After a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and now a global conflict in Europe, there has never been a better time to give students a quiet space.
According to Dr. Tonia Perry-Conley, Executive Dean for Student Support Services (interim) and Dean of MCCC’s James Kerney Campus (JKC) in Trenton, who spearheaded the project with Professor of Philosophy Ken Howarth, the concept was first discussed before the pandemic began and has come to fruition at the best possible time. Peace Rooms are now open on both campuses for daily use by the college community.
“Our goal is to provide students with a place where they can sit quietly, reflect and regroup, completely separate from their studies and responsibilities,” Perry-Conley said. “This is a space for calm reflection – no cell phones, no music, except on earbuds, no eating or drinking.”
Howarth explains that this special place is reserved for students and other members of the college community who seek to exercise their spirituality or other grounding practices through silent reflection, prayer, and meditation.
“With Mercer’s diverse student body, we needed to address the spiritual needs of a diverse group,” Howarth said. “We don’t want to overprescribe it, but it’s not a study room or meeting room. It’s for anyone seeking a religious or meditative respite.”
He adds that the signage in the rooms incorporates spiritual symbols from around the world. “It’s a very inclusive environment, including humanists and atheists. Everyone should feel welcome.”
The rooms are comfortably furnished, and cabinets and shoe cubbies are being installed. Inspirational materials and texts from varied faith traditions have been donated by the MCCC Library and private donors. Small groups are invited to gather together for silent prayer, and students are welcome to bring their own mats. Room dividing screens have been set up for privacy.
“We are trying to anticipate everyone’s needs. We will accommodate additional requests as we proceed,” Perry-Conley said.
The James Kerney Campus Peace Room is located at KC219 inside the Beverly Richardson Learning Center and is open during Learning Center hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The West Windsor Campus Peace Room is located at SC127 on the first floor of the Student Center. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.