Following the decision to temporarily close the Islamic Prayer Facility without informing UEA Islamic Society (ISoc), Vice-Chancellor David Richardson has issued an apology for the “distress that the events of last week undoubtedly caused Muslim students at UEA.”
He said: “As a result of the positive development of the UEA Faith Policy in 2015, we did make sincere commitments to improve communications and to ensure that early discussions took place with all interested parties regarding any changes to faith provision on campus.”
Professor Richardson continued by stating that “on this occasion the university has failed to deliver on those commitments and as Vice-Chancellor I apologise for that inexcusable failure. Please be assured that I take this matter seriously and I will be ensuring that lessons are learned.”
The SU informed Concrete that the Council Chamber has been confirmed for Friday prayer usage until the Blackdale main hall becomes available again after examinations. Hickling Barton Common Room will also be made available to students this week.
UEA will provide storage cupboards that will hold mats and Qurans within the Multifaith Centre, which is the nearest space that could be found. However, the SU have said there is no storage space in the Council Chamber or Council House.
A number of courses, such as Medicine and PCGE Teacher Training, run outside the standard academic year. Hence, there will be staff and students on campus throughout the summer who could be affected by these changes. Concrete understands these factors will be considered by UEA in further discussions.
The Vice-Chancellor clarified in his letter that “the closure of the Lecture Theatre 2 prayer facility will be temporary, as a result of construction work, and not permanent.”
He said: “Blackdale main hall will be available for prayers once again after the exams and the university is making other spaces available to Muslim students at UEA in the meantime.”
SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo commented on how the situation can move forward, stating: “Whilst we’re pleased with progress on interim provision and pleased that the VC has apologised, there’s still lots of work to be done on making appropriate arrangements for the next few weeks.”
Ms Swo added that it was “crucial” the university “redoubles its efforts to minimise disruption for the affected students and gets to work on identifying long term solutions.”
The Vice-Chancellor concluded on a positive note by saying: “The working group will be developing a longer-term plan for provision of appropriate facilities and I look forward to the UEA Islamic Society working together with Student Support Services and Estates and other interested parties on that plan.”
Concrete have contacted UEA ISoc for comment.