Prayer rooms head to LMC

Robert Pierce

The Los Medanos College Academic Senate is beginning an initiative to create on-campus prayer rooms. LMC Associated President Marco McMullen, who was assisted by several faculty including Dean of Equity & Inclusion Sabrina Kwist, Dean of Student Success David Belman, Vice President of Business & Administrative Services Alexander Porter and President Bob Kratochvil, headed the effort.

   McMullen stated he has been working toward installing prayer rooms since the Fall 2017 semester, the start of his presidency, after being informed of the requests for such rooms by Director of Student Life Teresea Archaga. After months of research and planning on the topic, he spoke at the April 9 Academic Senate meeting, along with LMC instructor Scott Hubbard and students Azze Sanane and Michael Warren. Fellow student Hajer Ghaus was not able to attend but sent a letter into the meeting.

   “I am delighted to hear that our representatives and student senators have taken a keen interest in creating a meditation room for all students of various faiths… However, I must confess that I believe, in general, there is a lack of provision for students who would want to practice prayer at school,” said Ghaus in his letter.

   Ghaus went on the describe how, as a Muslim, being a full time student sometimes makes it difficult to be perform the five daily prayers required by his faith due to timing and a lack of security. He stated that beyond himself, any student of faith who wants to be able to pray daily might “feel discouraged because they feel that that have to ask for permission, explain themselves, and lack the proper privacy and safety to do so.”

   “By having a reflection room, students will feel more comfortable, supported and included on campus,” Ghaus said. “In turn, a student is able to focus on the main purpose of school: the learning.”

   The reason the prayer rooms have taken so long to implement was not any difference of opinion – McMullen stated the administration has been “very receptive” to the idea – instead it has been a matter of finding a suitable location that would be open and accessible at all times, have sufficient space and have a supervisor on watch to keep students safe and give them any assistance they might need.

   “That’s the biggest concern about this room is it needs a supervisor,” said McMullen. “I was told by Bob that it was almost required.”

   Due to the difficult criteria, there will most likely be a quick, temporary solution followed a few months later by a permanent designated prayer room. One potential location would be a former staff lounge in the college complex currently not being used.

   “The problem I had with that lounge is its really small and had a passcode on it,” McMullen said, stating the pass code lock presents an accessibility issue. Another problem he cited was the lack of an office for a supervisor, though he conceded it could be fine for a temporary solution since there would be no office in an open classroom anyway.

   Another proposed location was the current Honors building, since the organization is planning to move its office to the student union soon. McMullen described the location as “perfect” citing the facts that it would be empty at the time, is fairly spacious, and has two separate offices that could be used as supervisor offices or more private secondary prayer rooms.

   McMullen believes a temporary solution, at least, could be in effect as early as the end of this semester or the early start of the next one, though nothing is quite set in stone.

“The campus administration is definitely supportive of the idea,” said Porter. “Again, we have to review our current space availability, future space demands and any physical or logistical considerations…  The campus administration has not discussed a specific timeframe with Marco and/or LMCAS, but would be willing to engage in a conversation to begin a planning process to ultimately identify a viable space for student prayer and meditation.”

   Whenever the prayer rooms arrive, those involved with the project are hopeful they will be able to improve campus life for many.

   “Obviously, I can’t speak for students, but I believe any opportunity you have to provide an individual a place to rest, restore, and/or renew, in a positive manner, is worth exploring,” Porter stated.