At the conclusion of the Student Senate meeting on Jan. 27, Diversity and Inclusion Director Omar Rana announced the creation of a women’s lunchroom in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Room 102 of the OMA is available from noon to 1 p.m. on weekdays, mainly for women on campus who require a safe space to eat lunch due to religious attire that cannot be removed in public, Rana said.
He said the process to get the lunchroom approved was lengthy and required the exploration of many campus resources, including Student Senate.
Before taking the job as Diversity and Inclusion Director, Rana was a conversation leader with International Student Services. While talking to women from the Middle East who wear burqas and niqabs, he asked how the University's campus could be more accessible.
"One thing that they mentioned is that they didn’t really have a place to go for lunch hours,” said Rana. “They can’t really eat in the union because they would have to take off their burqa or niqab, which they can’t do, or they would have to eat under it, which isn’t always the most comfortable.”
Zoya Khan, a freshman from Kansas City and secretary of the Muslim Student Association, said the creation of the lunchroom was an important step forward for the University.
“I think it’s about creating a safe space for Muslim women on campus, and I think that’s really allowing for that. I think it’s creating an environment of inclusivity and acceptance,” she said. “We are part of the KU community and KU is allowing for us to feel comfortable.”
Rana commended Precious Porras, director of the OMA, for her work in providing the accommodations for the lunchroom.
“The OMA really came through for us, and I do think they really deserve that gratitude from myself and from the student body for being an entity on campus that really does work, when sometimes it’s hard to find those entities that do work,” he said.
Kahn said she heard a lot of positive support from women within the Muslim Student Association about the creation of the lunchroom.
“[The reaction has been] overwhelming support and happiness. People are really excited that KU is willing to take this step forward,” she said.
Rana said there were 25 to 30 women on campus that could use the accommodation, and it was likely that three to five women would use the lunchroom on a daily basis.
“I think as long as there is that need for a student to have that sort of accommodation, the University should make that accommodation. It doesn’t really matter how many or how few are using it,” he said.
Every other Friday, Rana said, the location of the lunchroom will move to the Wheat Room in the Kansas Union due to a schedule conflict with the OMA. He said when the room is available in the OMA, students are asked not to bring eggs for lunch, as an OMA staffer is severely allergic.
— Edited by Skylar Rolstad