At Elon Law, new resources for prayer, meditation, and mothers

Dedicated spaces for reflection and lactation now allow for faith-based student groups, nursing parents, and anyone in need of contemplative solitude to make use of quiet areas at Elon University’s downtown Greensboro campus.

The Fellowship of Christian Lawyers uses the prayer room at Elon Law for weekly prayer meetings. The 2022 executive board, from left: Cynthia Hager L’22, Megan Fallon L’23, Taylor Moody L’22, Brian Min L’23, Brenna Conner L’23, Madeline Kellas L’22, and Morgan Tompkins L’22.

It started last spring with an observation and a request: the only space set aside at Elon Law for a nursing mother to pump milk was a cramped room that doubled for storage.

Was it possible to set aside better accommodations that afforded privacy?

Elon Law administrators researched options over the summer. When members of the Class of 2023 enrolled in August, a separate-but-related question was asked the first week of Orientation: does Elon Law happen to have a space for Muslim students to pray?

Paris Henderson L’21 was among a handful of new and expecting mothers who approached Elon Law administrators last year about the creation of a more comfortable lactation room.

“‘We don’t, but I don’t see why we can’t. Let me talk with the powers that be to see what can happen,’” Laké Laosebikan-Buggs, the university’s director of inclusive excellence for graduate and professional education, recalls answering. “Things came together quickly and easily.”

The result last fall of the student-led initiatives, coupled with assistance from Buggs and other Elon Law administrators, is the ongoing availability of three rooms in the Intercultural Global Commons for students, faculty, and staff to use for prayer, reflection, and lactation.

The rooms once served as offices for academic and bar support instructors before the Office of Academic Success was moved to Elon Law’s main building. Because they were underutilized, Buggs said, they made for a natural solution to the students’ requests.

Lauren Jones L’23 inquired shortly after her arrival at Elon Law about the possibility of setting aside space for Muslim students and classmates of other faiths to use for prayer.

Nor was space the only resource offered. Elon Law and the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life acquired prayer rugs and applied a decal of the Kaaba on the wall for when Muslim students utilize the prayer room. Nursing parents also were invited to make use of a nearby refrigerator for storing their milk.

“I’m just happy the students are happy. I know that sounds silly, but I am,” Buggs said. “We were respectful of their faiths and understand how faith and wellbeing are tied to each other.”

Students said they appreciated the timely efforts by Buggs and other administrators to accommodate their requests. Their reflections:

  • “Through using the space, we have had people attend the prayer sessions who are members of the organization, and we have had those who just stop in because they are having a tough time,” said Madeline L. Kellas L’22, president of the Fellowship of Christian Lawyers, which holds weekly prayer meetings in the prayer room. “Prayer can be hard because it requires vulnerability, but through gathering in the prayer room, attendees feel supported, so using this space has really strengthened relationships within Elon Law’s community.”
  • “What we were fighting was not just a semblance of comfort or equity for us, but for the greater law school population, and that included moms who needed space to pump. That included having a space to pray,” said Paris Henderson L’21, who welcomed a son last spring and co-chaired the SBA’s Community Inclusion Committee before graduating in December. “That included having a person we could go to in Dr. Buggs. We may not be where we need to be, but Elon is making active strides to get there. The prayer room, the lactation room, is proof of that.”
  • “I was surprised that it happened this fast. I brought a concern up the first day of Introduction to Legal Studies, and there was a remedy in weeks. Dr. Buggs is amazing,” said Lauren Jones L’23, who asked Buggs about a space for Muslim daily prayer. “I’m just so thankful that there’s someone here on campus who is willing to advocate for you. To have a resource willing to go the extra miles means a lot.”
  • “We wanted to make a space where people could come together and take a step back from the pressures of school,” said Morgan Tompkins L’22, vice president of fellowship for the Fellowship of Christian Lawyers. “Sometimes people get so caught up in the hustle of law school that relationships get lost. We want to build those relationships in this space.”

Students, faculty, and staff have access to the Intercultural Global Commons during Elon Law’s regular hours of operation. Buggs credited Interim Dean Alan Woodlief, Assistant Dean Stacie Dooley, and former Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman for their immediate support of the requests.

“It’s about mutual respect and it’s about a care for wellbeing,” Buggs said. “At the end of the day, all this ties into student success in law school.”