Penn State's Atheist/Agnostic Association (PSAAA) was given a room in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, last fall. Since then, many have questioned its placement.
Many religious student groups, such as the Christian Student Fellowship and the Newman Catholic Association, though supportive of PSAAA as an existing organization, are a bit uneasy about the PSAAA's presence in Pasquerilla. Some think PSAAA's office would be better suited in a non-faith-based building, such as the Paul Robeson Cultural Center's Heritage Hall.
"They have every bit of a right to express how they feel to other people and to exist as an organization," said Jake Comerford, a member of Newman. "But in a center that struggles to give space to organizations for worship, they would probably be better situated in a place like the HUB."
Comerford (junior-mechanical engineering) stressed his view was not that PSAAA does not "belong," but Pasquerilla is in need of space for spiritual and worship services. "PSAAA has its place, and that place should not be in Pasquerilla," he said.
Robert Smith, director of ethics and religious affairs at Pasquerilla, confirmed the building is in need of more space, adding there is a waiting list to obtain a room within the center.
However, since the Office of Student Affairs recognized PSAAA as a religious organization and since PSAAA applied for a room in Pasquerilla, the process was the same as it is for every other group, Smith said -- conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. Smith said if the procedure was not done this way, a lawsuit was possible.
PSAAA President Dan Farbowitz said the group's presence in Pasquerilla is more relevant than many would think, saying PSAAA is listed as a faith-based group on campus.
"It's good for us to have a room so that students of other faiths, or of no faith, can stop by and have a dialogue with us," Farbowitz (senior-physics, math and philosophy) said.
PSAAA originally intended to host office hours and have interfaith dialogue in the space, said Yasic Naumenko, a member of PSAAA. Though the group has not implemented these activities because of internal issues, PSAAA hopes to sometime in the near future, Naumenko (senior-physics and math) added.
For now, the room's main purpose is for storage of paraphernalia PSAAA uses during rallies, including signs, desks, lawn chairs, banners and religious texts from all faiths, including the Bible, Torah and even the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Farbowitz said.
Morgan Ernst, a member of the Penn State Navigators, a Christian student fellowship, sees PSAAA's presence as potentially positive.
"If people are searching for God or faith then there's no better place for them to be than Pasquerilla," Ernst (sophomore-nutrition) said. "Hundreds of students meet there every week to praise the name of God. It may just expose [PSAAA] to our faiths."
For Father Matthew Laffey, director of the Catholic Campus Ministry, it is no question PSAAA should not be in Pasquerilla.
"It was always agreed upon by the affiliate staff that we wouldn't do anything to offend other affiliate staff members," Laffey said. "I don't know how you bring something in here that's diametrically opposed to what is intended to be done here."
Laffey also stressed PSAAA is "not spiritual."
"I mean, spiritual is in the name of Pasquerilla Spiritual Center for crying out loud," Laffey said. "The center is trying to accommodate everyone and in turn creating a less spiritual place."