the University to create a permanent space for worship, as they previously did not have one, according to a May 19 Justice article.
This editorial board commends the University’s initiative in creating a location where students of the Dharmic religious communities can practice. However, it is troubling that it took such a long time to establish the current Center, which is still only temporary.
We urge the University to make the Dharmic Prayer Center a permanent fixture in its current location and, moving forward, make more of an effort to expediently find permanent worship spaces for religious groups on campus should a similar situation present itself.
We commend the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh students for their patience and tolerance throughout the search process. Our University’s culture of establishing separate prayer spaces for differing religious backgrounds, such as our three chapels for Jewish, Protestant and Catholic worship, may seem to indicate that uniting these four faiths under one roof could lead to problems.
Yet the students have collaborated and cooperated without incident, citing the common theme of tolerance across their practices as well as the political strength in numbers to achieve their prayer center. We find both the tolerance and practicality of this partnership commendable, but question why such a “strength in numbers” approach should be necessary at all to establish centers for community and cultural exchange in a University committed to social justice ideals.
This editorial board believes that a permanent Dharmic prayer space would be a valuable and well-earned addition to the University’s community of cultural exchange and tolerance.
Given how infrequently the gallery was used, its conversion to a permanent prayer space would be more than reasonable.Hindu Chaplain Vaishali Gupta herself expressed that the gallery is an ideal campus space for their purposes in an interview with the Justice in May.
The inauguration of the center is the conclusion of a year-and-half-long process. That the center is only a temporary space is unacceptable, as the process has not truly ended, despite years of effort from students and administrators alike. Though celebration is warranted, it can only be half-hearted. It is a disservice to Brandeis’s identity as a space for religious diversity and toleration that a major religious community on campus had to wait such a long time for a space of their own.
At the official opening, both Gupta and Rabbi Elyse Winick ’86 focused on the important role of religious diversity at Brandeis and how the new Dharmic Prayer Center will continue to foster these discussions. The board commends Gupta for her commitment to inclusion and religious diversity on campus and hopes that all students on campus can make the most of these opportunities.