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USAC approves resolution to establish nondenominational prayer space

Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative 1 Manjot Singh sponsored a resolution calling for a space on campus for nondenominational prayer and meditation. (Eva Sidhu/Daily Bruin)

By Melody Teng

April 15, 2015 12:14 a.m.

Undergraduate student government officers voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution that calls on administration to establish an on-campus, nondenominational prayer and meditation space.

The resolution proposes a permanent prayer and meditation space on campus reserved for students of different faiths or no faith who wish to observe their religious or spiritual practices.

UCLA is currently the only UC campus without a permanent space dedicated to prayer and meditation, according to the resolution.

The resolution builds off a platform of last year’s Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative 1 Sam Haws who tried to establish a prayer space at the Wooden Center. In an interview for USAC officer evaluation with The Bruin last year, Haws said he stopped advocating for a prayer space after being turned away by officials at the Wooden Center. Some students have used the center’s Legacy Room for prayer even though the room was not designed specifically for that purpose.

UCLA cannot confirm Haws’ request to the Wooden Center, said UCLA spokesperson Alison Hewitt in a statement.

She added that the center’s Legacy Room has been available as a prayer and meditation space for groups and individuals since 2010. She said the center provides a studio room for Muslim students to use for prayer each Friday and that Wooden Center officials are in talks with the Muslim Student Association to allow for a daily prayer space.

“(UCLA) seeks to provide Bruins with avenues to express their faith on and around campus,” Hewitt said in the statement.

Manjot Singh, current USAC general representative 1 and a sponsor of the resolution, said many students have called for such a space for years.

He said he doesn’t know how the project would be funded, but he added he thinks the space would not cost too much as it would only require removing existing furniture.

Singh said he hopes funding would come from the UCLA administration, but if UCLA does not allocate the funding it needs, USAC would have to look for alternative sources for financing. If the resolution passes, USAC plans to call for conversion of a meeting room in Ackerman Union into the space, Singh said.

Singh added that the resolution will benefit him personally.

“As a Sikh American, I practice meditation, but I feel that I have been disengaged from my religion due to the lack of facilities on campus that support meditation and prayer,” he said.

Avinoam Baral, USAC president and a sponsor of the resolution, said that a potential problem hindering the project is the limited amount of space on campus to accommodate proposed projects. If such a space were established, students and organizations would need to reserve time slots to use the space.

Jessica Gerards, a fourth-year psychobiology student who holds a position on Campus Crusade for Christ’s leadership board said she thinks it would be valuable to have a quiet space on campus to reflect on one’s relationship with God.

Yet she said she is unsure whether the space would be beneficial to all students. She said she feels conflicted about whether the administration should fund something that might not benefit all students equally. She said some students might not see the need for the space.

She said, as a Christian, she has no trouble finding a space on campus to pray, but added she sees why others, including Muslim students, would have a greater need for a specific space devoted to prayer and meditation.

Wali Kamal, a third-year applied mathematics student and president of the Muslim Student Association, said that in the past it has been very difficult for Muslim students to pray on campus.

He said that Muslim students have to pray on the concrete behind Kerckhoff Hall.

“We support and hope for the materialization of this initiative,” Kamal said.

Kamal said others might be concerned the prayer space would constitute a violation of the separation of church and state, especially for a public university like UCLA. He said he thinks making the prayer and meditation space nondenominational so that it is not affiliated with any religious institution would prevent any potential conflict.

He said that a lot of other schools, including USC and all other UC campuses, have already taken steps to create a religious and meditation space, and he thinks it is time for UCLA to address this need.

Singh said he plans to continue dialogue with the administration about instituting a prayer space now that the resolution has passed.

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