Renovations for the new MacEwan Conference and Event Centre have emphasized the need for more prayer space on campus.
The Conference and Event Centre is moving from the second floor of MacHall to the old Women’s Resource Centre on the third floor, next to the Multi-Faith Prayer Room and Chapel.
However, the increasing number of people using the prayer rooms — 1,600 people a week in 2013 — forced people to overflow into a hallway which is now undergoing renovations.
The hallway is narrower after a temporary wall was built for the renovations and it can no longer accommodate a large group of people.
The renovation has become a safety concern and the Students’ Union now prohibits use of the space as the hallway leads to a fire exit.
SU president Raphael Jacob said it’s something they could overlook in the past but now that it has become a safety concern they unfortunately have no choice but to step in.
“We’ll continue to work with the university to find a larger space if we can, but you need to keep it in the room,” Jacob said. “You can’t pray in the hallway. You can’t do anything in the hallway.”
Muslim men have been using the hallway to pray whenever the prayer rooms were booked.
“It puts us in a predicament,” said Abdulwasie Abdulaziz, president of the Muslim Students’ Association. “The problem is that if they start restricting there, where are we supposed to go?”
The move is part of a $240,000 project approved by Students’ Legislative Council in January to expand the Conference and Event Centre and the Q Centre, which have both outgrown their current office space.
The old Women’s Resource Centre is 50 per cent larger than the space the Conference and Event Centre currently occupies.
The Q Centre will move into the current Conference and Event Centre space while the Q Centre will be turned into overflow space for the Conference & Event Centre.
Abdulaziz said that he had hoped the Faith and Spirituality Centre would get the old Women’s Resource Centre because it would be close to the ablution centre in the nearby washrooms, to wash after prayer. If another prayer space is provided, money will need to be set aside to renovate the washrooms.
“Otherwise it’s going to be really hazardous,” Abdulaziz said. “The floor is going to be slippery. It’s not really safe for those using the washroom.”
Adriana Tulissi, community engagement manager with the Faith and Spirituality Centre, said it’s a matter of adapting.
“We’ve been working with the university for quite some time to secure further prayer space,” Tulissi said. “What we’re doing is just trying to find alternative locations until we can secure that space.”
She said the Conference and Event Centre is working with them to find an additional space to pray in.
But space in MacHall is hard to find.
“Space comes at a high premium here,” Jacob said. “It’s something that we have to keep working on.”
Jacob said that if the proposed MacHall renovations go forward at some point in the future, expanding prayer space is a priority.