Back in May, the University made the decision to permanently remove the Muslim daily prayer space in Lecture Theatre building. This decision was made without consulting the 600+ students affected or the SU and caused much frustration and upset - with students only finding out about the plan by accident on the eve of Ramadan.
A petition against the closure gained over six and a half thousand signatures, and a peaceful prayer protest organised by ISOC in the square saw a large turnout from students of all faiths and none. This was reported in local, national and international press, which forced the University to release a statement in which they promised to establish a ‘working group’ to resolve the issue.
Despite the obvious failings of the University surrounding the Islamic Prayer space on campus, it seems that little has been done to rectify this over the summer – in fact, the situation has at times deteriorated.
You may have noticed on return to campus this year that the Lecture Theatre opposite the library has been completely refurbished. A great example of UEA improving your buildings on campus! So, imagine how surprised many Muslim students were when they entered their prayer rooms (which are located inside LT), to find that their prayer space was the only area of the entire building to not have been refurbished.
You could literally see where new carpet had been laid down and where it stopped on entrance to the Prayer space.
To illustrate UEA’s current (un-refurbished provisions), I have attached some photos below of the facilities that are currently provided…
…compared with provisions at other universities.
Quite a difference, isn’t it?
Since the refurb there have been numerous other concerns and problems that have arisen. For example, students have now also been told that come exam time next April, they will once again have to vacate their Friday Prayer space in Blackdale. Whilst the University claims to have organised suitable alternatives for this time, it is simply unacceptable for a group of students (that have already suffered the removal of their Prayer space three times) to be continuously moved from one space to another.
We have now reached a point in discussions with the University where promises have been made to move forwards positively to ensure that such failures do not happen again. In addition to this, upon meeting with the Vice Chancellor at the end of September to highlight the systematic failures on the Islamic Prayer space, he ‘gave us his word’ that this would be sorted.
Well, the message we have for the University is this – actions speak louder than words. You need to show us that you are committed to providing a suitable Islamic Prayer space on campus. And you need to show us that you care about your students by listening and learning from your mistakes.
Just provide a suitable, permanent space on campus for Muslim students to pray. It’s not a big ask.