Even on this 936-acre campus, I still have difficulties finding a space to pray — especially in the middle of the day when the hustle and bustle of classes make it difficult to travel back to my dorm and pray. Thankfully, the University of Wisconsin has designated reflection spaces for on campus that allow students like myself to reflect and pray.
These spaces are important and necessary for students and faculty alike. Some Badgers need to perform religious prayers in an enclosed space, and these reflection spaces absolutely make them feel more comfortable in embracing their beliefs. Others might need a quiet space to reflect and take a break from their busy college lives, boosting mental positivity and confidence. Those who find yoga as a way to express themselves will also find these spaces very handy, as finding a place to practice yoga in the middle of the campus is not always easy.
I use these spaces on a daily basis to perform religious prayers and simply take a break from my exhausting study sessions. I also know friends who use this space for yoga, meditation or quick nap — it serves many functions, regardless of the religious beliefs of the users.
Aside from the fact that these spaces cater to many needs of the school community, I see the establishment of these reflection spaces as proof that UW is on its way to promoting greater inclusivity and diversity. Coming to Madison as a Muslim, one of the biggest concerns I had was that I would not be able to fully practice my religion — especially if I need to pray in the middle of the day in between my busy and congested classes.
These reflection spaces serve as a solution to my concerns — allowing me to fully practice what I believe without any worries. Reflection spaces are proof that my campus is trying to cater to the needs of all members of its community, thus promoting diversity and celebrating differences. Seeing that my campus is well-aware of what I need — especially in religion and mental health-related issues — makes me feel so much more welcome on campus and joy to be a Badger.
But these reflection spaces are still in dire need of developments. During my SOAR session last year, I asked one of the student employees about where I could find a multi-faith space on campus or simply a space that I could use to pray. To my disappointment, all I received was a confused face.
After working with Associated Students of Madison as an intern on this issue, I came to learn that there are reflection spaces on campus located at Union South, College Library, the Red Gym and the SAC. But many students do not know anything about these spaces.
The information on these spaces is not well-circulated or centralized. There is no designated body on campus that works on coordinating these different spaces on campus — which makes it harder for regular users to learn about and make the best use of all provided spaces.
What’s more, these reflection spaces are all located in the heart of the campus. Having midday classes in Agricultural Hall or the Nursing School would definitely present a challenge, as there would not be enough time to run all the way to College Library in between classes. It is so important to have these spaces available around different parts of this very large campus.
In an effort to reach these goals, I am working with ASM representative Aiman Shafiq, the International Student Services and the Multicultural Student Center to centralize information on current reflection spaces and advocate for more reflection spaces on campus.
Despite the need for more development, I am truly grateful for the attention the university gave this issue. But it’s important for all UW community members to start making the best use of these spaces. Let people around you know about these spaces — you never know how much this will mean to them. Don’t let these rooms be a waste of space.
Agalia Ardyasa ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in economics and intending to major in business.