Meditation rooms, or space for religious observance, are quickly becoming commonplace in public spaces such as hospitals and airports. But few universities, including the University of Wisconsin, make such spaces available to students.
A meditation or spirituality room would be a small measure to accommodate students, and it is an important task for a public university such as UW, Naman Siad, the spokesperson for the Muslim Students Association, said in an email to The Badger Herald.
“It’s something that is often shunned or not talked about on campus, but it is something that is very important to a lot of students here at UW,” Siad said.
According to staff at Memorial Union, no rooms are currently available for meditation or spiritual practices. There are rooms available at Union South, but these rooms must be reserved by a group and are not available to individuals, Union staff said.
There was previously a single room designated for meditation in the Memorial Union, but it has since been shut down due to construction, Siad said. Rooms like these are important to Muslim students because they often have trouble finding space for their five daily prayers, she said.
These rooms have potential beyond religious practices as well, Andrew O’Donnell of Yoga, Empowerment and Services Plus, said. These spaces can serve as an “oasis” for students, faculty and staff alike, O’Donnell said.
“I think these rooms should be placed in all ‘high-traffic’ areas,” O’Donnell said, adding such rooms should be available in student unions, libraries, dorms and possibly in class buildings for faculty and staff to use.
Even though UW is a public university, it is important for students to take care of their mental states, O’Donnell said, regardless of whether that is through religion, mindfulness or meditation.
“I absolutely think that the UW should have more quiet spaces on campus,” he said. “I mean they have these rooms in hospitals and airports, why not in universities?”
According to its website, Michigan State University is the only other Big 10 school that offers a meditation or reflection room available to all students. Several other Big Ten schools offer meditation spaces for large groups or classes, but Michigan State is the only campus with a dedicated room for individual use.
It will be interesting to see how meditation rooms work out at other universities across the country, O’Donnell said. UW has an atmosphere of open-mindedness that is perfect for this type of venture, he said.
“UW should look into creating new spaces for students and faculty,” O’Donnell said. “They do not have to be reserved for religious use, but they can be a quiet place. These rooms could serve as an escape for faculty and staff from the competitive atmosphere that UW has.”
On a campus where new yoga or meditation studios seem to pop up over night, he said rooms like these would benefit the campus community as a whole, particularly on a campus where the pressure to succeed is intense.
Correction: There is a reflection space available in the Red Gym along with a “health room” in Union South, that are first come, first served. A similar space is included in the Memorial Union Reinvestment design plans. We regret the error.