The University of Colorado's $84.4 million Center for Community that is under construction will feature a room where students, well, can find their centers.
Included in the buildings' plans is a meditation room that will be 624 square feet, said CU campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard. The area will be a place where students can practice their religions, meditate and quietly reflect or do yoga, Hilliard said.
With prayer rugs and yoga mats, the room will fit about 25 people, Hilliard said.
But a fiscally conservative CU regent questions the educational value of such a room -- especially amid a recession that has taken its toll on higher education. And some students surveyed by the Camera cast doubt on whether they'd make use of a quiet room. Others, though, said that there needs to be a place on the Boulder campus that recognizes the intersection of spirituality and education.
"It's meant to be a quiet room that would be accessible for different student groups to reserve," Hilliard said. "There can also be unscheduled walk-ins for meditation and quiet observances."
There will be few extra costs associated with the room, Hilliard said, aside from the possibility of hanging curtains that can be used to separate the room.
If broken down by the cost per square-foot -- which amounts to about $261 per square foot -- the room would amount to roughly $163,050.
The idea for a meditation room was prompted by complaints from the Muslim Students Association a couple of years ago that there were few quiet places on campus where they could conduct daily prayers.
The room will be on the fourth floor of the forthcoming Center for Community, and it will feature a window on its east side to accommodate worshipping Muslim students, who traditionally face northeast toward Mecca during prayer.
Daniel Ramos, one of CU's three student-body presidents, said that Muslim students now pray outside of the Muslim Student Association office in the hallways of the University Memorial Center. Past student leaders with the Muslim organization have said the prayer space is noisy, and doesn't provide enough privacy.
Ramos said the meditation room, which has yet to be given a formal name, is a great example of the administration responding to student needs for a quiet space on the campus.
Students will have the choice to use the room however they like, he said.
CU Regent Tom Lucero, R-Berthoud, who voted against funding the building, said the meditation room is an unnecessary expense and questions whether it strays from the university's academic mission.
The Center for Community, a 323,000-square-foot student hub and dining hall that is scheduled to open in fall 2010, will bring several scattered offices under one roof, campus leaders say.
"There's this push to update facilities," Lucero said. "It's a keeping up with the Joneses mentality. Everything has got to be new and updated."
The new building will be on Regent Drive, adjacent to Hallett Hall and the Leeds School of Business, where a 250-spot parking lot used to be.
Career, psychological, international education, disability and victim's assistance will be among the services housed in the new building.
Construction of the building is funded by donations, the Division of Student Affairs and revenue brought in by Parking and Transportation Services and Housing and Dining Services through fees such as room and board, permit purchases and visitor parking fees.
CU sophomore Carly Coons, with the Boulder campus's Hillel, said she thinks the Jewish student group could use the room for prayer and worship, and expanding its outreach to students. But, she said there is already a Hillel house on the edge of campus at Colorado Avenue and 28th Street where students meet.
Boulder campus leaders looked to an example at the University of Redlands, a private college in California, where an academic room has been turned to a space for meditation. Desks and chairs have been replaced with yoga mats and pillows.
Geo Tam, a freshman open-option major, said he hangs out near Varsity Lake near Sewall Hall on campus when he's looking for a quiet place.
"I don't think I'd use the room, but I think it's cool," he said.
Tam said that he thinks a meditation room is a good investment for the university as long as his peers make use of it.
Emma Gibbs, a freshman anthropology major, said she doubts she'll visit the space, arguing that many students wanting to relax do yoga at the campus recreation center.
Freshman Hannah Clarks' reaction to the plans for a meditation room: "Weird."
"I don't think I'll use it much," the physiology major said. "I'm not big into the whole meditation thing."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.