The Global Education house is where we celebrated Ethiopian New Year and Eid Ul Fitr. It’s where we planned, mobilized and organized the Black Lives Matter demonstration held two years ago.
It’s where many international students ended up spending our days and evenings when we didn’t have anywhere to go during the holidays.
So when I first heard that Global Ed had been “given away,” I was puzzled. There was no other space like that on campus for international students. How could Campus Life just hand it away, like any other theme house?
The more questions I asked and the more I learned about the offhand way in which the house’s mission had been dissolved and the space handed over, the confusion made way for an acute sense of betrayal.
It became patently obvious that the needs of international students were an afterthought to those concerned.
The International Programs Office and Diversity and Inclusion Office both point fingers away from themselves. Both say that the office for Campus Life made the decision in isolation; none of the shareholders of that space were consulted or invited to weigh in.
The IPO was informed after the fact. And with the transitions surrounding the Diversity and Inclusion Office, the predicament never even made it to their desk.
Before my class enrolled, the house across from the towers on South Summit Avenue and University Place (now known as Valhalla) used to be the “Diversity House.” A requirement of living in the house was a commitment to the promotion of diversity through a core project and year-long activities in line with the mission.
One year, the Diversity and Inclusion Office couldn’t recruit enough people to fill the house—off-years were bound to happen, considering the makeup of our school.
That year only six applied, which apparently wasn’t enough to preserve the house.
Those that applied were combined into the Global Ed house, whose mission bore similarities. Members of the track team, who used to live in another house that had been demolished that year, moved into Valhalla.
The mission of the house would never be restored.
The version of the story that is most widely told is that GE found itself in a similar predicament and when the house didn’t get enough applications, the runners, who needed more room, were given the house.
That story is just shy of the truth.
The application process for living in a theme house begins in March of the spring semester.
The liaison for the runners in the house said they were offered the house in January.
They were subsequently given a tour and when they accepted the offer, were cleared to move out of Valhalla and into GE.
There are six people living in Valhalla this year.
Augie cannot protect us from the subtle encounters we constantly suffer that remind us we are alien, that arouse suspicions of never really belonging here. Overt actions like this, however, affirm and entrench those feelings, as opposed to dispelling them.
From the manner in which this was carried out, it is evident there was never any real intention to maintain the mission of the house. They set out to dissolve the house in advance, in lieu of promoting it and recruiting for it.
It isn’t true that the singular factor that led to this situation was the unmet demand for housing; but even if it had been, if Campus Life felt the gravity of taking away the only sanctuary left for those who chose to come to Augie from thousands of miles away, they wouldn’t have carried out this “transfer” in such an opaque way.
Make no mistake, this isn’t the burden of Campus Life alone.
The school has stood by and allowed the continued erosion of minority spaces. This is the collective failure of an administration that claims bolstering diversity is one of its top priorities for our institution.