By Aishling Phelan
DCU Students’ Union has been asked to donate €10,000 towards the cost of building a labyrinth on campus.
A labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool consisting of a winding stone path that people walk while meditating. Plans are in place to build one of the structures on campus for students to use to relieve stress and promote concentration, particularly during exam time.
The total cost of building the stone labyrinth is an estimated €40,000-€50,000. Its winding path is 964ft long and the structure itself will be 40ft in diameter and will be built in one of the square greens in front of the library.
At last week’s Class Rep Council meeting, there were mixed reactions as to whether to give the large donation and many class reps believed the money could be better spent elsewhere.
One class rep said, “I take issue with this at a time when the student registration fee is going up”. Another suggested that the money could be spent on student support services.
Class reps will ultimately decide whether the Students’ Union can give the donation by casting a vote at the next Class Rep Council meeting.
The project, which is being spearheaded by the Head Chaplain of the Interfaith Centre, Fr Joe Jones, is in its early stages of development and in need of funding.
Fr Joe says that if students don’t get behind the project it will have to be abandoned. Other bodies in the university are waiting to see if students get behind the project by making a donation through the Students’ Union before injecting money into the project themselves.
He said the labyrinth would give students the chance to get away from the stress and strains of university life.
Speaking to The College View, Fr Joe Jones acknowledged that the money could be spent in other areas but said, “one of the difficulties for people is that they’re no longer involved in the church the way they would have been in the past, so people aren’t taking time out to look after themselves, which is really important in the whole well-being of a person”.
He added, “We’re really, really dependent on the students to get behind this project. If we don’t get a sense that the students are behind it, we’ll have to let it go and we don’t want to do that”.
Education Officer of the SU, Cillian Byrne, suggested that the sum of money was so large that class reps should consult with their classes before making a decision on donating.
Council deferred their decision and will decide at the next council meeting next Wednesday. Despite the consensus among many class reps that the money could be better spent elsewhere, council didn’t reject the idea of the donation.
“We put in a proposal to the Students’ Union, because ultimately this will be something that will be used very much by students and it will be used by staff as well. But the whole idea is really around the whole area of students and helping them with meditation, something that will help them to be calm,” said Fr Joe.
“Everyone today is so busy and running around with all kinds of tensions and stresses. The labyrinth is great for relieving that kind of stress and tension.”
He believes the main challenge now will be getting students to understand the benefits.
Newly elected Access Officer, Amy Lucas, suggested that having the labyrinth on campus would give more prestige to the university and help DCU increase its position in world rankings.
As class reps debated whether €10,000 was too much to donate, Students’ Union President Ed Leamy asked if class reps would be interested in making some sort of contribution.
He confirmed that the SU did have the money to donate to the project.
Fr Joe said that it was important the students were educated on the benefits of having a labyrinth on campus. “At the moment a lot of people are not necessarily behind it because they don’t know very much about it.
“We’ve gone for funding to different places and hit a bit of a brick wall in a few places. I’m really hoping that the students get behind it, particularly the union because it’s an instrument that will be very much for students of the college.”
Another concern for class reps was whether the labyrinth would actually be used by students in DCU.
This Friday, Fr Joe and six other members of the labyrinth committee will travel to Scotland to visit the University of Edinburgh, which had an outdoor labyrinth build on its campus in 2004.
The trip will be paid for by the Interfaith Centre, whose yearly budget is €1,700 and the committee will take part in workshops and speak to students about their personal use of the labyrinth.
Members of the committee include two DCU students from the Raise and Give Society, Claire Bohan, the Director of Student Support and Development in DCU and Helena Ahern, Head of Counselling & Personal Development in DCU.
Fr Joe said, “In Edinburgh, it’s great around exam time, walking the labyrinth can put things into perspective”.
A labyrinth canvas was placed in both the library and the Interfaith Centre in DCU for the past few weeks to give students a sense of what the labyrinth is.
President of DCU, Brian MacCraith is interested in the project along with the DCU Educational Trust. They believe the labyrinth will improve the aesthetics and landscape of the campus.
“The beauty of the labyrinth is that it can work for people regardless of their spiritual or religious background. It’s actually much older than most religions in the world,” said Fr Joe.
“The idea is really to give students a place they can go to, to let go of their stress and walk the labyrinth with mindful meditation.”
The labyrinth dates back as far as 5,000 years ago. The Celts described it as the Never Ending Circle.
Research conducted at the Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Medical Institute by Dr Herbert Benson has found that focused walking meditations are highly efficient at reducing anxiety.
Labyrinth meditation gardens can be used for relaxation, can lower blood pressure, clear the mind and reduce insomnia.