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Salt Lake Community College students and faculty defend Multicultural Center

By staff |
June 12, 2014
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Meeting at Salt Lake Community College about Multicultural Initiatives Dept
Meeting at Salt Lake Community College about Multicultural Initiatives Department space. (Photo by Michael Clara)

Salt Lake City, UT — On Wednesday, June 11, more than fifty students, faculty, and community members attended a meeting to discuss the fate of campus space used mainly by African-American, Chicano, Pacific Islander, Asian American, American Indian, and international students. Addressed by Interim Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) President Deneece Huftalin, students expressed alarm that the Multicultural Initiatives Department and the related space in Student Engagement are being taken away. The Multicultural Initiatives Department offices surrounded a large open space where various nationalities meet to study, relax, and find community.

The President had met with students previously to announce she would not hire another administrator for the Multicultural Initiatives Department, and that she planned on dispersing members of the department around campus. She had said the decision was final. However, the President faced serious criticisms for this position and is now backtracking.

Angela Romero representing Utah House District 26 and graduate of a similar diversity program stated, “You need a multi-cultural director and I feel it’s critical that if you’re trying to be an inclusive campus you have someone who understands diverse communities. You need someone who can act as a voice for the students and who can raise those concerns. Students also need to know they have a safe space.”

Gregory Lucero of the Revolutionary Students Union raised additional doubts, “ We have the President trying to force gentrification on a multicultural center by turning the student space into a waiting room for academic advisors.” He added, “The president says she’s spreading the department around the campus to help serve more students, but we’ve heard this story before. It’s really divide and conquer.”

Shekinah Stanton of the Black Student Union pointed out that most of the diversity programs only focused on first year students with little programing for ongoing students. She pointed out the much lower graduation rates for oppressed nationality students stating, “SLCC needs to do better. It’s obvious when you look at the numbers. It is no where it needs to be, and where it could be.”

Jerri Harwell, an English professor, summed up what she saw as the real problem. “I feel a major problem is institutional racism. It is an uphill battle to fight it but we have to continue to fight it. So I could leave Utah but I choose to stay, because I want to make the community better, Salt Lake community better, and improve my little place in the world.”

Students, faculty, and the community members vowed to continue to fight for both the department and the space if President makes any moves to cut either of them.