Ruhr-University-Bochum (RUB) – Bochum, Germany (CASE 2)

At Ruhr-University-Bochum (RUB) there is an initiative called “room of silence” (Raum der Stille). It is operated by the AKAFÖ (Akademisches Förderwerk – the Centre for academic support and study services), which is the central students’ support organ for the universities of Bochum, providing housing, financial support, counselling and which operates the cafeterias on campus. A task force including a member of the AKAFÖ, the Vice-Rector of Diversity, Inclusion and Talent development, a member of the administration, researchers from the theology departments at RUB and three students, was founded to oversee and develop the Room of Silence initiative. The Room of Silence was established to offer a space for silent reflection, meditating and praying; a place of solitude, peace and tranquility to take a break from the crowded and exciting day-to-day environment of the campus. Currently, this initiative supports mainly persons with disabilities; students/staff with a refugee or migrant backgrounds; staff/students of colour and every member of the university who seeks a moment of rest and solitude, to pray, meditate or silently reflect. Since the Room of Silence is explicitly open to everyone, no specific target group was identified.

The “Room of Silence” does not engage in activities but impacts university life through its existence. At this university, promotion and information regarding the Room of Silence as an inclusive place for everyone throughout the university environment (e.g. posters, social media posts and news articles) were the activities with the greatest impact to promote this initiative.

In addition to activities to support inclusion, RUB implements measures/activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through binding policy (legislation), strategy/action plan(s), recommendations/guidelines, preventive programmes and through the “diversity portal”. The Diversity Portal (umbrella portal for support services for members of marginalized groups), offers mentoring programmes for (perspective) first-generation students, refugees and other “non-traditional” academics, guides for international students, support service for people with disabilities and chronic diseases, anti-discrimination office, diversity day, family-friendly campus, career development, sensitivity training, research on discrimination; more RUB offers can be found here:

At RUB, the motivation for establishing this initiative was originally the concern with the mental and spiritual well-being of students and staff at the university and aims to offer a safe space to pause for a moment in a peaceful and restful environment, to re-energise and refocus. The factors crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff was the fact that the RUB is “home” to a diverse community of researchers, lectures, staff and students. In order to honour and foster this diversity, RUB strives to provide for the needs of all its members, including their spiritual needs. Its establishment aligns with the goals and values of the university, namely inclusion, diversity and respect. This is a successful initiative because of its inclusive character. Rather than offering individual spaces for different religious groups (e.g. prayer rooms), the Room of Silence provides a space of reflection and tranquility for everyone. This underlines the concept of unity prevalent at the RUB, as it focusses on the core of the need for praying or meditation: to pause, breath, refocus and re-energise, which is common to all religious and spiritual practises. Moreover, the individual needs and preferences of many people were considered during the design of the Room of Silence and its convenient location near the main cafeteria further fostered its success.
The Room of Silence is a project of the RUB. RUB – as most German universities – is an institution of the state (North Rhein-Westphalia) and is thus bound by its laws and subject to its political strategies, e.g. in terms of funding. However, there is no direct jurisdiction over this specific project by the state or the federal government.
The initiative is maintained and overseen by a diverse task force consisting of a member of the AKAFÖ, the Vice-Rector of Diversity, Inclusion and Talent development, a member of the administration, researchers from the theology departments at RUB and three students. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this initiative and at the university’s strategies, policies and work plans. The decisions and contributions to the project design are made by the interdepartmental task force. The AKAFÖ (Centre for academic support and study services) is responsible for the day-to-day operation, e.g. unlocking and locking the doors, and establishes the code of conduct inside the Room of Silence together with the task force.
The main challenge to establishing this initiative was to fulfil all the needs and demands that every specific group has when it comes to a place of worship. For example, some religious practices involve separation of genders, which was not in accordance with RUB’s demand for the inclusive character of the Room of Silence. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the service would be a drastic shortage of available rooms at the university, e.g. after the destruction of several other buildings. Only in a case of massively reduced resources the Room of Silence initiative would be endangered. Therefore, the stability of this initiative is almost complete. The Room of Silence is funded by the Ruhr University Bochum.
The evaluation process is currently being created by the committee overseeing the Room of Silence initiative. As it is still in development, the main indicators, as well as the method of data collection, have not yet been decided upon. However, a survey regarding frequency of usage, target group and satisfaction of users is likely.

Equal Opportunity Office

Bochum, Germany