Student group requests administration restore, protect campus diversity, inclusion spaces

In the wake of the dissolution of the Global Education and Diversity houses, a group of students has sent a letter to Campus Life, the International Programs Office and Dean of Students Office requesting protection for diversity and inclusion spaces and the community using them be included in the upcoming 2030 strategic plan.

The group’s proposal includes two parts: the “restoration and promotion of a theme house” that is dedicated to multicultural programs and “permanent space allocation on campus” that would protect the house from fluctuating housing demands.

Senior Luca Amayo was the chief organizer of the proposal. He said without a space, many students will be left feeling lost.

“It’s hard enough that your family is a continent away, but it makes it even harder when everyone is with their families and you’re cooped up in your dorm room,” Amayo said.

The group that drafted the proposal consists of students from the African Student Union, the Muslim Students’ Association and both international student senators.

So far, more than 100 students have signed the letter.

Amayo said the closure of the GE house upset him not just because of the loss of physical space, but also because of the message it sent to international students.

“I think international students very often feel like they are at the periphery of Augie, they don’t feel like they are at the center of campus,” Amayo said. “They don’t feel like they have a stake here and like they can call this their home.”  

Cory Kopp, director of Campus Life, said he regrets not engaging students in the decision to dissolve the GE house.

“As we shuffled things around and tried to make a decision that made sense financially and for the students currently living in spaces, we thought we were going to solve a couple problems but in the process made a whole new one,” Kopp said. “I think what was missed was involving international students in particular, but really any student who had treated Global Ed as a safe haven of sorts. We missed a step—an important one.”

Kopp said the office perceived a lack of interest in the house due to low occupancy in the past.

But the lack of applications could have been a result of a deficiency of advertisement and marketing in the past, Amayo said.

“Part of what created this situation was basically a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge,” said Amayo. “I think [the administration] is cognizant of that. They’ve been very understanding and apologetic.”

Junior Manaal Ali, president of the international club, said the international community on campus helped her find a home on campus, and she does not want anyone to feel that there isn’t a place like that for them.

“When I came in as a freshman, the only people that I really found a family with was international students, and I never had that before,” Ali said. “I don’t want people to feel alone or alienated within society or within a community, especially when it’s as small as Augie is.”

On Nov. 15, the group presented the proposal to the offices as well as the track and cross country athletes who currently live in the theme house formerly used as the GE House.

Both Amayo and Kopp felt the meeting was a platform allowing everyone to understand what happened and what could be done to ensure its resolution.

The meeting centered on solutions for permanent living spaces, communal spaces and ways of keeping students involved in the process.

Kopp said, in the future, choices on the theme house need to be a collaborative effort between the offices and the students, which he believes would make it more successful.

“What should have happened was probably a more direct or at least collaborative marketing plan with IPO and with students themselves to help recruit and try to fill that space,” Kopp said.

Ali said she hopes the new house or space will be more than just a bubble where international students can hide away from the rest of campus.

“We want it to be a place where American students are welcomed and where American students come to learn about things and interact with people who are different from them,” Ali said.

Amayo said there needs to be a commitment to structural support from every level of administration before this happens so that when issues arise in the future international and minority students do not go unheard.

Amayo said it is important for administration and students to work together and understand the needs of students and how to better communicate with them.

“It’s very important for Augie to do everything that it can to fill that gap, and I think the intention is always there, but what happens is sometimes the pieces in between don’t always come together,” Amayo said.

Although concrete decisions have not been made, the group and offices are working together to flesh out long-term, permanent solutions for the restoration of a new theme house and the protection of multicultural communal space.  

The group will present these solutions in a revised proposal to President Herseth Sandlin with the hope that it will be implemented in the 2030 Vision set to be revealed in 2019.

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