Student Advisory Board Strives for Inclusion and Advocacy

The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life’s Student Advisory Board is a group of students that gather to advise the Center on a variety of things. Part of our job is to help plan events, like vigils and contemplative spaces, and relay to the team what we need from them as individuals and as a student body.

Members of the board come from different belief systems and faith traditions to help foster an interfaith student voice in the Center. We meet once a week, have lunch, and discuss what is happening in the Center and how we can help. We provide feedback on recent CRSL events and toss around ideas for new ones, too. We also laugh quite a bit. But the biggest part of being on the Ad Board is being a part of the community. The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life is more than an office. It’s a place of worship, a quiet place to study, a home to find people always willing to listen, and it wouldn’t be possible without its student orgs and staff.

Our main focus this semester has been figuring out how to make this wonderful space accessible and meaningful for everyone and we’ve been shaping our events around that. The Ref-Election Night was born out of our own desire to disconnect from the stress of the election and take the opportunity to invite students who had never been to the Center before, opening the space for laughter and food during a difficult time. We are also in the middle of an ongoing push to put a Black Lives Matter banner on the front of Helen Hills Hills Chapel. While there are much more bureaucratic hoops to jump through than expected, the board and the Center are committed to making this happen. We firmly believe that the Center and Smith campus should openly supporting of the movement and our Black students, staff, and faculty. Even more so, we must be conscious of our own compliance with discriminatory and anti-black rhetoric. The Center is encouraging its associated religious orgs to amplify the Black voices in their own spaces and give Black students their own time and space in the chapel. We want the steps we take to be visible and open to input from students and staff alike.

This semester, my first working for the Center and on the Advisory Board, has been a learning experience. Not everything has gone off without a hitch. We have talked a lot about how we choose to frame the spaces we create, and how we can be more clear and productive. As we move forward into 2017, we are working towards finding balance in our work and care of ourselves and each other in a time of transition in the Center and our country.

— Maya Bonner ’18

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