As representatives from the campus’ faith-based groups look on in excitement, Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president of education Melissa Palermo cuts though the red ribbon with gold scissors officially launching the school’s first official multifaith room. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Ryerson’s faithful have a place to call their own

  • February 3, 2013

Downtown Toronto campus opens multi-faith room

TORONTO - The Ryerson Students’ Union, in collaboration with the university’s administration, launched the campus’ first official multi-faith room Jan. 24.

“We have over 150 campus groups and a number of faithbased groups are represented within that and they require a lot of space on campus,” said Melissa Palermo, the student union’s vicepresident of education. “As the population grows here at Ryerson it is crucial to engage in discussions about how to best serve and create important spaces on campus so students can thrive not only academically but also spiritually.”

In the works since the motion to create such a space was unanimously passed during the union’s fall 2011 semi-annual general meeting, the third floor room at 111 Gerrard St. drew about 50 students and university staff to the mid-day ribbon cutting ceremony.

According to Palermo the efforts to secure this space were in response to the needs of the 12 faith-based groups active on the downtown Toronto campus that account for about one-third of all rooms booked through the student union. Although a multifaith drop-in room has existed in The Student Centre for a number of years, the inability to book it for exclusive use limited the type of events that could be hosted there.

“This space is truly a testament to the statement that student actions works,” said Palermo. “It took a lot to secure this space. It took research, lobbying and collaboration to make this space happen.”

Julia Hanigsberg, the university’s vice-president of administration and finance, echoed this sentiment.

“This really was the product of a tremendous amount of work by the (student union),” said Hanigsberg. “As Melissa said, we know the importance of what happens in the classroom but everything that happens outside of the classroom is equally important in terms of building our community.”

Oriana Bertucci, director of the Ryerson Catholic Campus Ministry, is excited about the opportunities the multi-faith room offers.

“It is a huge commitment and I’m really excited that the university is willing to give us space and to designate space for the faith groups on campus,” she said. “We’re already planning to have Ash Wednesday Mass here on campus.”

Bertucci said the room, able to accommodate up to 70 people, will be used by the ministry to host guest speakers, group discussions and executive meetings.

Ryerson’s branch of Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish campus group with a presence on more than 550 campus, also plans to take full advantage of the space, said local president Mitch Reiss.

“With the creation of this new space I really feel that it will give us more of an opportunity to have events,” said Reiss. “This room has been a really good step to creating more space and more communication but it’s just the first step. In the future I’m hoping that there will be more spaces dedicated towards helping to create partnerships and inter-cultural relationships.”

Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said opening the multi-faith room shows the freedoms that are enjoyed on campus.

“Every student has a mind of their own, a faith of there own and it’s one of the freedoms that we can enjoy,” he said.” We would support all those freedoms of students whether they have faith or no faith or whatever the faith they have; it’s part of who we are at the university.”

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