MAASTRICHT. The student fraction of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences wants a ‘spiritual space’ in the FASoS building. This would enable staff and students to pray, meditate or hold discussions. The proposal raised many questions during the latest faculty council meeting.
A spiritual space – with a bookshelf containing, among other works, the Bible, the Koran and the Thora – would be good for the mental wellbeing of staff and students, the students argue; moreover, it shows that the faculty feels that diversity and inclusivity is important, not just in words but also in its actions. Something similar already exists in Randwijck, said student council member Charles de Groot.
What are we talking about here exactly, both board and council members wanted to know: a quiet room, a prayer room, or a spiritual space where people can have discussions? Those are not the same things, they said. Aside from that, you can’t pray if people are having a discussion a couple of metres away, said council member on behalf of academic staff, Karlijn Haagsman. A folding screen could be a solution, the students reckoned. Something that others doubted.
“Why does this actually have to be in the faculty building? Can this not be achieved together with other faculties? Or elsewhere in the city centre?”, council member on behalf of academic staff Ferenc Laczó wanted to know. Has there been any contact, for example, with the Maastricht University chaplaincy InnBetween, asked Simon Vogel, council member on behalf of non-academic staff. There has been contact, said De Groot. “They want to help us.” To which director Cerien Streefland pointed out that, aside from the fact that such a proposal has a price tag, there are also plans from the diversity office to set up something similar in the Kapoenstraat.
Chair of the council Luana Russo remarked that the university is a secular institution. Is it possible - it's not in every country - or even desirable to offer religious rooms or rooms for prayer? That is something that needs to be thoroughly discussed, she said.
Dean Christine Neuhold asked the students to first find out what already exists in this area in the city centre and again, listening to all the comments, to see “what you want and what you need in order to achieve that”. To be continued.