Some problems are so easy to fix that there’s almost no excuse for their existence.
The lack of a nondiscriminatory prayer and meditation space at UCLA is one of these problems. For years, it seemed as if the prayer space has been used as a political promise by Undergraduate Students Association Council candidates of all types – from former Internal Vice President Avinoam Baral to current General Representative 2 Aaliya Khan.
Now, it seems like something may be happening. In April, USAC officers voted unanimously on a resolution that called on the administration to establish an on-campus, nondenominational prayer and meditation space. Earlier this month, Khan presented a proposal for the space at an Associated Students UCLA services committee meeting. The discussion about the proposal will continue at the next ASUCLA’s board of directors meeting on Dec. 4.
It’s good that the discussion is moving forward, as the creation of an open prayer and meditation space is long overdue. To avoid letting this issue get pushed further down the timeline over and over again, ASUCLA should immediately arrange a temporary space to use as a pilot for a more permanent solution.
There is a good reason so many colleges, including other UCs, have adopted prayer and meditation spaces. These spaces give students without access to denominational resources a chance to practice their beliefs in a more private and comfortable place.
And the lack of religious resources is a reality in the small community of Westwood, which cannot possibly support the immensely diverse needs of the UCLA student population. And since most students lack mobility, it is difficult for them to find resources outside of the village, making a central, on-campus location a must.
For example, many Muslim students, who have been some of the biggest proponents for a nondenominational prayer space, pray behind Kerckhoff Hall between parked trucks and garbage bins. The closest mosque to UCLA is in Culver City.
Though Muslim students might see the biggest immediate benefit, they are not the only ones who can make use of the addition. That’s why the proposal saw widespread support, including from representatives from other denominations such as Baral, who is prominent in the Jewish community.
There is no question that a simple nondiscriminatory prayer space could be a significant addition to the campus for many students, and it would come at very little cost.
However, Bob Williams, the executive director of ASUCLA, warns that things wouldn’t be that simple. According to his email statement, there are currently no open spaces available that would be good for a prayer and meditation space, and ASUCLA would need to weigh the impact of modifying an existing space.
Yet while the logistics to create the space might require some finessing, the task cannot ultimately be too difficult. The space does not have to be particularly large, and the nondenominational nature of the space means that it doesn’t need any complex arrangements.
Not only that, but the benefits of even a temporary space would be enormous. If the pilot program doesn’t get the traffic it needs to continue, then so be it. But logistical problems that can be easily solved shouldn’t stand in the way of providing this crucial resource to students.
Given this, it seems strange to say that there are no good spaces available. This isn’t a matter of logistics; it’s a matter of will.
Luckily, ASUCLA seems open to the idea of working through these issues. A promise of a pilot program would be a good start.