UI works to find way to increase space for cultural houses

By Lisa Chung

Part of the University Strategic Plan includes constructing facilities for cultural centers to fulfill the requests for more space. This year, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano is working to spark conversation and “gel ideas” that would best serve the centers.

Romano said the goal is to speak with people to explore the different needs and expectations the cultural houses may have, and to also distinguish the roles of the houses. One of the main reasons the cultural houses lack available space is because some of the houses, like the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, were designated as centers after they were built.

“We’re not even to the point where we’re ready to say what anything would look like, but we recognize that there is a need,” Romano said.

At this point, Romano said all the houses could use space for more meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms, libraries and performance spaces.

“The question is: How are we going to get both? How are we going to have separate space and separate identity, but still meet some of the greater needs that we have?” Romano said.

The complicated part of planning something like this is keeping in mind that each house needs to retain a separate space and identity, she said. This aspect of planning is a “high priority” for each group because it’s part of why a culture center exists.

Although the idea of constructing a building to meet the needs of the cultural centers is merely that, Viraj Patel, junior in LAS, finds this proposal redundant.

“We already have a Union, it’s supposed to be a multicultural center,” Patel said.

Patel is also an active member of the Indian Student Association, a Registered Student Organization at the University; as a member, she has had no trouble in requesting and obtaining University space for the RSO.

The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resources, located in the Union, also struggles with the lack of available space, said Curt McKay, director of the office.

McKay proposes that there be a building that would provide “individual spaces to retain our identities, but would also provide a common shared space.”

“We really need to work on it, but this is a sensitive topic and we have to go about it very carefully,” Romano said. “We need to really listen to our students, faculty and staff, and even our alumni. We want this to be a win-win situation.”