By Teri Anderson and Ashleigh Strange, Extreme Alaska
The mission of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity is to support, “our diverse students, whether Latino, African American, Asian American, Alaska Native, active duty military and veterans, LGBT, international, students with disabilities, and all others,” says Chancellor Brian Rogers. But the new office is located nearly as far from the center of campus as possible. It has no UAF shuttle service except for on call and it is not wheelchair accessible.
Student outrage over last summer’s quasi-closure of one of the Office of Equal Opportunity’s branches, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity, has subsided over time. But with the yet undecided reshuffling of lower campus offices, the question arose again as to whether or not students would receive the services of a physical and accessible location to find community, experience diversity and receive support.
At the moment, the two branches of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity; the Women’s Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity, have combined into one entity. Although they have separate offices, they both serve as resource centers instead of programs to engage students in multicultural activities. The Women’s Center Office still lives in the accessible Eielson center. It has turned into a general resource location but not a place for students to socialize or find community. Manager of the Women’s Center, Kayt Sunwood, is glad of the central location but concedes that the office is too small for students to meet or hold events. Her neighbor office, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity moved to the Nordic House and their old room is now home to offices.
Were it not for its inaccessability, the Nordic House has the space and facilities to host multicultural events and programs. But Multicultural Office manager Ana Richards says the goal of the office is no longer to host events but to act as another resource for students who have questions. She echoed Director of the Equal Opportunity Office, Mae Marsh’s words that instead of having one center to host events and programs, it was time to “institutionalize diversity,” that it’s the responsibility of every organization on campus to include diversity in their programs.
But in two student-feedback meetings this semester, students unanimously argued to keep a multicultural office open as a physical space for students to find community and host events. The Multicultural Office was a space where language clubs met to practice speaking, where international students celebrated festivals from around the world and where exchange students could find people to listen to them practice english and find a supportive community of other exchange students.
When Ana Richards hosted multicultural events for students in past years there was very little participation. It wasn’t for lack of budget but rather lack of human resources to organize and mainly promote events. Students in the feedback meetings said the lack of advertizing events was the greatest failure of the program but that it wasn’t a reason to stop the office’s services altogether.