Multicultural Center opens for business

Claire Goldberg and Patrick Stinebaugh

This year marks the introduction of the Multicultural Center (MC), a new room “devoted to multicultural concerns,” Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein wrote in an email to the Upper Division. The room is planned to open in the former Middle Division Reading Room shortly after the start of the new school year, and will be open to all students, Levenstein said.

The idea for this new room was voiced by a group of UD students from BLEx, an affinity group for students who identify as black, at a meeting with Levenstein last spring, said Justin Burrell (10), who was one of the students present at the initial meeting with Levenstein.

The students felt that they needed a space that could house “socializing and dialogue, specifically surrounding issues of diversity and multiculturalism,” Dean of Students Michael Dalo said. Dalo will coordinate the room’s hours during and after the school day.

No teacher is permanently assigned to the room, but different teachers will be in and out throughout the day, Levenstein said.

Students in the past have felt that a space like the MC should be created, Co-Director of the ICIE John Gentile said. The idea was put into action this summer because of the persistence of UD students as well as the vacancy of the room becoming due to the MD reading room moving to Pforzheimer.

“Attending a predominantly white school can sometimes be really hard for students of color,” Jayla Thomas (12) said, who was also at the meeting with Levenstein. “A lot of the time I’ve felt uncomfortable just walking in the hallway.”

“I feel like it’s important to have a space where students of color feel welcomed and empowered,” Thomas said.

“The Center will host both formal and informal gatherings throughout the day and after school, and can be used by any UD groups for a variety of events,” Dalo said.

Possible events include lunch conversations, drop-in discussions about current events students would like to unpack, guest speakers, affinity group meetings, and more, Dalo said.

“On a day to day basis it will be a space for students to hangout and spend time,” Gentile said.

“When clubs, affinity groups, ICIE or other departments want to run a program that fits into equity and inclusion frameworks the multicultural center will be able to accommodate those needs,” he said. “It is an example of making an institutional shift toward a more inclusive and equitable community where support and care at the center of that.”

So far, the design of the room and decorations are up to the students, Dalo said. “We will be asking all multicultural and diversity student organizations to let us know what they would like in the space,” Dalo said. The room has not been altered as the MD Reading Room has not yet been relocated, and the only change currently being made is the removal of shelving, said Gordon Jensen, head of facilities management.

“I hope we can develop a library of texts that could be of interest to the many diverse groups in the school, and I imagine the walls decorated with student photography or other student art,” said Levenstein.

Charles Simmons (12), a student who helped create the MC, said “the MC room definitely was the product of the vibrant and unique atmosphere that our diverse community has to offer.”