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Interfaith Room Restored at Augustana in South Dakota

January 12, 2023

Students of different religious backgrounds will be able to continue using a room designated for interfaith worship at Augustana University in South Dakota after ritual objects were reportedly removed from the room without informing students, the Argus Leader reported.

A group of clergy members from various faith traditions issued a press release Monday calling on the private Lutheran university to restore the religious items to their original place after students discovered the objects were moved to a less accessible and centrally located room. The clergy group, which includes Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Methodist leaders based in Nevada, asked Augustana University president Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to meet with affected students, formally apologize and return the original room to its former purpose. They also advocated for giving senior administrators religious and cultural sensitivity training.

A meeting between the affected students and administrators planned for Tuesday was canceled and the room was restored to students, according to the Argus Leader. Administrators plan to schedule a future meeting to discuss the issue.

Barsha Shah, a Hindu student who leads the campus interfaith group Better Together, told the Argus Leader this is “definitely a step in the right direction.”

Jill Wilson, director of public relations and communications at Augustana, said the incident was a “miscommunication.”

“The university is restoring the Interfaith Room and, in doing so, ensuring the proper care of these sacred items,” Wilson said in an email.

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Sara Weissman

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