Guethshina Altena/Assistant News Director
The Student Government Council at the Modesto Maidique campus have passed a resolution to support the expansion of the University’s Serenity Room.
The Serenity Room resides in Graham Center room 343. The room operates as a place for students of various religions to come and pray or meditate away from the noise of GC.
The problem with the room, according to Mahmoud Assad, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering and a member of SGC-MMC’s Student Advocacy Committee, is that the hours of operation are too short and there is not enough space to accommodate all the students who use it.
Assad and the other members of the committee drafted and passed a resolution to gain the student government’s support to expand the room.
“We got SGA to approve it and we will meet with the people who are responsible for the Graham Center. We are planning to find the funds to enhance the room that they had or possibly getting another bigger room,” Assad said.
Assad is a member of the Muslim Student Association and a senator for the college of Engineering and Computing. He worked with senator Francesca Riccio-Ackerman and their fellow members on the SAC to push the resolution forward. It was a joint effort, he said.
The Senators in the SAC, namely Mahmoud Assad, Maria Ribeiro, Samuel Santos and Javier Ortiz, have been meeting with students who expressed their concerns about the prayer room. The committee has also been doing research on the issue, authoring the resolution, and gathering support to get it passed for months now, according to Riccio-Ackerman.
Assad said given the huge population of Muslims at FIU, they’ve seen the issues with the room and wanted to implement some changes.
“It feels good to have something going on for the room and for the Muslim community at FIU,” he said.
The SAC senators are working on increasing the size of the room and adding storage for prayer mats, books and such. These resources are not just for Muslim students, but for students of other faiths as well, Assad said.
The senators also want to extend the prayer room’s hours of operation to match those of the GC office and accommodate students with more time for prayer, as the room is only available right now from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Assad said he hopes to accomplish those goals before the semester ends.
“We’re trying to help, we’re working to bring positive changes to the room and make FIU feel more safe,” he said.
Riccio-Ackerman, a senior biomedical engineering and senator for the College of Engineering and Computing, was also one of the main proponents of this resolution to ensure student safety.
“I served on the executive board of the Muslim Student Association last year, but I’ve been a member, and a Muslim student on campus for years,” said Riccio-Ackerman. “I’ve personally witnessed my friends get videotaped without their consent while praying in public and endure other forms of harassment from people on campus, telling them to ‘go back to where they’re from.’”
Riccio-Ackerman said that they are hoping to meet with GC administrators next week to discuss their options and offer their help in increasing the size of the room and keeping it from being booked by clubs during prayer hours.
SGA is committed to seeing this initiative through, even offering funding to add storage in the Serenity Room, according to Riccio-Ackerman.
Abdallah Najjar, a sophomore international business student, uses the room for his daily prayers as a Muslim, and he said that he would love to see improvements to the room.
“We would love a spacious room because a lot of people come in here to pray specific prayers, and it feels cramped,” said Najjar. “It’s also very bland in here, so some light would be very beneficial.”
Riccio-Ackerman said by improving the Serenity Room, SGA can create a space where students can find peace and exercise their right to practice their religion.
“I would encourage [the students who use the prayer room] to continue to speak up about their needs and suggestions to make FIU a better community,” she said. “The SGA, the Student Advocacy Committee, and your senators will be there to support you and your actions; we work for you, so please continue to let us know how we can help.”
Feature Image of the Serenity Room by Guethshina Altena/Assistant News Director