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Meditation room set for UVSC's new library

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2008 12:38 a.m. MDT

Construction worker Todd Williams of Layton Construction works on the grounds of the new library for Utah Valley State College in Orem.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

OREM — Utah Valley State College is creating a nondenominational meditation area on the fifth floor of its new $48 million library.

"It will be a sanctuary where people can go to meditate or pray," said Val Hale, UVSC vice president for institutional advancement.

However, the naming of the space has the potential for religious controversy.

Funding given for rooms and spaces in the library, ranging from $5,000 to $1 million, generally comes with the privilege of having the space named after the donor.

UVSC officials said they haven't started discussions on the naming of the meditation area and aren't sure what they would do if a particular religion decides to donate and wants to name the space.

Library director Michael Freeman says he doubts UVSC would allow the area to be named after a religion.

"In a public school, you have to be sensitive to the separation of church and state," he said.

Jack Jenks, UVSC associate vice president of development, said he doesn't believe anything has been decided yet on this issue, but added, "I would imagine we wouldn't name a room in a public space after a religion. The library is a public building."

The UVSC Board of Trustees, during a meeting last week, approved revisions to its policy on honorary names and named gifts. One major change: All named programs and physical entities must be approved by the college president and the trustees.

"As UVSC moves to university status, our fundraising efforts have become more comprehensive, more sophisticated," Hale said. "We needed more specifics in the naming policy to bring it up to speed for our move to university status."

The meditation area will be about 800 square feet and is in an out-of-the-way area of the fifth floor, where library administration offices are slated, Freeman said.

The implementation of the area comes at the request of the college's Interfaith Student Association, a group of students who work to provide a safe forum where students can learn about other religions.

The meditation area won't have an altar or a pulpit. It may include a table, stuffed chairs and plants, and be surrounded by dividers, said Chaplain Linda Walton, who serves on the Interfaith Student Association's executive committee.

The open area won't include any particular religious icon. Students can bring their own item, such as a photo, picture, prayer rug or scripture book, Walton said.

UVSC has about 30 Muslim students enrolled. Many desire a private place to pray five times a day, Walton said.

Ruhul Kuddus, UVSC assistant professor of biology, who is Muslim, says he thinks the meditation area is a good idea. Kuddus says he just shuts his office door to pray, which takes 2 to 5 minutes.

"But the students have no privacy and they have no place to go pray," he said.

The meditation area can also be used as a respite for students to simply sit quietly and think — maybe clear their mind before a big test or just escape from the stresses of life, Walton said.

"We probably all could use that," she said.

UVSC's new library, which will be 190,000 square feet, is planned to open July 1. The project is on budget and on schedule. Workers are laying carpet, painting walls and installing woodwork, Freeman said.


E-mail: astewart@desnews.com

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