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Meditation room makes headway

After extensive discussions among students about creating a safe space on campus for use in prayer and religious practices, the conversation has finally reached faculty.

Student+Senate+President+Halimeh+Edais+discusses+the+importance+of+a+meditation+room+during+an+Academic+Senate+Meeting+on+Oct.+13.
Student Senate President Halimeh Edais discusses the importance of a meditation room during an Academic Senate Meeting on Oct. 13.

Student Senate President Halimeh Edais discusses the importance of a meditation room during an Academic Senate Meeting on Oct. 13.

Shannon Rusche

Shannon Rusche

Student Senate President Halimeh Edais discusses the importance of a meditation room during an Academic Senate Meeting on Oct. 13.

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The meditation room has been an ongoing initiative for 10 years to create a safe space on campus for prayer, meditation and relaxation, and is getting closer to becoming reality, according to advocates.

The initiative has been driven by student activists from the Student Senate, religious clubs and veterans.

“The students are the ones who really initiated it,” said David Weinshilboum, the faculty advisor of the Muslim Student Association. “They went through the right channels, they brought it to the Social Responsibility Committee and the committee put it in front of the Academic Senate.”

A vote for approval on the project was held on Friday by the Academic Senate.

“I’m guessing it will pass, and that the academic senate will support it,” said Weinshilboum. “At that point, it’s really just a matter of where it goes and how to get it started.”

In an Academic Senate document regarding the “SRC Inclusiveness Initiative: Campus Meditation Space,” it states “Resolved, that the Cosumnes River College Academic Senate encourages the administration, in conjunction with the faculty and staff, to move forward with the creation of an inclusive space on campus without delay.”

Advocates for the room have similar ideas for its purpose and implementation.

“It’s important to have a serene place. A place of safety and refuge for students would be really huge to have here on campus,” said Weinshilboum.

There has been more movement with the initiative in the past year since faculty have gotten involved.

“The idea is that there should be a place for anyone in our campus community, students or faculty,” said Anthropology Professor Anastasia Panagakos. “There should be a place where they can meditate, reflect, pray or just be quiet and still. A place where they are not being bombarded by other people or noise or overstimulation.”

She said that studies show it is really important for people’s health that they have access to meditation spaces and practice mindfulness.

“What I want to make it as is you have to sign up for it as a class, just like the math and English center,” said Halimeh Edais, the current student senate president and leader of Muslim Student Association. “And then you sign in and sign out just so we can keep track of who’s coming in and out, so we don’t have any stray people coming in and messing it up or in case anyone is against religion.”

Students who practice their religion on campus currently fear for their safety.

“I want them to just feel included because me personally, as a muslim, I have to go behind the school to go pray, I have to go under the stairwell to pray,” Edais said. “I’m afraid that I’m going to get attacked, especially with the recent Islamophobic attacks that are happening now.”

There is currently a meditation room at American River College, California State University and University of California, Davis. Edais noted that there is a need for this type of space implemented at CRC.

“We have the library, and it’s supposed to be a quiet space, but when you think of the library, it’s not really something that’s quiet. So the meditation room would be there,” said Edais.

Muslim students have been going to the anthropology lab to pray when classes aren’t being held with the help of professors in the department, but Panagakos believes this isn’t sustainable.

“It’s been floating around for the last five to 10 years , and it hasn’t been able to gain traction,” said Panagakos. “So for me, it came up because the MSA has been using the anthropology lab for prayer, and I had no problem with that.

“I thought, yeah if we’re not using it for educational purposes then it’s great to be able to accommodate another group, but the only thing that troubled me about it was I felt like if we kept accommodating groups in these workarounds, then the campus itself was never going to take on the issue.”

Student Ambassador and former Student Senate President Freddy Mande spoke to students about the initiative’s ideas.

“Most of the students I talk to are actually for the idea to be implemented. The concern they have is when is it going to be done? That’s what the school is working on,” Mande said. “I focus on what kind of concerns students have, so some of them were maybe people shouldn’t take off their shoes or bring candles in the room, or about trying to have respect for each other and different religions. I had a really long list that we are considering.”

Professors said that the room would likely be in the new building to come in the following years.

Temporary solutions are being considered for the time being until there can be an official meditation space.

“So what we’re hoping is that maybe a permanent space is going to be found in the next two or three years because there is construction that is going to be happening,” said Panagakos. “But in the interim, maybe we can have a temporary space and faculty can pilot meaning they would monitor the space. For example, I would hold my Tuesday office hours over there.”

Walking into the meditation room, Edais describes that one would be seeing “prayer rugs, rosaries, just somewhere to chill. And if you want to bring your own little set up, you know no one will touch it because that’s yours and we’ll make sure of it because we have a sign-in.”

She wants to emphasize that despite the movement being led by the Muslim Student Association, this space is to be made for people of any religious or non-religious background.

These advocates hope more students will speak up and push for this change by speaking to the administration and the district.

“CRC is the most diverse campus in the district,” Edais said. “I want us to practice what we preach. We’re sitting there talking about being diverse, and an open, accepting campus, but we’re not taking the necessary steps to do it, so I feel like the meditation room would be one step towards it.”

CORRECTION: Halimeh Edais is the student senate president, not the student body president.

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