ASCWU supports Diversity and Equity Center move to Black Hall


Jack Belcher, News Editor

The Diversity and Equity Center (DEC) is moving to Black Hall in order for the program to expand. According to Jeff Rosenberry, Executive Director of Student Involvement, the new space in Black Hall is going to be three-to-five times larger than the current DEC in the SURC.

With the larger area in Black, the new DEC can consist of a multicultural space, a place that DEC Assistant Director Veronica Gomez describes as a setting where students can work on projects and have meetings.

According to DEC Assistant Director Katrina Whitney, students have been constantly and consistently asking for a DEC on campus. The DEC was created in 1997 because students supported the idea with a passion. Whitney was on staff from the very beginning and has been with the center for the last 21 years.

Whitney said that back in 1997, the DEC was a one-room, one-office space in the old Samuelson building. It was then moved to its current location in the SURC, which, while larger, does not have the room necessary to easily help students. With this larger move to Black, the DEC will have access to a space that has more potential.

“The potential for this space in relation to what we can provide to students, from all identities, is so profound,” Whitney said. “We are in a state in our world, in our nation, where conversations around identity, conversations around privilege, conversations around ally-ship, conversations around equity are so crucial and vital to the health of our nation that having a center to be able to continue to grow in those conversations is invaluable.”

The space in Black Hall is only supposed to be temporary. The long-term goal is for the DEC to take advantage of an expansion of the SURC, a project that ASCWU President Edith Rojas said is many years away. However, because

students have been asking for a larger space for so long, and because the opening of the new Samuelson building has provided a new home for the Multimodal Education Center, there is a large space in Black Hall for the DEC to move into.

The idea to move the DEC into Black Hall was presented to Rojas by Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Life Dr. Katherine P. Frank over the summer.

“I was really taken back,” Rojas said. “Sitting on the board last year, we had this idea of expanding the SURC… and so we didn’t think it would be possible.”

Rojas and ASCWU VP of Equity and Community Affairs Maurice Watkins both liked the idea of the space, and can see how the move will help students.

Watkins thinks that the location in Black Hall is perfect for the DEC’s needs right now. He is aware that this is still only a temporary location, but the space will be familiar for returning students, as it was previously the area in Black Hall where students could check out laptops. It will also be hard for new students to miss, due to its proximity to the SURC.  

“I am sure that there will be lots of people that will come in and either want to use the space for themselves or their organization, or as a place to pray or if they just would like a learning experience,” Watkins said. “It’s a very inclusive space, it’s a safe space and it’s open to everyone of every sort of demographic.”

According to Watkins, the space isn’t just for students who might face marginalization in their lives.

“And for those who may not be part of a marginalized group, you can still come, and you can talk to individuals and you can get to learn people who have different cultures on a more personal level, to be able to understand them better,” Watkins said.

On Monday, Sept. 24, the ASCWU voted unanimously in support of the move during a public meeting in the SURC Pit. Both Watkins and Rojas state that there was no opposition to the move and nobody had anything negative to say about the idea.

Rosenberry believes that the support that CWU President James Gaudino, Provost Frank and the university on the whole is providing shows just how important diversity and inclusiveness is at CWU.

“I was a student here from 2001 to 2007 and during that time I saw a campus of inclusion, I saw a campus of diverse populations,” Rosenberry said. “People who didn’t always have the same thought process but were able to come together in a way and have an educated dialogue, and that difference of opinion is okay, and its accepted and it should be encouraged on a college campus.”

CWU senior and DEC volunteer Taylor Tahkeal-Valencia is excited to get the new space, although she feels the move is long overdue. She thinks the move is finally going to give the DEC a place to call home.

Whitney believes that the university supporting this shows the beginning of a transition to the larger space that students have been asking for. She does not think that this is the final step, but that it is a step in the right direction.

Gomez said that the DEC needs this move because they have outgrown the space that they have in the SURC. She also believes that the university will continue to grow more diverse over the coming years, and that the DEC having a larger place to call home is going to help those students.

“The demographic of the student population has changed drastically since then [the opening of the SURC], I mean we have an increase of minority students,” Gomez said. “We are over 30 percent minority students and that doesn’t include women and our LGBTQ students. So definitely that space is going to help accommodate to a certain point the need of the demographic.”

Under the proposed timeline, the DEC will be moved into the new location around late October to early November. The soft opening is going to take place sometime at the start of 2019.