by Brianna Bradley
“Our faculty, staff and students form a caring community. This is evident in how people treat each other, as well as in the way our staff maintains our building and grounds … our campus welcomes and celebrates diversity and works to actively combat racism.”
The quote above is an excerpt from the “About MSUM” section on the school’s official website. While MSUM might be attempting to live up to this, it’s very questionable as to whether or not it actually does.
The reason I say this is because, while I love the school, it struggles with making its more diverse population feel like they truly are a part of campus. Spaces known to accommodate to these students, like the Anita Bender Women’s Center, Rainbow (LGBT+) Dragon Center and the American Indian Research and Resource Center* are being threatened. These autonomous safe spaces are at risk of being “relocated,” a decision being made by school administration, into a single space called the Mosaic Center as a part of the CMU’s renovation that will begin at the end of this semester.
I have placed an asterisk by the American Indian Research and Resource Center because I was informed by Yvette Underdue Murph, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, that the American Indian Research and Resource Center is not being relocated even though Layne Anderson, Director of Student Union and Activities, showed a close acquaintance of mine that its current location, along with the lactation/meditation room right beside it, is being turned into office space.
So, until I see it in a formally written statement, I refuse to believe they will stick to their word and am keeping the space in solidarity with the other two I’ve listed.
From what I understand, this proposed center, as of right now, is expected to house the offices and meeting spaces of the three previously listed groups, as well as the international student organizations. These groups involve approximately 700 people, more than 500 of them international students.
The maximum capacity of the Mosaic Center is projected to be 60 people. According to an architect in charge of the renovation project, even that number was pushing its limits.
I will admit the Mosaic Center seems like a great idea, I’m not denying that whatsoever, but myself and several others who utilize the existing spaces know such a space cannot even begin to suit each individual group’s needs.
While all of our groups collaborate and interact with each other almost every day, they each serve a different purpose and have different reasons for being considered safe spaces amongst students. Combining them all with the international students will not create a super safe space. No, it just doesn’t work that way.
I’m sorry administration, but expecting us to all thrive and flourish in the space that the ROC is currently housed is not embracing diversity for what it is — multifaceted. You wouldn’t combine all of the departments of this university into one building and expect everything to function as it normally does without running into issues.
Students utilizing the already existing spaces and more recently myself have been fighting to keep the three spaces autonomous for the better portion of two years, if not longer. We have met with different people in the school and student union’s administration numerous times and have only received backlash in response.
Administration’s, more so Director Layne Anderson’s, argument time and time again about the relocation is that all of our spaces are temporary, and this will be their permanent home. Our spaces want to remain autonomous. Let the international students have a home in the Mosaic Center. With their numbers, it is well overdue that they get their own space.
Recently students, including myself, have taken to Twitter, using the hashtag #spacesinsolidarity, to try to gain momentum and support. We will also be increasing our outreach soon.
If this is the first time you are hearing about any of these spaces and would like to visit them, the American Indian Research and Resource Center is in CMU 111, the Rainbow Dragon Center is in CMU 218 and the Anita Bender Women’s Center is in Bridges 154. Each of the spaces are generally open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with specific hours varying by each center.