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Ohio University students walk toward Baker Center for the Bobcat Unity Walk on Feb. 18, 2016.

Bobcat Unity Walk and Meditation Room Inauguration to promote diversity and inclusion

A unity walk and the opening of a meditation room will aim to bring people from different backgrounds together in a peaceful way.

The Meditation Room on the fifth floor of Alden Library will open with a commemorative inauguration Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Immediately after the inauguration, the second annual Bobcat Unity Walk will take place starting in Wolfe Garden and ending at Baker Ballroom. Both events are free and open to the public.

The meditation room will provide an open and inviting space for people of all backgrounds to pray, meditate and relax. It is not a place for debate or for groups of people to have meetings, and people who use it are expected to be respectful to others who are using the room, according to a sign outside of the meditation room.

“Our biggest vision and goal was how to make sure this space is as welcoming as possible to everyone on campus and in the community,” Hashim Pashtun, the president of International Student Union, said.

When the idea of the room was in the works, Pashtun said he initially envisioned it in Baker University Center. However, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis suggested Alden Library would be a better place because it offers privacy and discreteness, whereas Baker Center often hosts loud and busy events, Pashtun, a graduate student studying civil engineering, said. The fifth floor of Alden also has men’s, women’s and a single-user gender neutral bathroom, which promotes more inclusivity.

“It’s almost always open and always welcoming,” Pashtun said.

Pashtun hopes people from any and all backgrounds use the room and further discussion about the expansion of spaces like the meditation room in the future.

Emily McClure, a sophomore studying exercise physiology, also said it would be cool for multiple meditation room spaces to open on campus and Uptown.

“In the library, it’s good because it’s a central place, and it’s quiet anyway. I also think that it would be good if it was in Baker, too,” McClure said. “Everyone walks through Baker all the time, but sometimes it’s kind of hard to go out of the way to Alden if you don’t go to the library all of the time.”

The meditation rooms sounds like a nice quiet place for stressed out people to relax, McClure said.

“It’s definitely nice that it doesn’t leave anybody out,” McClure said. “I think it’s a good thing that it’s all-inclusive.”

Pashtun added that the room will help bridge the gap between people from different ideologies who might not regularly interact.

“I believe one of the ways to solve this gap is exposure to each other,” Pashtun said. “Exposure helps us resolve the stereotypes (and) the misconceptions.”

The Bobcat Unity Walk event will follow the opening of the room and also promote diversity and unity among people who are different from each other. The entire walk is student-led and will end in a discussion between students and Athens community members about their differences and struggles, Pashtun said.

“If you are graduating, leave a legacy by taking part. If you are new, then take part so you can share your four years in a better way,” Pashtun said about the walk. “If you’re the oppressed ones, share your concerns. And if you are not, come and support people who are oppressed.”

The event is not meant to make a political statement or be a protest, it is just about coming together, Alena Klimas, the vice president of ISU, said.

“I think, on this campus and really the U.S. right now, everything is seen as political,” Klimas, a senior studying political science and global studies war and peace, said. “And the Unity Walk isn’t trying to be political. It’s just trying to get a positive method of togetherness on campus.”

The overall goal of the meditation room and the Bobcat Unity walk is to start a peaceful discussion between groups of people who are different.

“People are polarized, and they have to come together,” Pashtun said. “Unity is the only solution. Being polarized … is never going to solve the problem.”


— Georgia Davis contributed to this report 

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