Editor’s note 04/07/2023 at 1:28 p.m.: This article mistakingly reported that Oliver Goodrich was hired in May of 2022. This has been corrected to reflect that he began working in June of 2022.
A committee on campus worked to create formalized accommodations for students observing Ramadan this year. The Muslim Student Association (MSA), in conjunction with the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, dining staff and other administrative staff, started meeting regularly in the fall to plan dining policy changes to better support students observing the fast this month.
According to the Islamic calendar, Ramadan began on March 22 and will end on April 21, corresponding with the sighting of the crescent moon. During this time, observing Muslims only eat before sunrise and after sunset.
Last year, considering the shifting sunrise and sunset times, dining halls were often closed during the times when observers could eat, leaving students with limited options for finding food. While accommodations were available, it was not clear to all students how to access them.
The College subsequently faced criticism from students for not clearly providing accommodations for Ramadan. Director of the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life Oliver Goodrich, who was hired last May, met with MSA leaders to address their concerns with open communication.
“Out of those conversations, a plan began to take shape whereby we would form this Ramadan accommodations working group, where we would invite not just MSA leaders to the table but other administrators, some staff, some faculty and the dining team,” Goodrich said. “The point was not just coming up with better Ramadan accommodations but also trying to bridge some gaps in religious literacy, cultural competence and trust building.”
Following these initial conversations with students, a committee was formed by the Rachel Lord Center to communicate needs to dining and administrative staff. The committee included four students from the MSA and Bowdoin Student Government, two professors, two representatives from dining, and representatives from Residential Life and Student Activities.
“It was a lot of resolving conflicts that didn’t need to exist and put[ting] them down before they started sprouting,” Ahmed Albayaty ’25 said.
Dining provided students with reusable to-go containers to take food from dining halls for the Iftar, the evening breaking of the fast. The kitchen in 30 College is also restocked every two days for the Suhoor, the morning breaking of the fast.
The 30 College prayer room is open 24/7, and a daily Maghrib, the first prayer after sunset, is held in the dining room followed by a communal meal. Additionally, the MSA hosts a weekly Jummah prayer on Fridays in 30 College for members of the club.
Dining has also been fielding feedback from students taking advantage of these accommodations to continue communication with students throughout the holiday. Overall, students have been pleased with the changes this year.
“There was more excitement around Ramadan, and people were more aware of it, which I was very happy about. I feel like last year people were not very aware of it, and I think that was the reason accommodations were not provided,” Yusur Jasim ’25 said.
These changes also come on the heels of the appointment of Muslim Life Advisor Sulwan Ahmed ’22.
“Ramadan is going to continue to impact life at Bowdoin in increasing ways over the years, not only because our Muslim student population is continuing to grow as the College becomes more global majority, but it’s moving earlier by eleven days every year,” Goodrich said. “In 2030, we are going to have two Eids in the academic year—one in January and one in December. So, I think it’s important that we took the time this year to bring everyone to the table to build that relationship and build a better understanding of the Muslim student experience.”
The MSA will host interfaith events during this time in collaboration with Hillel, the Catholic Student Association and other religious groups on campus to open dialogue across faiths. The MSA also plans to host a campus-wide Eid celebration the weekend of April 22 to celebrate the end of the fast.