Minority Groups Seek Student Center

News Feature

The Coalition for Diversity's original nine-point list of demands included a vague call for the University to increase "the resources available to 'minority' student communities."

In a meeting before the spring recess, the coalition decided to push for a more concrete demand--a multicultural center--according to coalition spokesperson Richard Garcia '95.

The coalition members have not yet addressed the issue with University administrators in the meetings they have had with them. The center seems now to be rising on their agenda.

"We're going to go for it," Garcia says. "We'll gauge the responses, and we'll probably keep going for it anyway. Even if not next year, we expect to have a multicultural center soon."

The coalition's demand for a multicultural center coincides with the start in construction of Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel's new Rosovsky Hall, an independently-funded $8 million project which the group has planned for several years.

For many minority student leaders, the sound of construction crews and the imminent vacancy of thte present Hillel building on Mt. Auburn St. serve as focal points for their own efforts to obtain a multicultural student center on campus.

"We look at Hillel and see how their center has been so beneficial to their community," says Zaheer R. Ali '94, president of the Black Student Association and one of the organizers of the coalition. "Actually, the Hillel is a good model for the type of relationship we could have with the University and with the Cambridge community."

Asian American Association co-chair Joan R. Cheng '95 sees a more concrete opportunity in the Hillel construction. She points to the soon-to-be-vacant Hillel building at 74 Mt. Auburn St. as a possible sight of a multicultural center. Harvard owns the building.

"Other issues have come to the forefront and displaced it," Cheng says of the recent attention given to faculty diversity and ethnic studies. "But now that the Hillel building is open, maybe that's our opportunity."

Garcia says he hopes for a center by September, but Ali--perhaps more realistically--sees the campaign for a center as a more long term objective.

"If it is possible for us to enlist the administration's support, it could probably happen relatively soon--relatively meaning within a decade," Ali says.

Garcia describes the idea multicultural center as a place where minority student groups can hold offices, present speakers and hold meetings. Other students suggest space for art displays or book collections as well.

None of the minority leaders interviewed expressed an interest in a multicultural center which would include residential housing or dining facilities for minority students.

Ali says minority student organizations need their own offices in order to function effectively and to serve the campus.

"The absence of a multicultural or Black students center really cripples our efforts to improve the students' life in terms of diversity," Ali says. "It's definitely a handicap to our community."

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