UI to reimburse missed meals during Ramadan

By Meghan O'Kelly

Muslim students are adapting their campus lifestyles to the observance of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Occurring this year from sunset on Sept. 12 through Oct. 11, all willing able-bodied Muslims are required to fast between sunrise and sunset in addition to following other various practices.

University Housing is offering two options to fasting residents. Students may prepare sack meals for breakfast and lunch by notifying the supervisor upon entering the dining room. Students can also track their lunch and dinner meals missed during Ramadan and contact the University Housing Office to request reimbursement for the raw food cost of their missed meals. This cost is $2.05 for lunch and $3 for dinner.

Students who do not eat lunch or dinner meals during Ramadan will receive a maximum of seven lunch and seven dinner credits per week during the month. Students on the Six Classic plan will receive a maximum of six dinner credits each week.

Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing, said that the option is part of University Housing’s commitment to accommodate all students.

“We try to be as inclusive as we can for people and their beliefs,” she said.

Fatima Chishti is a resident advisor in the Florida Avenue Residence Halls and a member of the Muslim Student Association and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Having participated in the University’s offer since her freshman year, she thinks the University should be able to credit students more money for each missed meal.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, definitely, but I don’t believe it’s the best (University Housing) can do, and I don’t believe they fully understand the needs of Muslim students,” Chishti, junior in LAS, said. “It’s a religious obligation that we’re trying to adhere to.”

Although the dollar values of lunch and dinner credits are $6.95 and $9.95, respectively, Ruby explained that the difference in reimbursement comes from the preparation cost of the meals. This includes paying employees, utilities and other factors in maintaining dining halls.

“If you look at the real cost of the meal itself, I don’t see the reasoning behind them giving us this amount instead of the actual meal plan cost per meal as opposed to just the raw food cost,” Chishti said. “If we’re not getting the proper nutrition throughout our day, we’re not getting our money’s worth without our food.”

Naeem Sheikh, graduate student, regularly attends the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center, 106 S. Lincoln Ave.

As an undergraduate student at Hamilton College in New York, he worked to get a similar program started.

“Having gone through the steps of establishing (the program), I can appreciate the value of such a gesture in the dining halls,” he said, explaining that the hectic lives of college students make observing Ramadan especially difficult.

“It’s a great service to the Muslim students on campus,” he added.

Hatim Rahman, sophomore in Business, is the director of the University chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He is satisfied with the University’s refund and said that it seems the communication effort has increased this year.

“In the past, not even older students knew about it,” he said, adding that he found out about the Ramadan refund option last year because he had older siblings on campus. “This year Housing is making a greater effort to meet students halfway and let them know.”