Students request multicultural center


Photo by Natasha Nellis

By Natasha Nellis, Contributing Writer

Several campus groups, including the Black Student Union (BSU), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A), the Native American Student Association (NASA), the Saudi Club, Muxeres Nopaleras, the Filipino-American Student Association (FASA) and Planned Parenthood Open Action, all sent representatives to meet with EWU President Mary Cullinan, Career Services and the Vice President of Student Affairs Stacey Morgan Foster to discuss including a multicultural center in the PUB remodel.

The student organizations have accrued 789 student and faculty signatures and are still working on gaining more. Dolce Gutierrez-Vasquez, an EWU senior and M.E.Ch.A. member, said students of color make up around 20 percent of the student population, and all they want is a safe place for people to get information.

These groups are requesting a large center, roughly the size of the MPR in the PUB, which would include a common room, a resource room, a kitchen and a fully-functional classroom where students could attend lectures given by guest speakers and cultural lessons to learn about the diverse ethnicities on campus. Dara Clay, a senior at EWU and a member of BSU, said it is about “inclusivity and integrity, the current lounge [in the plans] does not really promote any forms of learning … we need a center that promotes career and educational opportunities.”

“The draft as it stands is not the final, [we] no longer refer to it as a lounge, it is a center and will be bigger,” Morgan Foster said. She said the task force being created is going to talk to students and hear what they want to see, and that plans for the center to be bigger than the Veterans Resource Center (VRC), which is roughly 900 square feet, are being discussed.

Students of these groups feel they are marginalized on campus and that the university is not doing enough to support them. EWU senior Virginia Morales, a member of Muxeres Nopalares, said she has had problems every quarter with her financial aid and feels the financial aid office does not adequately fulfill the students’ needs.

Kelly Watt, vice president of NASA, said the different groups “are constantly fighting for [meeting] space.” Students from all groups in attendance agreed a fully-staffed multicultural center would be a good way to fix the broken lines of communication and provide a valuable resource for minority students.

The groups are requesting a full staff — including an associate director, a program coordinator, a retention specialist, an administrative assistant, two student employees and a vice president of diversity — be included in the budget.

Yousef Almalke, EWU freshman and Saudi Club member, said “we want [the center] to include cultural competency training … to build a positive relationship with others.” He said he feels a program director, among other staff, would be beneficial in both creating and maintaining a dialogue between students of different ethnicities.

They requested a program coordinator, associate director and administrative assistant to create and maintain programs that would get students involved and to help them learn about different cultures. Gutierrez-Vasquez said, “We currently rely on faculty and individuals to pick up the slack.” She said she feels an official cultural administration would be beneficial to remedying this issue.
Joshuena Williams, EWU senior and BSU member, said, “It needs to be set up in a way that will flourish and be effective for students.”

They also requested a minimum of two student employees to work in the center as both a way to garner student involvement and to create more job opportunities for students on campus.

Cullinan said she supported the idea of having a cultural administration and the university would begin hiring fall 2016.

One of the group’s biggest complaints was not being included in the discussions. Williams said none of the groups have received a formal invitation to be included in any focus groups or meetings discussing the implementation of the cultural center. The groups said they feel that since the multicultural center is for students, then students should have a say in how it is implemented.
Watt said he was asked to participate in a focus group, but said he had received no further information.

Morgan Foster said task forces and focus groups were discussed and that ASEWU already put together two open forums, which were held in the PUB during which students could voice their opinions.

Kyle Dodson, ASEWU president, said he feels he has failed to help market the different involvement opportunities, but would love to take suggestions about how to improve. He also informed the group that ASEWU applications will be taken the first week of spring quarter and recommended that the students get involved to get their voices out there.

Williams also brought up the issue of Aladdin’s not being included in the new PUB designs, stating that students of diversity are not happy about this because it is the only culturally-diverse establishment on campus. Several students in attendance said that they like Aladdin’s because it is a fun place for them to hang out that is more ethnically diverse than other establishments on campus. The group asked that Aladdin’s be included in the PUB remodel.

Sokridanny Bunt, EWU senior and FASA member said, “Culture is very important to our club because we hold our culture within ourselves.” Bunt said she feels that a multicultural center would be a good way to both embrace her culture and share it with others.

Almalke said, “If we gather together we can share these thoughts … I learned a lot about their culture and histories [from this collaboration]. Violence comes from not understanding each other.”