Renovations for African American cultural center should be priority

With drafty windows, tiles containing asbestos, peeling lead paint, tripping hazards and lack of handicap-accessibility, it is clear that the dilapidated conditions of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center are beyond problematic. Because of these poor conditions, among other important social and cultural considerations, we think immediate change is most definitely needed to ensure the survival of this center. 

This particular cultural center is one of six that exist on campus, and it serves as a location to promote the social, cultural, individual and academic well-being of African American students at the University. With black students making up around 5 percent of the University population, it is vital that we ensure a fixed, stable location where the voices of these students can be heard and represented in a fair and equitable way. 

As well as that, the center’s website states that part of the mission of the cultural center is to challenge all University students to think deeply about their roles as global citizens and advocates for encouraging a respectful campus — a mission that we feel is admirable and worth promoting further. 

Because we appreciate the mission of the cultural center and believe the center helps promote a diverse and welcoming campus, we find it imperative that its housing be restored to functional, durable conditions.

While the condition of the facility has been noted by the University and administration, the solutions do not seem terribly promising at this point. One solution is to relocate the center to Lincoln Avenue, a solution that Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano said administration is considering, but it is possible that this facility may be in poor condition as well. Another solution involves creating a facility to house all of the cultural centers and ethnic studies departments. 

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However, creating one all-encompassing facility feels counterproductive to promoting diversity. In a way, it takes away from the uniqueness that each culture brings to campus, and we shouldn’t just lump all of these centers, and their rich histories, into one location.

Not to mention, this plan is not estimated to be implemented for another five to eight years. And with decreasing rates of enrollment, retention and graduation among African American students, this time-stamp is way too long to wait for a very necessary solution to a current problem. 

We should continue to promote the unique differences that are offered at each of the cultural centers, which is why correcting the conditions of the cultural center is so crucial. As such, we believe that providing a safe, operational facility for African-American students is a reasonable, and feasible, way to show that we truly do care about the distinct experiences that different cultural groups have on campus.