The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Center is being created on campus to celebrate cultural diversity and provide community resources.
Melissa Grey, professor of psychology, said the DEI task force plans to do this by putting student clubs at the center of programming and bringing in speakers. The task force wants to make a place where students can find services like tutoring, dealing with discrimination and finding peer support.
Suzanne Wetzel, vice president of Administration and chair of the DEI Center task force, sent out a call to faculty and staff in February 2020 to participate in the planning of the space.
A total of 18 people stepped forward, Wetzel said.
While the official task force was assembled in February 2020, Grey said she and many others had recognized a need for a DEI Center long before the planning process began.
For Grey, her position as the co-advisor of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance gave her first-hand experience with students seeking support.
Many students came to the GSA looking for encouragement and guidance and were able to find it, but other students were not sure where to go for help. To fill this need, the DEI center aims to direct students to places they can go to receive assistance.
Task force members emphasized that student feedback has been vital to the process of planning the space.
Quri Wygonik, director of Institutional Research, Planning and Accreditation, sent out a survey on Feb. 4 asking for students’ opinions about the use and look of the space. Sixty-seven out of an estimated total of 2,000 students responded, said Wygonik.
“Given the quick turnaround and types of questions asked, we received decent feedback,” Wygonik said.
About 50% of surveyed students indicated that they would be interested in using the DEI Center as a meeting place for student clubs.
Almost all the surveyed students indicated that accessibility of the space was important to them.
Some ideas for making the space inclusive was Braille text on all signage and print materials, different shapes of tables, different kinds of chairs, neutral colors, neutral artwork and no fluorescent lights, Wygonik said.
The DEI Center task force is also considering which kinds of resources will be available, like books, pamphlets or an information wall.
“This space is being developed only for the students,” Wygonik said. “We want student perspectives to be the only perspectives.”
Wetzel said the center will be in the A Building in rooms A-166 and A-177 are. These rooms were made available when art faculty offices and workroom relocated to the Founders Hall.
Currently, the DEI Center task force is in the process of figuring out what the physical space will look like.
The task force is working with James S. Jacobs Architects to finalize a design.
Wetzel said she hoped the DEI Center would be finished and available for student use in the 2020 Fall Semester. However, the planning process was slowed due to COVID-19. Also, once the task force realized the importance of student feedback, the planning was slowed down to create time for collecting student opinion.
Wetzel said the current timeline is for the center to be completed by the 2021 Fall Semester.
The name of the center is a working title and is subject to change. The task force hopes to choose a name based on student feedback.
“The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Center will be student-empowered and student-informed,” Grey said.