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Multicultural center on Senate ballot, in the air at UW-River Falls

May 7, 2009

UW-River Falls students may see a multicultural center on campus in the not-so-distant future. The center would either be a newly constructed building or part of Rodli or Hagestad Halls, former Student Senate Vice President Liz De La Torre said.

The center would be an academic and social center with books, computers and other resources for students of color and those interested in learning about culture, De La Torre said.

There may be the possibility of scholarships for students interested in a multicultural environment, At-Large Student Senate member Kayla Godes said.

Student Senate President Joshua Brock said the biggest problem is going to be finding space for the center and getting the space accepted by the University Administration.

“We don’t want a broom closet,” De La Torre said.

Brock said the center would focus on providing a space for people to feel comfortable and meet others. He said he is also working on providing space for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community at UWRF as part of the center.

“The center would operate as a focal point for the institutional commitment to diversity and inclusivity,” Brent Greene, director of international education programs at UWRF, said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to encourage and celebrate diversity.”

The recent Student Senate elections included a referendum on the ballot for the multicultural center. The center received 266 votes in favor and 96 votes against.

“I think students would back the idea of a multicultural center on campus,” De La Torre said.

Brock said the center would most likely be funded through segregated fees as part of tuition. He said it was in too early of stages to tell what the costs of the center would look like.

Nothing is definite at this point, he said.

De La Torre said there is money available through the University and state for academic uses that may help fund the project.

Where to locate the center has become an issue for the Student Senate and the University Administration.

“The location is very much up in the air. We would love for it to be in Global Connections,” De La Torre said.

The Global Connections office is not designed as a social center, Greene said.  It’s designed as a resource center for international students and is very program structured, he said.

“The University has been concerned with retention of students of color,” De La Torre said. “It’s a rural community and there’s a lack of people that look like you in the area.”

De La Torre commented about student retention.

“Many students are transferring away from the school; I considered transferring as well.”

Greene said he hoped the multicultural center would help encourage more minority students to enroll at the University. He said he hoped the center would help encourage minority students to fully integrate with the campus community.

“We need a center to help people to celebrate and accept diversity and those of color,” Greene said.

Some of the administration, like the Diversity Inclusiveness Committee, is supporting the center, Brock said.

Greene said he would like to support students of color on campus in every way.

“The mixing of religion, culture and values,” he said, “is a wonderful mosaic.”