Cushions propped against the wall and a bench and chairs for seating, are placed next to a patterned rug and two potted plants. Opposite from the plants stands a small fountain on a small wooden table. The gentle trickling of water down a wall of pebbles is the only sound to be heard in this peaceful atmosphere. Welcome to Room 347.
The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, in conjunction with the Association of Religious Counselors on campus, announced last month that this room, located in the Michigan League, is now open to the University community to be used as a “reflection room.”
Dean of Students Edward Willis said for many years, both individual students and student groups have expressed a need for a place of quiet reflection or prayer. Room 347 is a first attempt at responding to their requests that will be used until Aug. 1.
“We are looking for ways to make it permanent though our plans may not include that specific room,” Willis said. He added that the University might build a special facility to provide for the religious and spiritual needs of the campus community, but that would not be for many years to come.
The reflection room is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The process of selecting and furnishing a room in the Michigan League included a meeting between Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper and members of ARC.
The Rev. Graham Baird, president of ARC, said the meeting brought together Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and other members of the ecumenical community.
“They brought to our attention that there are no chapels, mosques or synagogues on campus that students can use to pray or meditate,” he said.
Baird added that the members of ARC agreed the room should be a quiet, simple space, uncluttered by religious ornaments.
Rabbi Shena Potter, assistant director of Hillel, said the room is open to all members of the University community.
“It is a ‘safe-space’ where people of all faith backgrounds can pray, meditate and reflect in individual ways amidst the hustle and bustle of campus life,” Potter said. “It is also a place where people from all religious affiliations can meet and interact while focusing on their spiritual growth.”
ARC member Gretchen Baumgardt said some organizations within ARC may have their own spaces for sacred worship or meditation but that the reflection room is open to everyone.
“Support for a permanent reflection room on campus recognizes the needs of both students who do not have a central gathering space and students who may not be connected to any particular religious or spiritual group and seek a neutral reflection space,” she said.
Baumgardt is the education director at St. Mary Student Parish and Newman Center, which serves the Catholic community at the University.
Trinka Robinson, a Public Health student and a representative for the Graduate Muslim Students Association in ARC, said while the room provides other students with a place for individual meditation and quiet reflection, she believes it will especially benefit the Muslim community.
“Because they have to pray several times a day, the reflection room provides a place for Muslim students to take a few minutes in between classes for that,” she said. Robinson added that the location of the reflection room is a good place because many students’ classes are held in nearby buildings.