UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

Unpacking SG’s case for a new Interfaith room at UNF

The day news broke that Student Government was discontinuing the interfaith room in the University of North Florida’s Student Union was being discontinued by Student Government, it was met with outrage from interfaith students, student activists and even current members of the legislative branch. 

One day later—Friday, June 30—Student Body President John Grosso addressed that criticism in an internal email, according to a copy acquired by Spinnaker. Read Grosso’s email in full here.

Grosso wrote that he decided not to re-sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—which created the space a year ago—because its stipulations were not followed. Some of those included that the Interfaith Center did not allocate money toward improving the space and did not provide all of the monthly usage reports, he wrote. 

Student Body President John Grosso. Courtesy of Student Government.

He noted that this distinction was not made to the media “in hopes that negativity would not be cast upon the Interfaith Center leadership.” But, the decision to discontinue the room ultimately had “absolutely nothing to do with a lack of understanding that students have the rights to religious freedoms on campus,” he wrote in the email. 

Instead, Grosso wrote that the agreement was made last year with the understanding that the Interfaith Center would “work towards finding permanent space, whether this would be made within the Student Union or elsewhere on campus in addition to the current Interfaith Center.”

However, that understanding wasn’t noted anywhere in the agreement that Spinnaker received a copy of, accessible here

Nathaniel Rodefer, who originally signed the agreement as student body president last year, told Spinnaker that there was “nothing formally or legally agreed upon” that would imply the Interfaith Center would be working toward finding a permanent space on campus aside from the Student Union one.

But what did the agreement say?

Written in Sep. 2022, the MOU was created to transform a Student Union Gray Lounge into an Interfaith Space for students to practice their religious, non-religious prayer and meditative needs. Three pages long, it outlined responsibilities for both Student Government and the Interfaith Center: four for the former and six for the latter. 

For their part, SG was in charge of funding, budget, procurement and modifications. Essentially, those all culminated in them being in charge of the money that funded any improvements to the room. 

On the flip side, the Interfaith Center would be in charge of the day-to-day maintenance of the space. They had to create entrance guidelines, assess the needs of UNF’s Interfaith student body and determine how the space could be improved, reporting the room’s usage and other maintenance concerns. 

Finally, they were responsible for the “creation, selection, or approval of designs” for additions such as privacy shades, window blockers, decoration or cosmetic enhancements, subject to approval by SG’s budget. 

Though the creation of the relabeled space was to fix a problem, it still had to be renewed every year whenever a new SG executive administration was sworn in. The Interfaith Center would be included in the assessment of whether the room should be renewed, but SG had the final say, according to the MOU. 

What does SG say? 

There have been two statements from SG since Spinnaker’s original article on June 29. The first was a joint statement from Interfaith Center Director Matt Hartley and Grosso on July 7 that outlined their shared desire to find a “permanent space on campus” for an interfaith room. Read that full statement here

Responding to questions from Spinnaker last week asking why SG said there was an agreement for the Interfaith Center to find another space when there wasn’t any section about that in the MOU, Grosso gave the following prepared statement:

“The reasoning stated was included from SG and Interfaith’s previous discussion from the understanding that the Interfaith Center would work towards finding permanent space, whether this would be made within the Student Union or elsewhere on campus in addition to the current Interfaith Center. That space would be up for review within a year, depending on its utilization and adherence to the MOU. It was never ‘canceled.’

“SG will continue to support and advocate the Interfaith Center’s advancement toward a permanent space and has had positive dialogue thus far between Students in leadership from the Muslim Student Association, Jewish Student Union, and the Interfaith Center itself. This is totally separate from the complications with the MOU in the Student Union space and should not be looped together.

“We are currently in assistance to advocate and support finding the Interfaith Center permeant additional prayer and reflection space while still meeting with students affected – and it will be good information for myself to have as the Space Study and Committee begins to consider this item. We are doing our best to help, and the current spaces that are being analyzed fall under the Interfaith Center to disclose when this will be available.”

Spinnaker requested a statement from Interfaith Director Matt Hartley about whether there will be additional Interfaith spaces for students at the start of the Fall semester and he gave the following response:

“The Interfaith Center is working with Student Government to ensure there are multiple spaces available and advertised for students to use for prayer and reflection in the Fall.”


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Carter Mudgett
Carter Mudgett, Reporter
Carter Mudgett is a University of North Florida student majoring in multimedia journalism. He was Spinnaker's editor-in-chief from August 2021 to December 2023. Carter led Spinnaker to be awarded a 2023 Online Pacemaker Award, and most recently placed second in the Society of Professional Journalists's Sunshine State Awards for "Best Coverage of LGBT Issues" in the college category. Backed by a passion for creative storytelling and accurate reporting, Carter typically covers education, gender and race issues.

Comments (0)

Spinnaker intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, slurs, defamation, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and will be removed if they do not adhere to these standards. Spinnaker does not allow anonymous comments, and Spinnaker requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All UNF Spinnaker Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *