UC Berkeley students to have dedicated meditation space

For the first time in two decades, UC Berkeley students will have space on campus solely designated for meditation, prayer and reflection.

The “reflection space”-part of the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative plan to redesign Lower Sproul Plaza by 2017-will be available to individual students for personal use or for renting out on formal occasions.

Though the reflection area will be non-denominational, it has been a central goal for the Muslim community for many years, said Joseph Guzman, co-chair of the Lower Sproul Student Council.

According to junior Negad Zaky, a member of the Muslim Students Association, Muslim students’ five daily prayers attract awkward glances from other people on campus.

“It’s not a laborious affair, but it sure does cause a stir if you have no place to do it other than Upper Sproul, the (Multicultural Center), or random grassy areas in a passing period,” Zaky said in an e-mail. “This prayer space would mean a lot more than mere convenience to me and to many of my Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Many of the spaces Muslim students currently use for prayer are often occupied or are being used for other events, according to Independent Senator Huda Adem.

Guzman said the room will be beneficial to the entire student body, regardless of their religious beliefs.

“In the daily grind of student’s lives it’s important that we have a space on campus where we can sit down, relax and get in touch with our spiritual lives however we see fit,” he said.

Doug Oman, assistant adjunct professor of public health, said this room would provide students a healthier outlet for stress instead of drinking or doing drugs.

Steve Giahos, president of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at UC Berkeley, said the reflection spot could be good for those who prefer a more private area to pray or reflect.

The creation of a campus prayer space has been proposed by the ASUC in the past, but was never created due to limited space on campus, Adem said.

Nadesan Permaul, director of the ASUC Auxiliary, said the Tilden Room in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building was used as a meditation space about 20 years ago, but was closed due to security issues.

Zaky said above all, the reflection space would foster greater understanding between different spiritual and religious groups on campus.

“I do also see it as a place that will promote the invitation of dialogue between different individuals and groups-all with a similar goal that they can share and find solidarity in,” he said in an e-mail.

[via Daily Californian]

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