The Claremont University Consortium (CUC) hired an interim part-time Protestant chaplain, Reverend O. Leon Wood, and an interim part-time Muslim-life coordinator, Safa Plenty, this fall to join the staff of the McAlister Center.
These additions came after the Claremont Colleges Muslim Student Association (MSA) rallied support for Muslim representation within the chaplaincy. In March, students in MSA drafted and sent a petition to the Deans of Students of the Claremont Colleges, calling for the CUC to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain.
“Because of those challenges Muslim students face, we felt there was a strong need for someone to be there talk with, someone who can relate to our struggles,” said Leyth Swidan PO ’16, MSA president. “We made our voices heard.”
In addition, the Chaplaincy Review Committee, which was formed last year in order to review the efficacy of the chaplaincy's current structure, recommended that the chaplaincy hire a Muslim staff member in its June report to the Council of Presidents.
Before last fall, when Protestant chaplain Brad Tharpe resigned, the chaplaincy consisted of a Catholic chaplain, a Protestant chaplain, and a Jewish chaplain. Wood and Plenty are the chaplaincy's first ever part-time chaplains.
“The chaplaincy is a full time job,” Wood said. “In order to be effective … it takes a full-time effort.”
Both Wood and Plenty look forward to working with the student community and hope to create positive change.
As the first Muslim-life coordinator, Plenty said that she will focus on “fostering community” and “developing programs that assist Muslim students in spiritual formation and growth.” Coordinating speakers for Friday sermons and holy day celebrations will be an integral part of her job, she said.
Wood said that he will try “to bring an openness” and “a desire to be of service” to the student body.
“Sometimes, students need a friend, someone to talk to other than the administration,” he said.
According to Pomona history professor Kenneth Wolf, the chaplains aim to serve all the religious or spiritual needs of 7C students. Last year, the Chaplaincy Review Committee evaluated proposed changes to the structure of the chaplaincy and made a number of recommendations about the chapaincy's administration and organization. The review concluded in June 2015, when the committee presented a report on the chaplaincy to the Council of Presidents of the Claremont Colleges.
With budgetary concerns, the needs of students and the structure of the institution in mind, the presidents of the 7Cs will now deliberate on the structure of the chaplaincy.
Although Plenty and Wood both expressed uncertainty about the future of the chaplaincy, they were also hopeful that positive changes would continue to be made.