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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Calls for more multicultural centers, support for minority students at UW-Madison grow

Students and campus organizations alike called for the expansion of services, programs and physical space provided for minority student groups.

University of Wisconsin-Madison students are calling for further investment in multicultural student centers after the displacement of some centers and subsequent shifts to locations in the Red Gym.

Josiah Gomez, a UW-Madison student who serves as the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education co-chair of Mecha De UW-Madison and director of the Latine Men’s Coalition, has been vocal about the need for more space for multicultural centers and minority groups on campus.  

Gomez called the Red Gym a “symbol of segregation” on campus, telling The Daily Cardinal the university pushes “any identity center into one small corner of the campus when students of color and minority students are all throughout it.” 

To Gomez, the university sees the Red Gym as a “monolith of brightness and diversity.”

“They don’t see that’s the only space a lot of students of color have,” he said. 

With Levy Hall construction in the works, Gomez said the Mecha House was at risk of being demolished. Though Gomez said Mecha will ultimately be able to keep the house, they must temporarily relocate to the Red Gym while foundational work is done, according to Gomez. 

Marisol Dashnaw, the house campaign committee chair with Mecha, later clarified to the Cardinal Friday afternoon that there is “no guarantee at this time that we will return to the house,” which, alongside the Indigenous Student Center, was slated for demolition in the 2015 Campus Master Plan.

Dashnaw said that though UW-Madison “does not have the resources to move forward with projects that would threaten the house,” they have not made a formal agreement for Mecha’s return to it.

“This move, as of right now, is for an indefinite period of time. We are hopeful that we will move back in, but it’s uncertain and we will not be stopping our House Campaign following our move,” Dashnaw added.

Gomez said there is friction between the organizations housed within over who gets what space because the Red Gym is nearing capacity. 

The overflow of organizations has forced some groups to set up shop in the Pyle Center next door, Gomez said.

“While Mecha is going through things, we are not the only [organization],” Gomez said. “It’s very important that we know all of these different organizations are going through the same problem because of the university’s inability to give us the space we need.” 

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Mecha isn’t the only group on campus worried about having a home for their organization. 

In the Blk Pwr Coalition’s (BPC) first meeting of the semester on Sept. 29, leaders talked about the possibility of creating a physical space for the group to work out of. 

At the meeting, the BPC said they are working with partners to figure out where they can establish a physical location, and they said community members have reached out to them about the possibility of the BPC being “housed [within] their organization.” 

Students at the meeting expressed a desire for more multicultural spaces on campus and said they felt like the university crammed all minority groups into one building. One student said it feels like the university always merges students of color with those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Another student said the administration needs to “stop being afraid to let things be ours” — “ours” meaning the Black student community on campus — and that programs created for Black students always evolve into something shared among all minority groups on campus.

A spokesperson for the BPC was not available for comment. 

Students and campus organizations are not the only ones calling for more spaces and support for minority student groups. District 8 Alder MGR Govindarajan also supported the importance of having these spaces on campus.

“Minority student groups have always known it, but, since the end of the spring semester, all of campus is aware that there is not a sense of belonging for many students,” Govindarajan told the Cardinal. “Addressing this need by providing safe spaces and further increasing resources to make students in the minority feel like they have a place on campus is vital.”

Govindarajan, too, echoed a similar sentiment about minority student groups being primarily housed in just one building on campus. 

“Separating campus minority groups to one building is not what creates a sense of belonging. We must be interwoven with the rest of the campus,” he said.

With funding for DEI initiatives up in the air, Govindarajan said he would like to see the university turn to private donors to seek the funding necessary to “make us feel like we belong.”

“These centers allow for a safe space to exist. It’s tough being a student of color, a person in the queer community or any other minority,” Govindarajan said. “Being able to interact with people who understand similar struggles and have similar life experiences is important and expanding these spaces serves that purpose.” 

 Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 9:06 p.m. Friday October 13, 2023, with a clarification from a Mecha representative that Mecha’s return to the house is not guaranteed.

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Anna Kleiber

Anna Kleiber is the state news editor for The Daily Cardinal. She previously served as the arts editor. Anna has written in-depth on elections, legislative maps and campus news. She is an intern with WisPolitics and a summer intern with Madison Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @annakleiber03.

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