The Daily Illini

Editorial: Cultural center addition

Senior Akram Almasri has gathered a group of 25 students over the past year to push for the construction of an Arab-American Cultural House on campus. His group contacted the administration, as well as other religious groups on campus, but received pushback from Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson.

The current campus climate doesn’t paint the University as inclusive. From chalking campus sidewalks with hateful messages to parties with questionable themes, minority students might begin to question their places on campus.

Whether or not the harm caused by these actions was intentional, students should not feel unwelcome.

A potential cultural center would provide a safe haven for Arab-American students, as well as serve as a place for students to learn more about their culture.

Many Arab-Americans practice Islam, a religion which has been at the forefront of political controversy for nearly two decades. Misconceptions about the religion could be dispelled by a new cultural center.

University administrators already have plenty of major decisions to handle. The new College of Medicine is still in development, the search for a replacement chancellor is ongoing, the looming strike from the non-tenure faculty coalition is likely to occur this week and, yes, somehow there is still no state budget.

All of these issues are a lot to handle, but the University should not lose sight of one of its most important tasks: ensuring that our campus remains fully inclusive.

The construction of a new cultural center holds few downsides for the University. While the cost would certainly not be insignificant, the benefit of educating students about a large portion of the global population outweighs the price tag. Merely initiating discussions to create a cultural center down the line would appease Almasri’s group and cost the University little money.

The new center could also encourage Arab-American students to come to the University. Arab-Americans who see that our campus provides a cultural center for them will feel encouraged to come to a school where they can feel safe about their race and ethnicity.

Though creating a new cultural center doesn’t happen overnight, it would be a relatively small, but important, improvement the University could make as the administration tackles its other major challenges.

It will help the University’s image, but more importantly, this new cultural house would be a place for some students to feel at home, and others to learn about another culture for years to come.

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