SGA Muslim prayer room legislation hits administrative complications

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By: Rachael Hirstein

On Oct. 26, the Undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA) sent Brad Williams, Dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies and Vice President of Student Affairs, their finalized legislation for a Muslim prayer room. While the room has not been created yet, the process is still in-progress.

Yara Khalifa, junior biology major and SGA commuter senator, received word from Williams, who serves as a liaison between SGA and the administration, on Dec. 1 that he would look at NSU’s building inventory to find an available room. On Jan. 1, Khalifa emailed him asking for an update, to which he said he was going to meet with the executive board.

Khalifa explained that after some time Williams got back to her.

“Two weeks after [Jan. 1], he said he would rather me add an addendum to my legislation to add a timeline to it and specific rooms I’d like to look at,” she said. “I revised it, and on Jan. 11 I sent him the new legislation with the addendum and I also put a deadline of Jan. 20 so he could get back to me.”

Khalifa had heard no word from Williams before she emailed him again in early February for an update. She then received a response saying Student Affairs is working hard to find a room, and she emailed them asking for a timeline. Williams said he did not have one.

Williams explained that he sent the revised legislation, which he received on Jan. 13, to the appropriate administration office, and on Jan. 31, he met with President Hanbury to discuss the search for space.

“He’s really the one who would determine space on campus and he has commissioned there to be a study to attempt to find space,” he said. “We’re referring to this as a meditation, reflection and prayer room that would meet all university needs… Getting in the president’s schedule is never an easy thing, and quite frankly I am amazed that I got on the president’s calendar as quickly as I did.”

Williams said that he is in full support of the prayer room and he realizes the immense desire for it to happen on campus; however, he said that the placement of it has proven difficult.

“To me, there’s clearly a need and I don’t think the president is looking at this as though there isn’t a need,” he explained. “I think it’s something that has been very articulately expressed by [SGA]; it’s just a matter of finding dedicated space.”

Williams said that alternative options regarding space for a room have been suggested to him, but there were complications with those suggestions.

“I’ve had a lot students say to take a classroom offline, but the central core mission of the university is education,” he said. “If you take one classroom offline, what does that do to the schedule? There are a lot of things aside from just doing an inventory [of] where there might be space.”

Williams also spoke with the graduate SGA, Pan, about whether there should be more than one prayer room on campus.

“The Pan SGA brought up whether one space on campus is enough,” he said. “If, for example, Muslim students need to pray five times a day and you are an HPD student and the prayer room was located somewhere around the University Center, I don’t know how you could get there and get back five times a day.”

Khalifa scheduled a meeting Monday with Williams, the SGA advisor and other SGA executive board members to discuss exactly what is needed for this prayer room to be created.

“I just want a plan,” she explained. “If I can see that there’s a plan and a timeline, then I can see that something is happening, but if I don’t see a plan or a timeline, then to me you didn’t prove that you were listening to me.”

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