Column: MSU needs a standalone multicultural center
For half a century, marginalized communities at Michigan State have been calling for more inclusive spaces to be added on campus.
A recent bill, passed during the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU's, last general body meeting of the 55th session reignited the conversation to change the location of the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and the Council of Progressive Students, or CORES and COPS, groups.
With MSU currently undergoing a presidential search, now is the time for systematic change and to begin the newest chapter in an ongoing fight for a more inclusive and diverse university.
- 1973: The Native American Cultural Room opens in Hubbard Hall.
- 1974: Chicanx aides added into the Intercultural Aide program; Centro De La Raza opens in Wilson Hall.
- 1987: Asian-Pacific American Heritage Room opens in Holden Hall.
- May 1989: African-American student leaders hold a sit-in at the Hannah Administration building for ten days due to the lack of attention the university gives to racial and ethnic student issues. Among the demands of the sit-in are an increase in the number of Black faculty and staff, as well as requiring the administration to seek input from Asian-Pacific American, Chicanx/Latinx and indigenous student groups.
Why this building is needed
Although there have been great strides over the years to make sure CORES and COPS groups here have their own spaces here on campus, little attention has been paid to the optics of where they are placed.
All CORES organizations are currently housed in basements.
- The Black Student Alliance is located in G-25 South Hubbard Hall.
- The North American Indigenous Student Organization is located in G-33 North Hubbard Hall.
- The Asian Pacific American Student Organization is located in G-13 Holden Hall.
- Culturas De Las Razas Unidas is located in G43-B in Wilson Hall.
The way CORES and COPS groups are set up also forces students with more than one marginalized identity — like Afro-Latinx people or LGBT individuals who are also people of color — to pick one or the other.
Individuals from a bicultural background tend to go through "impostor" feelings, in which students feel doubly marginalized by not fitting into mainstream society or either of their identities. This can lead to increased depression and anxiety in African American students, for example, according to the Journal of Counseling Psychology.
A standalone center would promote coalition-building between marginalized communities and give multicultural students the opportunity to identify with all of their backgrounds.
Not only that, but a center would provide an environment for students who don't share these identities to learn about them in a respectful manner, bridging the cultural divide with the mainstream MSU community.
An example of this type of cooperation is found in MSU's James Madison College. The college holds within it a variety of clubs like the Student Senate, College Conservatives, Kennedy Democrats and Stonewall.
These organizations all meet in Case Hall, allowing students to be involved in more than a few clubs all in one central location. This ultimately promotes intersectionality, allowing these organizations to collaborate on events, have better communication and go deeper into discussions.
This needs to be a priority next year
The time for a standalone multicultural center is now. With MSU selecting a new president prior to the Fall 2019 semester, this should be the utmost priority on the agenda of changes.
MSU markets itself on its diversity, yet when students arrive on campus, true diversity is nowhere to be found. Its most active members on the issue are left in the confines of basements, to be sought out by those brave enough to do so.
It is ultimately up to students and faculty to keep the conversation going and push for the university to put the diverse groups that make up its student body into clear view.
The University of Michigan opened its new Trotter Multicultural Center on April 11, putting into question how much MSU values the rich and diverse voices of its students and faculty.
The Wolverines made a multicultural center a priority; will the Spartans?