Mary Grace von Thron, Campus Carrier news editor
The Krannert Game Room will soon be converted into the Berry Intercultural Center. As explained by Dean of Students Lindsey Taylor, the Intercultural Center is being created through an early initiative of the Programming Sub-Committee to the President’s Advisory Committee regarding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The Center is being created in response to student advocacy and expressed hopes with the mission of creating a space specifically for students of color and other marginalized groups.
“One thing the sub-committee saw as a really meaningful and immediate initiative in the programming sphere is the creation of a space like this,” Lindsay Taylor said. “It will be in Krannert, and it will give groups related to DEI to prioritize their programming, and for individuals to have meaningful conversations.”
According to sophomore Macilah Taylor, student worker at the Student Diversity Initiative Office and student member of the Programming Sub-Committee, students have been asking for an Intercultural Center on campus for an extended period of time. During the summer of 2020, Macilah Tayor and other students had several meetings with Lindsay Taylor to discuss the need for Berry to have a physical space for marginalized voices on campus.
“That was one of the top concerns of ours, that there’s no space for marginalized students,”Macilah Taylor said.
The Krannert Game Room was selected as the location for the Intercultural Center due to its accessibility, location and being a space that can be easily converted into something else.
Student activist on DEI matters Orlin Gomez-Aceituno, senior, explained that the Krannert Game Room will preferably serve as a temporary space for the Intercultural Center, in hopes that the college can soon create a larger space dedicated to this goal.
“When you look at other schools, their intercultural centers are half the buildings, or either a whole building,” Gomez-Aceituno said. “They’re pretty spacious. I think that the Berry Intercultural Center should be somewhere similar to the other framework that other institutions have.”
Many private colleges similar to Berry in size and student populations already have intercultural centers and areas. Centre College, for example, has a multiroom suite with the same purpose as Berry’s Intercultural Center, according to their Diversity and Inclusion Office Website. Similarly, the Ayres Multicultural Center at Sewanee: University of the South is comprised of both indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as has residential areas for students interested in living in the area, according to their website.
The Intercultural Center will be a multi-purpose space with a wide variety of resources for students. Director of Student Diversity Initiatives Chon’tel Washington said that she wants the Intercultural Center to have a warm and welcoming environment, while still serving as a place for students to learn.
“There will be instructional space with furniture so there can be instructional programming going on,” Washington said. “But also, we want there to be a more loungy side and an area where students can relax or read or study and things like that in a more comfortable space. So that’s the overall goal right now, for it to be able to have a programming space and instructional space and a lounge space.”
Macilah Taylor hopes that this room will serve as a safe space for all marginalized students at Berry and a place for educational programming and thoughtful conversations. She also hopes that students will feel more comfortable expressing themselves and their culture in the Intercultural Center.
“As a black student, as a black woman, I’m very aware that there are certain spaces I have to go into and kind of code switch and not be wholly and completely myself,” Macilah Taylor said. “I’m hoping people will enter this space and feel like they can completely and wholly be themselves and be loved and supported for that.”
Gomez-Aceituno similarly stated that he hopes other students find comfort and support in the Intercultural Center.
“I’m hoping that the Intercultural Center is a place where marginalized voicescan take a break from the code switch and take a break from being in an environment thatrequires so much and yet gives us so little because that is completely draining,” Gomez-Aceituno said.
Gomez-Aceituno also said that the creation of the Intercultural Center will serve as a starting point for the culture of belonging, but explained that the Berry community needs to continue to build off of this to make all of the college campus a comfortable place for marginalized students.
“I think that a safe space should not just be limited to the Intercultural Center. We have to consistently do work to make sure that the safe space is in classrooms and the safe space is in other areas,” Gomez-Aceituno said. “Right now, I feel like there’s an urgency for the Intercultural Center because we have nowhere else to go. I don’t want people to feel like once the Intercultural Center is there that everything else is okay.”
Construction on the Intercultural Center will begin as soon as next week. Washington expects the Intercultural Center to be finished and ready for use by this coming fall semester.