Because of significant physical changes and construction projects at Grinnell College Iowa, Hindus are worried about the fate of existing dedicated “Hindu Prayer Room” with 24-hour access. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, urged College President Dr. Raynard S. Kington and Trustees Chair Patricia Finkelman to ensure that spirituality and worship services of the Hindu students were not affected during this transition period.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that if murti of Lord Ganesha, reportedly installed by a priest in the existing “Hindu Prayer Room”, was moved to a new “Hindu Prayer Room”; administration should provide assistance to the college Hindu students group to reinstall it with proper ancient rituals by a priest. Moreover, they expected the new “Hindu Prayer Room” be of the same (or bigger) size as the existing one, as it was one of the attractions for Hindu students to come to Grinnell, Rajan Zed noted. “The Scarlet & Black”, student newspaper of Grinnell, in news posted on February 17, however, wrote: “…the new building will feature a significant reduction in size of the Hindu Cultural Suite…” Zed hoped that Grinnell would continue to recognize the intersection of spirituality and education and respond to the spiritual needs of Hindu students. Dedicated Hindu prayer/meditation room for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise helped in the personal growth of Hindu students.
Located in the “Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice” (CRSSJ), which is relocating; the existing “Hindu Prayer Room” is reportedly accessible to students from eight am to 12 midnight every day when the College is in session, but by request, a student can have 24-hour access using their student ID to enter the building. Meanwhile, Debra Lukehart, Vice President for Communications of Grinnell College, in an email response to Rajan Zed, wrote: “…transition plans have not yet been finalized…. The Hindu Prayer Room that is currently housed in the CRSSJ facility will necessarily move this summer…, but we expect a dedicated space will be identified.”
Grinnell College, founded in 1846 as a Congregationalist college, which claims to offer “world-class education”, consistently ranked among the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. With about 1,600 students, it offers 39 majors and concentrations with over 500 course offerings. It claims “strong commitment to social responsibility” and its library contains about one million books and documents. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.