New spaces begins construction this year
By Julia Berkman
Students of color flocked to the Ethnic Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 28 to discuss upcoming events at the ESC Open House. The ESC and surrounding floor were chock full offaculty and students alike, all excited about the upcoming year. Between the upcoming SUCCESS conference at Camp Casey and the construction of the Multicultural Center, students involved with the ESC have a lot to look forward to!
Among the subjects up for discussion, the brand new Multicultural Center stole the show. Eric Alexander, Associate Dean for Student Engagement and Director of the Viking Union, has been a part of the planning stages for the past four years.
“This is such a huge change from what we have now. It’s not the only change we need to make, not the only thing we need to do, but it’s an incredible addition. It’s something that was built around the needs the students continue and will continue to bring,” Alexander said. “It’s built with a lot of heart.”
ESC Assistant Director Lafayette Baker agreed.
“In our current center, we just have one main multipurpose space, but they’ll have more room and they’ll have a lot of opportunities to do programs, to relax, to come together. I think it’ll be very exciting. I started working here in October, so I wasn’t really involved in the planning. Things were pretty much set in motion when I came on board,” Baker said.
Of course, Alexander and Baker would have nothing to build if it wasn’t for the unrelenting efforts of students involved with the ESC. Concerns with the size of the Ethnic Student Center came to a head in late 2014, but it wasn’t until the 2016-2017 school year that students were asked to vote on whether or not there would be a new Multicultural Center.
This proposal sparked controversy with Western students. Some felt that the expansion was unnecessary, and just another construction site on the close heels of Carver Gym. Students in support of the project argued that, as an umbrella for 17 different organizations, they couldn’t all fit comfortably in such a small space. Simrun Chhabra, current AS President, considered support of the Multicultural Center construction to be a key point of her platform.
Junior Olivia Westerfield put it more frankly.
“This place is fucking tiny and it’s hot and we’re all sweaty. We’re just tryna jam and be brown, so let us have this space,” they said.
Freshman Jaleen Roberts agreed.
“I think the ESC is hidden right now. You see the Viking Union and you don’t know where anything else is,” she said.
The SUCCESS conference, another huge moment for the ESC, is from Oct. 13-15. Students of all colors and ages are invited to attend a 3 day bonding event at Camp Casey.
“Before I got here, I looked up what the stats are of the races on campus, and it’s like 85 percent white,” Roberts said. “I came from a really diverse high school, so I want to feel at home on campus.”
She hopes the SUCCESS conference is a good way to meet fellow POC.
The theme of the Ethnic Students Center open house this year seemed to be growth and hope. Office Assistant and Sophomore Celiea Moran is optimistic about the future of the ESC.
“I think it’s really going to grow and I think there’s going to be a lot more people involved. I heard that this freshmen class has a lot more POC and ethnic diversity,” Moran said.