By Alyssa Evans
More than 60 members of Western’s community – administrators and students alike – gathered in a forum to discuss the possibility of a new multicultural center building on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Abby Ramos, the Associated Students vice president for diversity, organized the event for students to ask administration about concerns they have and to discuss how the campus can become more welcoming and safe.
“As students of color who are involved with the Ethnic Student Center, we planned this forum to finally be able to directly tell administrators what our demands are from this university. Students of color on Western’s campus face microaggressions and violent acts consistently, but there aren’t resources provided by the university,” Ramos said, reading a statement created by a student group. “We are here to voice how important it is for a new multicultural center, not just for current students of color, but for future generations.”
Eight administrators attended the event to represent the university and answer students’ questions. The administrators present included Eric Alexander, Reneé Collins, Ted Pratt, Eileen Coughlin, Rich Van Den Hul, Linda Beckman, Nate Panelo and Nick Sanchez. University President Bruce Shepard was not present.
Highlights of the forum:
One of the main issues regarding the proposed building is how to find the money to pay for it. Coughlin, the senior vice president for enrollment and student services, discussed ways the administration is working to find potential sources of money. Currently, the only money that has been spent on the project has been for architectural purposes and was from $500,000 in state funds that Coughlin set aside.
“What we need to do is find all the sources, bring them together and see how much we can put together. Then ask the question, where are the gaps? We’re still in that process and part of that is we would like to have students at the table with us,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin, along with other administrators who attended the forum, pledged to support students of color and to help find a better space for the ESC.
“I think we have a really rich opportunity to work together to get this solved and I’m dedicated to having that occur and I have been dedicated for a while,” Coughlin said. “You’re going to have nothing but an advocate in me.”
Meeting with students of color during the forum gave administrators a chance to reflect on how diversity has evolved over the past 25 years on campus.
Dean of Students Ted Pratt reflected on his past experiences as a former recruiter for students of color on campus and related his experience to the current actions of ESC users.
“I wasn’t just looking for any student, I was looking for leaders. I’d say, ‘If you’re a leader, then this is the perfect place for you,’” Pratt said. “Leaders open up new turf and that’s what the folks of the Ethnic Student Center do.”