Boxes and Walls museum canceled

Two participants of Boxes and Walls talk during the event in October 2003. The event was canceled this year due to space constraints. Daily Illini File Photo

Two participants of Boxes and Walls talk during the event in October 2003. The event was canceled this year due to space constraints. Daily Illini File Photo

By Liz deAvila

Boxes and walls can collapse. This year the “experiential museum that takes an interactive emotional approach to diversity education,” known as Boxes and Walls, has been canceled according to its Web site.

Scheduled to start in February, Boxes and Walls was to be held in the basement of McKinley Church, 809 S. Fifth St. However, the student-run organization, also called Boxes and Walls, was left without a space this semester when another group booked the church basement before Boxes and Walls. Due to the time commitment and large amount of space required to adequately hold Boxes and Walls, program coordinators decided to cancel the program instead of going through with it this semester in a mediocre fashion.

The museum was to be made up of nine rooms, each focusing on a different oppressed group. This year’s museum would have had a room for people with disabilities, Latinos/Latinas, GLBT individuals, Jews, Muslims, women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and American Indians, according to the Boxes and Walls Web site.

Visitors are usually led through each room and faced with information in different media forms. The goal is to make the oppression personal and really “bring it home” for the person, according to the Web site.

The church has served as home to the three-week museum since the exhibit came to campus in 2000, according to the University News Bureau.

“The students wanted to maintain the integrity of Boxes and Walls if they couldn’t do it fully,” said Marc Goldman, staff advisor for Boxes and Walls.

The group has plans to bring Boxes and Walls back in the fall of 2005 and is gathering its resources in order to be ready for next semester, Goldman said.

Anjali Forber-Pratt, junior in ALS and public relations officer for Boxes and Walls, said she was excited Boxes and Walls will be held in the fall and is confident the program will continue and be incredible.

“With every organization I feel there may be a rough period,” she said. “But what is important is how you deal with it and learn from the experience.”

Forber-Pratt also said volunteer support is part of what makes Boxes and Walls continue to happen. Student volunteers worked on the program this semester until they learned of its cancellation. They did extensive research on the featured oppressed groups and designed a room emphasizing what it would be like to be a member of each group.

“A lot of the room coordinators had finished,” said Mona Haggag, senior in FAA and room coordinator for the Muslim room. “A lot of the room volunteers were confused and left in the dark.”

In order to clarify some of the confusion, students involved in Boxes and Walls met on Tuesday to brainstorm about the future of program.

One of the issues raised was the intense time commitment required by the volunteers running the exhibit, Goldman said.

The time-consuming schedule often deters future volunteers and makes past volunteers reluctant to return, Haggag said.

Not only do the volunteers have to man the exhibit, which runs four days a week, four hours a day, according to the Web site, but putting together the rooms and doing the research takes a long time as well.

“There’s a hierarchy of what students work on when they’re on campus,” Haggag said. “Academics usually come first and then extracurriculars.”

In order to give the students an incentive to work on Boxes and Walls and prevent their grades from slipping, it was proposed at the meeting to incorporate the research students do while preparing the rooms into an independent study project. Therefore, they would receive class credit for the work they did with Boxes and Walls.

“We felt that it would be important to allow this academic aspect to become a part of Boxes and Walls,” Haggag said. “Students can feel comfortable and feel more dedicated to working on this initiative.”

Goldman said he wasn’t sure what the reaction to that plan would be, but hoped it would be a positive one.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Goldman said. “I mean faculty may or may not agree with their students on this, but we think it’s a way to attempt to carry Boxes and Walls into the future and recognize the integrity of the program and the significant commitment students put into it.”