University of Wisconsin officials met with the Associated Students of Madison to discuss the upcoming Black Cultural Center, which will open in the Red Gym in February.
Gabe Javier, Interim Director of the Multicultural Student Center, said the function of the BCC will be to gather space for black-identified students to share their experiences and work and study together.
“There will also be a showcase of cultural contributions of black students to the Madison community,” Javier said. “We want the BCC to send a strong inclusion message.”
Lori Berquam, Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students, said the Red Gym will only be the BCC’s temporary home. Officials will determine its permanent home during a “space study” at the end of next semester, Berquam said. The study will provide better insight into what the permanent center will need and cost, Berquam said.
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Vice Chancellor Laurent Heller said they are focused on making sure the center is properly staffed and supported to prevent the resurfacing of problems down the road. Officials are working on putting together a committee that will discuss long-term possibilities and serve more students.
“We are moving full speed ahead trying to get the space set up and get it to work well,” Heller said.
Berquam said they met with various organizations, including ASM, First Wave Learning Community, the Dean of Students Advisory Board and the current occupants of the Red Gym to make sure they consulted a range of perspectives.
ASM Chair Carmen Gosey raised questions on the location as she warned officials against grouping so many diverse groups together.
“One building does not represent what everyone is feeling,” Gosey said. “My black womanhood does not explain his Muslim identity.”
Javier said they want to construct these spaces with intention. Officials are not trying to “shove people just anywhere,” Javier said.
The BCC will be located in room 106, where the Study Abroad International Academic Programs’ office is. The study abroad office will be relocated to the third floor.
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Berquam said Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf will make a final decision on the BCC’s permanent space.
Officials then opened up the floor for ASM members to ask other questions. Vice Chair Mariam Coker asked officials for a room in each campus building where Muslims could pray because their religion encourages them to pray five times a day. Coker said Muslim students are either forced to pray on the stairs or behind bookcases.
Heller said they might not be able to find a room in every building on campus, but they will look into available rooms in more buildings across campus.
After officials left, ASM discussed spreading the petition against campus carry to more friends and peers.
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“It scares me that I can be sitting in a room and someone can have a gun,” Gosey said. “A gun is meant to kill.”