UC Puts Forth Multicultural Center Proposal

Multicultural Center Town Hall Meeting
UC representatives Nicholas Whittaker '19, left, and Salma Abdelrahman '20, right, led a town hall meeting last month on a proposal to establish a multicultural center on campus.

The Undergraduate Council approved a proposal of action for a multicultural center on campus at its Sunday meeting, sending the plan to the desk of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

The proposal calls for administrators to organize a group of paid staff, College faculty, and undergraduates to research the history of minority communities at Harvard, and to examine multicultural centers at other universities.

The research would then be given to a separate body, tasked with deducing whether a physical space would be the most suitable course of action for the College. Finally, if the space is deemed necessary, a task force would be organized to formulate the specifics of what the center would look like, according to the UC’s plan.

The proposal comes as a result of a November UC referendum, which asked students whether the College should establish a “physical space for students” to “promote diversity, belonging, and inclusion on campus.” Because the referendum passed—with 1,402 of 2,074 undergraduate voters supporting it—the Council was required to draft and present a policy proposal to administrators.

Khurana’s endorsement is needed to move forward with the efforts to establish the center, which has long been a dream for some Harvard students. In addition to student support for the center, a September draft report from the University-wide task force for diversity and inclusion recommended the creation of centers for “Identity, Politics, and Culture” as well as “Inclusion and Belonging.”

Leverett House representative Salma Abdelrahman ’20, who co-leads the Multicultural Center Coalition—the group spearheading efforts to establish a physical space on campus—said in an interview Monday that the proposal was a culmination of months of discussion.

“It’s been a very long process of meetings with student groups, administrators, student cultural [organizations], interns with the [Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations], and other offices on campus,” Abdelrahman said.

Last month, coalition leaders held a town hall to give students the opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposed multicultural center and provide advice to the coalition. Some of the feedback they received at the town hall was incorporated into the final proposal, according to Abdelrahman.

UC Student Relations Committee Chair Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 urged students to be patient, recognizing the long process outlined in UC’s plan. The proposal sets a deadline of early 2020—pushed back from spring of 2019 in an earlier draft—for the task force to complete its work.

“There is a new president happening, and that's going to take at least a year of reshuffling the administration,” Whittaker said. “The reason that we went until Spring of 2020 instead of Spring of 2019 is because we legitimately think it's important for this proposal to be successful.”

Abdelrahman agreed, arguing that rushing the process would endanger the long-term success of the proposed multicultural space.

“Any space that becomes a community space requires the input of an entire community and so that will necessarily require time and...the investment of key stakeholders from all areas of the College," she said. “And that won’t happen overnight."

—Staff writer Ruth A. Hailu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ruth_hailu_

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.


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