A digital rendering of the goal for the completed Multicultural Center. // Photo courtesy of WWUSabrina Batingan
Students voted together in support of more diversity and inclusivity in 2016 by electing to expand Western’s Multicultural Center, a costly project of $20 million. Now, with the project well underway, students are expected to see the Multicultural Center completed by June 2019.
“Good progress is being made on the project,” said Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications, of the new Multicultural Center in an email.
The Multicultural Center is now in phase two of construction after beginning Spring 2018. The construction will continue throughout the 2018-19 school year until its completion. In the meantime, access to the Viking Union will be restricted to a path leading from the Performing Arts Center during the school year.
The Multicultural Center is an expansion of the Ethnic Student Center, previously located on the fourth floor of the Viking Union. It will also include gender-neutral restrooms, the Womxn’s Identity Resource Center, the Queer Resource Center and the Disability Outreach Center.
Along with a larger space for many of the ESC clubs to gather, increased visibility is one important aspects of this expansion.
“Western’s campus is really white and lots of people don’t have the awareness of cultural groups at our school,” senior Sherab Li said. “But with the Multicultural Center, everyone will be able to see it. Everyone knows it’s being built, it will make people aware.”
According to Western’s student diversity statistics on the Western website, 71.7 percent of the student population identifies as white. The next three largest populations are Asian at 10.5 percent, Hispanic at 8.8 percent and Black or African American at 2.6 percent.
Alumnum and ESC Summer Program Coordinator Erick Yanzon started as a member of the ESC upon entering Western four years ago. They advocated for the expansion of the ESC as they realized the space provided was not big enough for the growing community.
“I am excited for this building because, inherently, it’s going to provide us visibility, and I think that is the biggest thing,” Yanzon said. “It’ll be great being on the seventh floor and for us to actually feel like the Ethnic Student Center actually exists.”
The ESC was created in 1991 when five ethnic clubs didn’t feel like the spaces provided for them were adequate for their needs, Yanzon said. These five clubs include the Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán, Native American Student Union, Asian Pacific Islander Student Union and the International Club.
The ESC’s current maximum capacity is 52, but the number of minority students on campus reaches close to 4,000, according to Western’s student diversity statistics.
ESC members advocated for a stand alone building but had to compromise in order to get some sort of expansion.
“Some students were really critical about accepting just a floor because, if we did, it would then take us longer to get a stand alone building, but we needed to do that,” Yanzon said. “It was about timing.”
According to the frequently asked question page on Western’s Office of Facilities Development and Capital Budget, “Sustainability has been a driving principle for the Multicultural Services project from the beginning based on clear direction and emphasis from students.” This is being done by working with local Native American communities, using “featured local and salvaged materials” and integrating environmental sustainability such as daylighting and improved indoor air quality.
The Multicultural Center will be located on the seventh floor of the Viking Union as it is being expanded onto the top of the bookstore. After completion, the bookstore will move back to its original location between the Viking Union and Performing Arts Center.
The new building will house the Multicultural Center, Viking Union, bookstore, multipurpose room and KUGS.
The student referendum voted in by students in 2016 included a $30 Multicultural student center fee charged each quarter to students taking six or more credits to fund the project.
Cocke said the project is still within its $20 million budget, 68.7 percent of which is being paid by student fees. The rest of the budget comes from institutional funds, Viking Union-Bond refunding savings and Associated Student reserves, according to the frequently asked questions page for the project.
Updates on the construction are posted online on the project website as well as on an update board located next to the work site inside of the Viking Union. Demolition and construction for the 7th floor took place on July 9, and will include four single occupant restrooms and new entrance for KUGS.