Archive for Sunday, June 28, 2015

KU designates ‘reflection room’ for students of all faiths or no faith to pray, meditate

June 28, 2015

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A corner inside the library. An empty classroom. A low-traffic stairwell.

Shegufta Huma said she and other Muslim students at Kansas University have had to use those and whatever other spaces they can find for the 10- to 15-minute prayer sessions they pause for multiple times a day.

“KU never had any type of space that was specifically designed or allotted for people on campus to meditate or pray, whether that’s students, faculty or staff,” Huma said.

That will change starting this fall.

Alcove A, a small conference room in the Kansas Union, will be reserved as a non-denominational “reflection room” for Muslim and any other KU students, faculty or staff to pray or meditate while on campus.

Alcove A in the Kansas Union is located on level 3, also home to The Market cafeteria and dining area.

Alcove A in the Kansas Union is located on level 3, also home to The Market cafeteria and dining area. by Sara Shepherd

“The creation of this space will fill a great need on campus, allowing students to reflect, meditate and pray in a proper and peaceful location,” incoming Student Body Vice President Zach George said in a Student Senate statement announcing the room. “It is a small but important step toward making the University of Kansas a safer, more inclusive and diverse college community.”

George said establishing the room was a yearlong process involving the Student Senate, KU Office of Diversity and Equity, KU Memorial Unions, KU employees and Huma, who led the effort.

The alcove is envisioned as a temporary home for the reflection room until a permanent one can be established, said Nate Thomas, KU vice provost for diversity and equity.

"I’m really proud of the fact that students, faculty and staff all across campus were so united in this effort and offered their ideas and perspectives, as well as their support," Thomas said, in an email. "We’ll continue the process to create a permanent reflection room, and possibly more than one, for people to observe their beliefs."

Shegufta Huma

Shegufta Huma

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Huma, a rising junior from Wichita, is a student senator and served last year as president of KU’s Muslim Student Association.

She said many universities across the country, including others in Kansas, already have such a room.

KU’s Danforth Chapel, in the center of campus, is designated as nondenominational and is open to anyone for meditation and prayer. However, the chapel's days and hours are limited, and Huma said she finds it less welcoming for non-Christians.

“I don’t necessarily see that as a space that would be a safe space — as a person of a different faith, or perhaps no faith — to go inside and meditate,” Huma said.

Other spaces near campus welcome students to reflect or pray throughout the day, including the Islamic Center of Lawrence and Chabad at KU on 19th Street and the ECM on Oread Avenue.

But Huma said having the reflection room on campus proper is not only more convenient but important to students, on principle.

“It just really shows a commitment to integrating them into the larger Jayhawk community,” she said, “instead of relegating them to a closet or stairwell or some other non-campus area.”

Huma said she appreciated the KU administration and Memorial Union agreeing to open up the alcove, especially since conference rooms on campus are in high demand — which she cited as one of the biggest obstacles to the effort over the past year.

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel of Chabad said Jewish Center representatives participated in focus groups for the reflection room and agreed it should be accessible and convenient, as well as truly neutral and non-denominational.

“College students have a very, very hectic life with so much pulling them in so many different directions,” Tiechtel said. “I think it’s a beautiful idea to create a space on campus where, amidst the craziness of college life, the students can simply reflect."


The following rules apply to the Reflection Room, according to KU Student Senate:

Use of this space requires tolerance for all faiths, spiritual beliefs and practices. To make the reflection room available to the campus community, the following requirements apply:

• No sleeping.

• Only KU students, faculty, staff and accompanied guests are permitted.

• No candles, incense burning or other smoke, fragrance or flame is allowed.

• The space is open to all individuals at all times unless specifically reserved for Diversity and Equity Office use.

• Noise, conversation and music are prohibited and are to be kept to the strictest minimum.

• Use is restricted to purposes of personal reflection, meditation or prayer.

Comments

Kate Rogge 2 years, 2 months ago

People of faith have been praying and meditating without institutional assistance since the beginning of time, but NOW a special room is imperative for both religious and nonbelievers at a state university? That's what the bowling alley was for.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 2 months ago

This is just plain weird. First transgender half man/half woman icons for the restrooms with locks on the door. And now a "special" place to go for students to go and waste time. Who is spending time making education more available for the students regardless of whatever religion they profess to be?

Carol Bowen 2 years, 2 months ago

To me it looks like a meeting room. The windows deprive users of privacy. On the flip side, there was a lot of input. The windows provide security. I used a bowling alley when I was in college, but times change. Priorities change.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 2 months ago

Wow, I figured I would get skewered for this one!

Seriously...There are many churches of many religious flavors all around the campus. Most welcome students gladly.

And on another sour note, students are in college for learning and education. When they graduate, they will assumingly go find a job (hopefully) with an employer that expects them to be spending their time they are paid for working on the job with dedication. It is not very likely that most employers will be concerned about their "need to meditate and pray". That is usually after working hours. With the goals of students seeking education and knowledge, perhaps the "need to meditate and pray" can be somewhere else that it is an appropriate time to do so.

“I don’t necessarily see that as a space that would be a safe space — as a person of a different faith, or perhaps no faith — to go inside and meditate,” Huma said.

So is there going to be a guard at the door to prevent students from different faiths in the room at once? For ten or fifteen minutes at a time? Take a number?? This is really silly.

Christine Hammon 2 years, 2 months ago

Fred, college education does not mimic a workplace, as the academic setting provides the skills and specialized knowledge (depending on the level and area of study). Rarely does a student's time spent on campus resemble most employers expectations in terms of a work schedule.

For those facing moments, while on campus, where a space for quiet reflection and processing, with or without peers, that is safe, is a great resource and I applaud all who were involved.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 2 months ago

It doesn't exactly look like a room in which I would want to meditate - too sterile. I'd rather go home or go sit under a tree outside. Of course, I don't belong to a dogmatic religion that tells me when, where, and why to pray or meditate. I can even be meditating quietly on a noisy bus.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 2 months ago

Christine, what I was trying (weakly) to say is that it is well and good to have the desire to conform with the teachings of your religion. But do it on your own time. Some employers will even take a pretty dim view of people trying to be "religious" on the job. Granted, that this can be problematic for some folks, while you can get the college to conform to your religious needs, you might encounter some resistance even disregard of your religious beliefs and how your behavior might not be considered that you are the right "fit" for an employee at that company. Not fair or legal, you say but who ever told you that life would be easy or fair? Just some things to consider especially if your religion requires you to stop what you are doing in the middle of a job (or classwork) and go "meditate and pray".

Christine Hammon 2 years, 2 months ago

I, specifically and intentionally, used no reference to religion. I referred to a student's need to access a quiet, safe environment to process. As an agnostic and a nontrad UG and graduate student alumni, well, I can see a need for a designated space, such as this.

No, according to the narrow example you returned to, students can only "meditate and pray" " in the middle of classwork". For myself, the first situation that came to mind was September 11, 2001. No, I did not leave class that morning, instead I finished my scheduled class, then went straight to Hilltop and quietly snuck through a room of napping preschoolers, to my son's, and sat next to him, overcome with emotion, but nowhere else to reflect that day. I would have went to my son, but having access to a space that was not affiliated with a religion would have been welcomed. Please remember there are adults, with families, who do not identify with a religion, who are capable of using this room, for it's intended purpose, with regard to all academic and professional commitments, GT/As for example.

Pinball is my meditation, and how I survived graduate school, but alas, no bowling alley, no pinball machine. See? The need is greater now than ever, wink. And really, please, don't make 'you' statements regarding speculative statements. I did elaborate in hopes of clarifying my view and statements, but I am open to respectful debate. Thanks.

David Holroyd 2 years, 2 months ago

After thinking about facilities on the campus, why wasn't space available at the Sabatini Multicultural and Diversity center?

Isn't this a multicultural and diverse issue? Wil those women of Muslim faith share the space with the men of same faith at the same time?

Mike Riner 2 years, 2 months ago

My guess would be that KU (proper) recieves federal funds, therefore the "separation of chuch and state" argument might come into play. The KS Union, however, is "affiliated" with KU but considered a private entity. Just a guess on my part though.

Joseph Jarvis 2 years, 2 months ago

After thinking about facilities on the campus, why wasn't space available at the Sabatini Multicultural and Diversity center?

In my experience, the Office of Multicultural Affairs has failed to lead on some issues clearly in their court. For example, look at how SILC coordinates LGBT support you would expect OMA to coordinate.

Scott Burkhart 2 years, 2 months ago

“I don’t necessarily see that as a space that would be a safe space — as a person of a different faith, or perhaps no faith — to go inside and meditate,” Huma said.

What are you implying, Huma?

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 2 months ago

I have to admit that I was wondering the same thing.

If she had said, say, "comfortable", for example, I could understand it since, while Danforth is a nondenominational site, that merely means it's open to all Christians.

But not "safe"? That actually concerns me. Is she concerned that there are people who would resent a non-Christian meditating/praying at Danforth? If so, that attitude totally defeats what Danforth stands for as a Christian chapel (as in welcoming to ALL.)

Sadly, there are people who would be resentful of a non-Christian praying/meditating at a place like Danforth. People who consider themselves to be "Christians" but who would probably spit in Christ's face if he came up to them wearing a name tag and tried to shake their hand.

Chris Condren 2 years, 2 months ago

This is a giant step forward for KU! This room is fully equipped with a table and chairs. I have never seen a room more equipped for mediation. I am very proud of my school for coming up with this idea!, Imagine a room with a table and chairs for people to sit in. Wow. Go KU! Maybe some day we can build upon this by creating a safe room where worried and fearful young children can run and hide for thoughts and speech that challenges them to think independently.

Sara Shepherd 2 years, 2 months ago

Note from the reporter: The photo of Alcove A was taken last week, but it may not necessarily be configured the same way come fall, when it becomes the reflection room. Also, there are blinds on the windows that can be rolled up or down. — Sara Shepherd, LJW

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