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ISU dedicates new Multicultural Center to foster diversity and inclusion

ISU students standing in front of podium
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Members of the Association of Latin American Students at ISU, from left: Daniela Martinez, Dariana Martinez, Ximena Sanchez-Ramirez, Daisy Rodriguez, and Gabriela Lozano.

Several student groups at Illinois State University now have their own spaces as they work to expand equity and justice on campus.

ISU president Terri Goss Kinzy spoke Friday at the dedication of the university's new Multicultural Center.

“For some, this center is a symbol of our dedication to equity. For some, this center will be a refuge, a place to recharge, to have the energy to continue important work,” Kinzy said.

Kinzy added the center represents for her a promise to improve equality on campus.

The site includes meeting spaces for cultural events, a social justice library and reflection room. The center also will have a counselor on site. Center director Christa Platt said students established space for what they have called a gender affirmation station to include clothing for nonbinary students and for any students who needs clothing.

“I appreciate them for recognizing the target audience but also recognizing the need to be inclusive as well,” said Platt, adding the center also will have a podcast studio by 2022.

The student groups who will use the center include the Black Student Union, the Association of Latin American Students, PRIDE and Asian Pacific American Coalition. They previously had to share a much smaller space at Bone Student Center.

ISU student Caleb Mangruem said the center’s mission is to equip all students to become “change agents” to foster a culture of antiracism, equality and justice.

“Welcome to the place where students find shelter, love, hope education and family, Mangruem beamed. “Welcome to a time to dedicate a space where there will always be a commitment to value and affirm students’ intersecting identities.”

Ximena Sanchez-Ramirez with the Association of Latin American Students asked the gathering to envision what the center would have offered someone like Jelani Day, the Black ISU graduate student whose recent death shocked the ISU community.

“We will continue to foster community that Jelani would have wanted to belong to,” Sanchez-Ramirez said.

ISU's vice president for student affairs, Levester Johnson, said the university wanted to ensure students were involved throughout the planning process.

“Our students asked for a multicultural center and we listened. In our many conversations with students, their needs were kept at the very forefront of the planning,” Johnson said.

Platt called it an emotional day to see the facility become reality nearly two years after planning had begun.

“It’s for the campus community. This is a moment in history that is special for us,” Platt said.

Platt said taking on the project meant looking inside herself to embody the ideals of the Multicultural Center.

“I made a commitment that if I’m going to do this work, at this time, I am going to commit be being an antiracist,” Platt said. “That means I am going to commit to disrupting oppression when I see it, when I hear it, when I experience it.”

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