Board of Regents to Spend $10 Million on Already Renovated Multicultural Center

How can the University justify spending $10 million on an exclusionary institution? We must honestly ask ourselves whether we should abandon democracy to spend so much money on this new center.

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A new development in the University’s efforts to achieve inclusion involves the University of Michigan Board of Regents’ approval of a new multicultural center on campus. According to a report by Michigan News, the new multicultural center will, “Replace the current William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center” and will be located on South State Street.

$10 million was approved by the University Board of Regents for the project. This comes after the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center underwent $300,000 of renovations as recently as the summer of 2014.  The planning for this new center was completed by, “students and other members of the university community” and involved, “four town hall meetings over…nine months, eight focus group sessions, benchmarking to other college and university multicultural centers, and a survey of students.”

But can inclusion be forced?  Can it be strategized and implemented?  These questions should be considered when the University makes its plans to increase inclusion on campus.

Like a glimmering new statue marking a glorious accomplishment, the new multicultural center will demand attention through intentional and forced perspective.

A report by The Michigan Daily said that the University would not specify what services or spaces would be included in the new center.  However, another report by The Michigan Daily outlined some proposed features of the forthcoming center.  Such features include: “banquet or multi-purpose rooms”, “transit, food services, study spaces and computer labs”, and, as suggested by one student and paraphrased by The Daily, “a space solely for Black students”.  As for why the State Street location was chosen for the new multicultural center, Scott Fitzgerald was quoted by The Daily as saying, “It’s hard to get any more visible than on State Street on Central Campus.”

If the new multicultural center truly is for all cultures on campus, then it is for all students to decide its necessity.  If, however, the center is not for all cultures to share, then how can the University justify spending $10 million on an exclusionary institution? We must honestly ask ourselves whether we should abandon democracy to spend so much money on this new center.

Like a glimmering new statue marking a glorious accomplishment, the new multicultural center will demand attention through intentional and forced perspective.

An analysis of the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center website reveals that many of the aforementioned features that were proposed for the new center are already offered by the current one.  The current multicultural center offers a lounge, recreation room, kitchen, three conference rooms, and a student lounge.  These rooms offer a variety of amenities including HDTV’s, video projectors with television capabilities, speakers, and even a piano.  The kitchen offers, “two large ovens, eight gas stove-top burners, and a griddle” and, “pots, pans, and cooking utensils available for use”.  All of the facilities are available for rent and are free of charge for student organizations.  The different facilities offer spaces that can accommodate events ranging from 12 to 150 attendees.  The current multicultural center also has, “two computer labs with both Mac and PC computers” and are “connected to MPrint to meet all of your printing needs”.  Multiple rooms available for events, food services, lounges that can be used to study, and computer labs; all are already available at the current William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center.  Why do we need a new one?

Fitzgerald’s statement, along with the fact that many services proposed for the new multicultural center are already offered at the current center, leads me to believe that the decision to locate a new and magnificent multicultural center on the most traversed street in Ann Arbor is indicative of the Forced Inclusion approach.  Like a glimmering new statue marking a glorious accomplishment, the new multicultural center will demand attention through intentional and forced perspective.  The building is to be a physical manifestation of what the university aims to achieve: a clear message that multiculturalism is here.  Whether that is true, that inclusion has actually been achieved or even increased on campus through actions taken by the University, seems to be of lesser importance than the message itself.

Time may well tell us that it takes more than brick and mortar, money, and symbolism, can to affect campus attitudes.

This piece is published anonymously by a staff writer over the writer’s concerns of backlash.

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  • UnmutualOne

    Was this one of the demands of your local branch of the Soros-funded Black Lives Matter?