Student Government Voices Support for Middle East Studies Program, World AIDS Day and Students Observing Ramadan

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NYU’s Student Government Assembly approved three letters of support regarding the observance of Ramadan, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and World AIDS Day on Thursday.

Ramadan is a month-long Muslim holiday that involves daily fasting from dawn to dusk and consistent praying. Last semester, Ramadan fell during the academic school year and will continue to for the next 10 years.

The letter called for NYU to publically condemn Islamaphobia, modify exam periods to accommodate Muslim prayer services and to extend Kimmel Center for University Life and GCASL hours during Ramadan. In addition, the letter requested a safe ride service through which Muslim students can go to and from prayer services at night. The letter was presented by SGA Vice-Chairperson and CAS senior Kosar Kosar.

“President Andrew Hamilton has publicly stated that academic success is the main mission of the university,” the letter reads. “However, in an age of rampant Islamophobia, NYU must commit to ensuring the safety of Muslim students on its campus in order to continue and uphold its core emphasis on academic success.”

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The second letter was in support of the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, a joint effort at Duke University and the University of North Carolina to promote and uphold a Middle East Studies curriculum at both universities and encourage cooperation between the two.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education accused the program of bias and called for a restructuring of the curriculum to include more positive perspectives on religions besides Islam, leading SGA to voice support for it on Thursday.

“This is blatant Islamophobia and highlights the desire of the Department of Education to vilify Islam as they oppose any narrative that does not portray the religion negatively,” the letter reads.

The DOE claimed the program “lack[s] balance as it offers very few, if any, programs focused on the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East” in a letter to UNC.

SGA called upon the DOE to stop restricting curriculums at institutions of higher education, particularly those centered on religion. Additionally, the letter asked the DOE to drop its threat to pull funding from the consortium.

Senator at-Large and CAS sophomore John Kallas, who presented the support letter, added that the stifling of academic content by federal agencies sets a dangerous precedent.

Kallas accused the DOE of attempting to weaponize Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars religion-based discrimination, among other things.

The third letter of support addressed World AIDS Day, which falls on Dec. 1. SGA referenced the Undetectable=Untransmittable campaign, which strives to destigmatize issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. Using this campaign as a framework, SGA demanded that NYU officially recognize World AIDS Day, while improving education about preventative measures on campus such as PrEP, a pill taken to prevent contracting HIV, and PEP, a medication taken within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. 

Additionally, the letter demanded NYU Wellness Exchange hire an HIV and AIDS professional to improve mental health for HIV-positive students.

“Despite the presence of a ‘sexpert’ counselor on campus (something most students remain unaware of), the student body has, for many years, experienced a shortage in the availability and accessibility of sexual health resources on campus,” the letter reads. “[S]tudents living with HIV/AIDS on our campus struggle with a complete absence of support, as well as appropriate physical and mental health resources.”

Email Lisa Cochran at [email protected]

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