A new space in ODY Library allows students a quiet space for daily prayer and meditation, a step towards creating a more inclusive campus for all students.
“Giving us a space in ODY is a big deal; we have a prayer room that is somewhere easily accessible to everybody,” says Noah Weekes ’22, a senior from Franklin, Georgia, and member of the Islamic Culture Club (ICC). Weekes is referring to a newly designated open space on the lower level of Owen D. Young Library, where Muslim students can find mats for daily prayer and where all students can find space for quiet meditation.
According to Laura Lavoie, director of Wellness Education and Student Engagement, faith traditions can be critical in helping students feel at home, and Muslim students did not have adequate space to pray. That changed in November 2021, when ICC President Aida Gueye ’22 and members of the club worked with Lavoie, Director of Counseling Services Tara Tent, and International Student Advisor Megan Putney to identify better options for students to practice their daily and weekly prayer traditions. John Payne, director of Libraries, was eager to oblige and work with the students to meet their needs in ODY.
The new space has some advantages. It is centrally located on campus, easily accessible, close to running water necessary for ritual cleaning, and devoid of religious iconography or symbolism. “I see it as a space that could be potentially stable, if we are able to work on the issues of privacy,” says Gueye. “Other than that, it’s a great space.”
“I’m hopeful that the space is an improvement over the space the students were previously using,” says Lavoie. “I still think there’s a need, however, to keep searching for that perfect space. I want to continue looking into better options, advocating for the group, and helping in any ways that I can.”
When Weekes and Gueye first came to St. Lawrence, they explained that there was not an ideal space to pray. Even though it’s not perfect, they know ODY is a step in the right direction and will give them a place where ICC can invite all students to learn more.
“The club is a safe place for Muslim students, as well as a place where non-Muslims can discover the diversity of cultures within the Islamic world,” explains Gueye. “We don’t limit ourselves to certain people, we want to reach out to everyone.” Gueye says that St. Lawrence has always supported the club but knows there is more St. Lawrence can do to foster more student engagement and awareness. ICC does its part by holding campus events such as Henna Fest and Movie Night to educate students on the rich variety of cultural practices and the meaning that comes with them.
Moving forward, Gueye and Weekes hope ICC and the University will continue to partner on supporting Muslim students: a designated time for noon prayers on Friday or providing a University shuttle to the mosque in Potsdam so that practicing students can more easily attend weekly services.
“My goal is to advertise the space more and to have it also be a place for students to come to learn about Islam and the culture,” says Gueye, “as well as being a space for everyone.”
I still think there’s a need, however, to keep searching for that perfect space. I want to continue looking into better options, advocating for the group, and helping in any ways that I can." – Laura Lavoie, director of Wellness Education and Student Engagement