More than 100 people gathered in Argyros Forum Feb. 27 to celebrate the opening of the university’s Cross-Cultural Center, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an interpretive dance sequence.
President Daniele Struppa also spoke at the ceremony about how opening the center was a priority for him once he became president in August 2016.
“It was certainly one thing I wanted to see happen,” Struppa told The Panther before his speech at the ceremony. “I hope this becomes a point of unification for students on campus who can come here and learn about other people and find space for their own activities.”
Students have been trying to bring a cross-cultural or multicultural center to campus for almost 15 years, as club leaders advocated for a multicultural center in 2003.
“It feels like it should have always been here,” said Victoria Turner, the publicity director of the Black Student Union. “Now that it’s here, I’m like, ‘Wow,’ especially since the community that has been pushing for this has existed for so long. The people who have been activists and sacrificed for this to happen have always existed.”
When asked what obstacles were overcome in getting the approval for the center, Turner, who is a junior psychology major, acknowledged the opposition of President Emeritus Jim Doti. Doti said in a 2011 deposition that a cross-cultural center would “ghettoize” the campus and vowed that a cross-cultural center would not happen as long as he was president.
He wrote in a 2014 guest column for The Panther that he didn’t want “multicultural thoughts and ideas to be centered in a designated place.”
Although Doti approved Dean of Students Jerry Price’s proposal for a cross-cultural center in early 2015, Struppa acknowledged concrete plans for the center shortly after he was elected to succeed Doti as president.
The Cross-Cultural Center is decorated with a mural of activists and quotes at its entrance. James Baldwin, Noam Chomsky, Frida Kahlo and Malala Yousafzai are a few of the figures represented, above which are the words “empathy, community and identity.”
The center has four meeting rooms with titles that represent different groups on campus. The African-American-themed room is called “Hope,” the Latin American room “Resilience,” the Asian and Pacific American room “Perseverance” and the LGBTQIA+ room is called “Respect.”
Each room has a work table, seating and a flat-screen television. Artwork includes paintings, photos and images of important figures relevant to each group that hang on the walls of their respective rooms.
Visitors were welcomed at an open house later in the day, followed by an alumni social and a student social that evening.
Leti Romo, the assistant director of student engagement for the Cross-Cultural Center, spoke at the student social about what the center means for her, reflecting on her struggles as the daughter of Mexican immigrants and being a first-generation college student.
“It’s a place for people like me who sit in meetings as the only person of color, people like me who need that love and support from people that just get it, because sometimes people just don’t get it,” Romo said.
Sophomore Kyler Asato, a member of the Asian Pacific Student Association and the Queer Student Alliance, said it’s the symbol that the Cross-Cultural Center brings to campus that counts.
“If you have specifically designated spaces, the school is saying, ‘You are valid, you are wanted,’ and that’s cool,” Asato said.