Student demands for a designated space for meditation and reflection were answered Monday when the Tilden room in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union reopened as the temporary meditation space on campus.
The room — which was previously used for commercial space — will serve as the location for meditation space on campus until a permanent location is established in the renovated Lower Sproul Plaza.
Though the Tilden room was originally built as a chapel, about five years ago the ASUC Auxiliary began to rent the room out to groups for commercial purposes, said Tom Spivey, associate director of the ASUC Auxiliary.
However, after the Auxiliary received complaints about Muslim students using the fourth floor of the student union building for prayer, the campus Muslim Students Association and other student groups led a campaign for a temporary meditation space on campus.
“We are very happy that the administration and Auxiliary have finally respected the original intent of the space and the spiritual needs of students on campus, which are largely unmet by the university,” said Zienab Abdelgany, president of the association.
Located on the fifth floor of the student union, the Tilden room is an ideal location for students to meditate due to the fact that it is “a single room on a single floor, which makes it unique,” Spivey said.
Several student organizations on campus besides the Muslim Students Association requested space for a mediation room.
“I think it’s really cool because the room is open to all students of all different faiths and beliefs,” said Aileen Kim, a Christian student on campus, in an email. “It accommodates individual spiritual needs.”
Jonathan Poullard, UC Berkeley dean of students, said that the use of the Tilden room is beneficial to the entire student body because it is intended to benefit all students who seek a place for meditation and reflection, regardless of religious affiliation.
“This is a great thing for the whole campus community,” Poullard said.
The ASUC Store Operations Board passed a motion in April designating the Tilden room as a temporary meditation space, said Ryan Landis, chair of the ASUC Store Operations Board.
The designation meant that the room could not be used for commercial activities. The room is now for public use only and is “absolutely not able to be reserved,” Landis said.
Though the Tilden room will no longer bring in revenue from commercial renting for the ASUC Auxiliary, the transformation will not hurt the Auxiliary financially, Poullard said.
“In the motion, it was noted that the campus in good faith was willing to provide revenue replacement for rent during the transitional period,” Landis said.
Even though the Tilden room is not designated for religious purposes, several religious groups on campus intend to use the space for prayer. Although the room is required to be quiet, Abdelgany said this will not impede Muslim prayer and religious practices.
“There are group prayers which are allowed because there is an understanding that the noise is part of meditation,” she said.
Though many groups will use the space for prayer, the room is designed to accommodate the needs of all students.
“We want every student on campus to feel comfortable going there,” Landis said.
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