Olivia Papp ’23
Ahmed El-Tair ’23 and Nur Khan ’23 have served as co-presidents of the Muslim Student Association at Trinity since September 22, 2022. Both Khan and El-Tair have been involved with the Muslim Student Association (MSA) for years and have strived to build a welcoming community for all Muslim students at Trinity. One of the key goals for El-Tair, Khan, and the Executive Board of MSA is to coordinate with both the Trinity Administration and Chartwells to ensure that sufficient food is provided during Ramadan.
Ramadan is a sacred month for members within the Islam community. During this time, fasting will occur from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan at Trinity takes careful planning, as El-Tair, Khan, and the Executive Board try to find the best meal options for the thirty-six Muslim students involved with the Muslim Student Association. A large component to Ramadan is ensuring that all Muslim students have foods that are representative of cultures within the Muslim Student Association.
“South Asian or Middle Eastern food represents the majority of our MSA community. Integrating these foods into our diets during Ramadan is an important part of Ramadan. It is our role as presidents of MSA to make our members’ Ramadan experiences as similar to their home experiences as possible since it is difficult to not be with our families during this sacred time,” said Khan.
When El-Tair and Khan were underclassmen, Ramadan at Trinity was an incredible experience. At this time, Chartwells refunded the meal swipes for those involved in MSA. As such, food was always readily available to them.
“We met with Chartwells a month before Ramadan began last year. Chartwells said it was no longer affordable for them to refund our meal swipes, meaning that a new system would have to be in place,” said El-Tair. Thereafter, Chartwells decided to supply students with the Ramadan food instead of giving MSA students back their meal swipes. “Under this new system, the portions that Chartwells were giving us were very small. They have given us expired yogurt and we were left hungry. Chartwells was simply not giving us the food we needed throughout the ten hours a night that we can actually eat during Ramadan,” said Khan.
One of the main issues with Chartwells catering for MSA during Ramadan lies within the fact that the types of foods that are served are not aligned with Islam culture. “This is a very special month for us. The food given to us during this month needs to have nutritional and spiritual value. Chartwells has tried to support us by supplying us with our food during Ramadan, but the fact is that they have screwed up multiple times in ways that have affected students. For example, Chartwells has given us cookies with alcohol content in them which is against Islam. What is more disheartening is that the College did not correct Chartwells’ errors regarding Ramadan,” remarked El-Tair.
El-Tair, Khan, and the Executive Board have been fighting an uphill battle for years to get MSA the respect they deserve. However, as full-time students, it has been difficult for El-Tair, Khan, and the Executive Board to focus their time and energy on ensuring the Trinity administration and Chartwells pays the deserved respect to MSA.
“It is hard to make the administration listen to us when it is just college kids fighting for what we need. If someone, such as a program director, was fighting for us, I feel there could be significant change. It is not our obligation to be communicating with Chartwells or catering services because we are constantly fearful that Chartwells will not give us enough food during Ramadan. If you look at other religious groups at Trinity, they have program directors to facilitate negotiations between students and administration. With Nur and I and the E-Board doing all this work alone to ensure our needs are met, a lot of our time trying to do work has been taken up,” said El-Tair.
By raising awareness of the issues that the MSA at Trinity is facing, Khan, El-Tair, and the Executive Board hope that the MSA community is seen, heard, and respected. Additionally, they hope that the Trinity administration puts pressure on Chartwells to change the future of Ramadan at Trinity.
“When we have made Trinity aware of the issues we are facing, they seem supportive. However, at the end of the day, Trinity has never helped us put any pressure on Chartwells to change how Ramadan is executed. However, there have been people who have helped us along the way. For example, thank you very much to Chaplain Halley and Jennifer Sullivan for the continued support,” said El-Tair.
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