Plans for a unified cultural center should move forward

For a few years now, a proposed unified cultural center has been on the back burner of initiatives to be discussed and evaluated by the University. The loose plan would bring together the cultural houses on Nevada Street, the LGBT and women’s resource centers, the gender and ethnic studies programs and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. This project should be moved to the forefront of projects to be completed.

As a university that prides itself on its racial, ethnic, sexual and religious diversity, we need to make sure that we continue to foster and attract students that will add to this college culture.

The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiatives Committee proposed the project to grow the programming of the current diversity units and to give them an improved space to replace the old and dilapidated houses. Developing programs that would promote and attract diversity at the University would be easier if all of the units were together.

There is, however, some backlash from students and faculty alike. By combining the units into one, they argue that the significance and individuality the separate centers afford to these units would be marginalized. Instead of being African-American or Asian-American, students would be reduced to simply being part of a minority group.

Facilities and Services offered a design that would prevent this: Each house would be distinct with separate entrances and offices but would share common areas like performance spaces, meeting rooms and classrooms. As long as the units are unique and distinguishable, the integrity of each would remain intact. While the current set up allows students to seek out services, like those provided by the LGBT Resource Center, in privacy, the new design would not circumvent this advantage.

Under current proposals, each unit would retain its own administration and staff, mitigating an overarching bureaucracy that could hinder the units’ unique missions and goals. Each unit needs sufficient independence to advance projects specific to different cultures.

Part of what makes any university experience valuable is the exposure to a mixture of cultures vastly different than the ones from which we hail. By constructing a single area, the cultural units will be able to bolster their presence on campus, potentially working more closely with each other to promote the importance of diversity. The proximity could allow for a more equal distribution of funds, too.

Although student and faculty input from a feasibility study conducted on the project has not yet been evaluated, nor have funds been appropriated, we hope that the University population will recognize the viability and benefits of such a project to see it through to completion.