How many times a day would you like to take the shuttle and go to Lot O, one of the most remote parts of campus? Once? Maybe three times? Certainly not five, right?
That is what faced the McMaster Muslim Students Association in March of 2013.
Before the demolition of Wentworth House, the MSA had prayer, storage and office space in the building.
“The prior MSA office had a room for brothers and sisters, and it was connected with a door in the middle,” said Zarak Aslam, the MSA’s public relations representative.
“The Wentworth space was great—very central, and the room set up was such that you could very easily interact between brothers and sisters.”
When news of the building’s impending demolition reached the MSA and other tenants of Wentworth House, like MACycle and the Photo Club, they were told that an adequate replacement would be found.
Initially, a temporary structure near Lot O was suggested as a space for the MSA. Lot O is one of the most far-reaching points on campus—accessed via shuttle, taking passengers over the bridge behind Mary Keyes Hall. Because space can be hard to come by, this was seen to be the only option for the University.
The problem is that many Muslim students pray five times each day—a ritual made incredibly inconvenient if one needs to shuttle to prayer every time.
Once word got out about the troubles facing the MSA’s acquisition of new space, McMaster and Facility Services began to reach out and look for more feasible solutions.
“After the article was written in The Silhouette last year, things got moving… It brought attention to the problem. Not only our problem, but also the other organizations in that building,” said Aslam.
He continued: “[McMaster] was willing to do whatever it took to get our accommodations set up.”
Between April and August of 2013, while the school was less crowded, Facility Services worked to ensure that a new space would be ready for September’s arrival of students.
Now, two former classrooms in T13—the bunker-type building next to the Engineering Technology Building—are devoted to the MSA, to be used for storage, meetings and daily prayer.
The University even paid for changes to be made with the aim of accommodating the club. Carpeting was installed (necessary for men and women who spend their prayer time kneeling) and other adjustments made.
“[Facility Services] let us choose what kind of carpeting, we were able to get that in—they installed that over the summer,” said Aslam. “Since we are in two rooms now, they even offered to set up an intercom in-between. So now we have the speakers and the microphone going between rooms.”
When the Fall term of 2013 began, the room was prepared for occupancy.
Of the transition, Aslam said, “We are pretty much settled in and things are going well. Honestly, it’s been a great blessing.”