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Long awaited cultural centers opens

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Other than the occasional student walking through the third floor of O’Connell, the only sound that filled the South wing of the third floor was the golf team practicing swings. That all changed last Thursday with the opening of four new spaces.

On the day of the opening the once empty hallway became packed with students, staff, artists and golf teams members. DePaul’s Black, Latinx, LGBTQA, and Asian Pacific-Islander Desi-American (APIDA) cultural centers had their grand opening after months of waiting. The opening featured food, a raffle and a featured artist in each of the centers.

The decision to create the cultural centers was announced in the spring 2017. Along with this decision came the announcement that, due to lack of funds, the Center for Identity, Inclusion and Social Change would be closing down. The Office for Multicultural Student Success (OMSS) would oversee the new centers.

Former president Dennis Holtschneider announced the cultural centers in response to a list of demands from black student organizations on campus following the the Milo Yiannopoulos event and the protest surrounding it. 

The demand in particular at Fr. Holtschneider was responding to was the creation of a Black House, building where black students could have a place of their own to meet. The other demands on the list have yet to be fulfilled.

A school wide email from Fr. Holtschneider stated, “(…) DePaul will immediately create a new center dedicated to serving African-American students; that centers for Latinx and LGBTQA students will soon follow; and the university will establish a formalized point of contact for undocumented students.”

As subsequent email announced that the Center for Identity, Inclusion, and Social Change would be closing on Aug. 15. This email also outlined the structure and staffing that the new cultural center would have.

The coordinators of the centers at their grand opening on Thursday, Jan. 25.
(Jonathan Ballew | The DePaulia)

At the beginning of fall quarter DePaul student affairs sent out an email stating that all the coordinators should be in their offices by Sept. 18, and the centers should be fully operational by the end of fall quarter. The opening date became pushed back until a concrete date was given earlier this quarter.

According to Patricia Santoyo-Marin, the associate director of OMSS, the delay in the opening of the centers came for issues with construction. Several rooms and offices were renovated in order to house the new centers and their respective directors.

While the centers were open during the week, the grand opening was the first opportunity many people had to view the new spaces.

The students in attendance already had hopes for the ways in in the centers would be used.

“We definitely want to take advantage of the center it being the new hot spot for black students,” sophomore Darnell Langston said. “We definitely want to use this to reach the community the best way that our organization can.”

One of the event attendees was Reynaldo Santamaria, a student worker who was formerly a Social Justice Advocate (SoJA) and is now a front desk assistant at the new centers.They  hopes that the students of DePaul will take full advantage of these new spaces.

Other coordinators have high hopes for the future. Corey Barnes, Monica Ramos and Michael Riley are the coordinators for the Black, Latinx and LGBTQA centers respectively.

I hope it gives (black students) a sense of belonging, a place where they feel comfortable, where they can congregate, a place where they can be themselves and not have to pretend to be someone else.”

— Corey Barnes

His fellow coordinators seemed to agree.

“We are hoping that students find a safe place where they feel good,” Ramos said.

Elon Sloan, a former student who worked at the Center for Identity, Inclusion, and Social Change, has hopes that collaboration and intersectionality will be part of the centers’ missions going forward.

Because each of the centers focuses solely on one identity, students that hold multiple marginalized identities might find themselves having to choose.

“We still have to see how intersectional these spaces turn out to be,” said Sloan, a black senior at DePaul who is non-binary trans.

“That’s a really heavy task,” said Riley in regards trying to who creating intersectionality in those spaces.

Riley and Barnes have already began putting in work toward creating programing that focuses on queer black voices. The type of cross-coordinating among the centers seems to be the best way students can expect intersectionality to be implemented.

Another major concern of the new centers is the lack of a coordinator at the APIDA cultural center. Every other cultural center except for APIDA had a coordinator during the opening months of fall quarter. The delay with APIDA is due in part to the fact that it was essentially an afterthought.

The only centers included in the original plan were the black, Latinx and LGBTQA centers. It wasn’t until students who have identities that fall under APIDA began to complain that the center was added into the plan in fall quarter. The lack of  a coordinator in this center means that the programing and support for the students falls on Santoyo-Marin and Dr. Kim Everett, the director of OMSS. It appears that the earliest a coordinator for this center can be expected to be hired is during spring quarter.

“I know that that topic amongst a list of other topics are to be discussed at the March Board of Trustees meeting, so we hope to have some sort of direction by then,” Santoyo-Marin said.

Although these centers are not without fault, the staff do demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that the voices of marginalized students are heard and considered.

“We do invite them to engage with coordinators, with myself, with other student leaders, so that that way their voice can be represented as move forward,” Santoyo-Marin said.

As the grand opening event came to an end and the cleaning process began, students made their way into the new centers. The sound of the golf team practicing their swings meant that the hallway was empty, but it was now accompanied by the sounds of students partaking in new spaces made for them.

1 Comment

One Response to “Long awaited cultural centers opens”

  1. Theresa on January 30th, 2018 2:03 pm

    Every person needs to experience compassion and union and I know the New Cultural Center will provide . A voice from Kentucky.

    [Reply]

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Long awaited cultural centers opens