The wood floor in the Interfaith Prayer and Reflection Room was the subject of a Undergraduate Student Government resolution stating it is unfit for the kneeling or prostrate positions in which many students pray. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Lantern Reporter

Housing options for transgender students are limited and expensive, kosher and halal dining options are minimal and the Ohio Union’s Interfaith Prayer and Reflection Room is ill-equipped for the kneeling or prostrate positions in which many students pray, according to three resolutions passed by Undergraduate Student Government last week. The Office of Student Life, however, has so far only responded by thanking USG for its input.

The resolutions — which all passed by unanimous vote in general assembly on Feb. 8 — aim to encourage improvement in areas where USG members said students were feeling unsupported by Ohio State, members said.

When presented with the resolutions, Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, responded with the following statement:

“The Office of Student Life welcomes student input. We regularly solicit and receive thoughts and recommendations from students and we will review these resolutions approved by Undergraduate Student Government. We view USG to be a vital partner in our effort to create the extraordinary student experience for all Ohio State students and we value their interest and engagement.”

The Lantern solicited further comment from Student Life, but after a four-day delay, the office ultimately declined to address any of the resolutions’ specifics.

The evening’s agenda was summed up near the end of the meeting by Mario Belfiglio, a third-year in biology and USG parliamentarian and senator.

“Honestly, if I were to define a theme for the night, which we’re seeing in a lot of these resolutions, (it would be) for being called ‘Student Life,’ I think they often fail to actually seriously consider student input and opinion,” he said.

The transgender housing issue was sponsored and authored by Tony Buss, a fourth-year in English, and director of USG’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Buss introduced the resolution, which calls for more campus housing options with both gender-inclusive rooms and bathrooms to the general assembly while noting that he partnered with the student organization Trans*Mission.

“Currently, the only option is the Gateway apartments, which is the most expensive housing option,” he said. “So students who want and need a gender-inclusive environment, but don’t have it, often this happens because of their financial ability to pay for that sort of thing.”

The dining resolution asks the university to offer more kosher and halal options, stating it currently “offers limited options for students who prefer to adhere to halal restrictions and “no options for students who prefer to adhere to kosher restrictions.”

It also asks for an improved listing of the options on the dining website.

“You can filter it by your allergies: dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, wheat,” Belfiglio said during general assembly.  “You can filter it by vegan and vegetarian, but you can’t filter it by halal or kosher. If you want to know what halal and kosher options are on campus you have to go to different dining locations and look at it. You literally could not find that information online.”

The resolution addressing the Interfaith Prayer and Reflection Room — located on the third floor of the Ohio Union — asks for carpeting, as well as other accommodations like comfortable mats or cushions to kneel on.

“Last year there was carpet (in the room) and over the summer they took it out, but they didn’t put anything in there,” said Farhan Quadri, a fourth-year in biological engineering and co-sponsor of the resolution. “The Ohio Union administration knows that people use that for prayer, and that’s not limited to just sitting in a chair, that’s like praying, prostrating on the floor for religious services.”

Additionally, the room is often used for meetings, including cabinet meetings for USG, said Quadri and Buss, expressing concern about the room’s accessibility for religious purposes.

The Ohio Union website lists the room as one of 21 “meeting spaces” (separate from eight other “large meeting spaces”) available for reservation.

“The Ohio Union should reconsider its policy regarding the usage of the Interfaith and Prayer Room (sic), keeping the space for prayer and religious purposes only,” the resolution states.