DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said the university is no longer considering a consolidated diversity center at a town hall.
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said the university is no longer considering a consolidated diversity center at a town hall.

The university is no longer considering a consolidation of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, LGBTQ Resource Center and Women’s Center after overwhelmingly negative student feedback, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said during a town mall meeting Tuesday.

“I want to be clear, we will do this with great respect for the traditions, the history, the distinctive roles that each of those centers play,” Olson said. “I want to assure you up front as we engage with students, you have my commitment and our commitment that as we talk about the future, that future will include distinctive, named, identifiable CMEA, Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center. Those will not go away. We’ve also heard loudly and clearly the importance of physical safe space for those centers.”

Olson also said that the university does not intend to cut the budgets or other resources provided to those centers.

“You have my commitment that in this process we will not cut resources,” Olson said. “So I wanted to be clear about that. We want to enhance, to optimize, to be attentive to this balancing act of what are the treasures here that have been developed that we need to preserve and what are new directions and possibilities that we want to explore.”

An event coordinator passed out slips of paper and pens for students to anonymously submit questions to Olson, and the event also featured two sign language translators for hearing impaired students. Students were also able to ask questions into a microphone.

Some students asked questions about the potential creation of a disability cultural center, and Olson said that he had heard of this suggestion and created a Disability Justice Working Group in response.

“We are not ready to commit to a concrete timeline about any of the action steps there but we’re serious about all the possibilities,” Olson said.

Olson also said that he places a high priority on accessibility on campus during construction, and that he hopes to create a campus disability website to allow students and administrators to express concerns and find solutions.

“Let me just say — and some people may glare at me for this — before this academic year is over I think we can have a website presence that focuses on disability issues that’s more coherent and front-facing and broad and accessible than what we have now,” Olson said. “That’s an area that I think is ripe for some action.”

Another student asked about confusion over the differing narratives and shifting answers in regard to the school’s handling of the diversity centers.

“A lot of the other points, in terms of where offices are located, how they interact with each other are not decided,” Olson said. “We don’t have clarity on that. We’re in the process of

really listening to students and engaging with other colleagues around campus, means by nature, some moving back and forth some differing views. Some of which some may perceive as confusion, I think that’s a feature of a process that attempts to be inclusive.”

GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) spoke out in favor of restructuring student focus groups in order to better communicate with the university.

“In defense of focus groups — I was in one of the first ones — some of the questions weren’t all that, just sort of went in with proposals and presented in the not best context,” Lloyd said. “I think one thing that we’re not doing enough of is having the students identify what their needs are first. So the focus group was great at saying ‘we could do this, we could do this,’ but it’s not a lot in terms of what don’t you have.”

Lloyd said that students are able to keep up with social change within each diversity group.

“These groups change,” Lloyd said. “By the time this meeting is done, there will be a Tumblr post with a new definition of a new part of the LGBTQ acronym, so we need an active process of students who are more entrenched in this work to identify those needs.”

Olson said that he saw students as an integral part of cross-center communication, but raised questions about the creation of a student committee.

“I think there’s an important creative tension here,” Olson said. “Should the cultural groups have their own distinct advisory board separate from the Student Activities Commission? It’s a question raised by students that we’re talking a look at. That’s just an example of another way we’re trying to activate students.”

Another topic that students mentioned was the lack of office space for each diversity center. The LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s Center are located on the third floor of the Leavey Center and the CMEA is on the fifth floor of the Leavey Center.

“What I’d say to that is I think that in terms of this exercise, the Leavey Center floors three, four and five are part of the conversation,” Olson said. “Floor two, which is our pretty good size career center, and we probably don’t mess with floor number two.”

Sarah Rabon (COL ’16) said she came to the event due to her involvement with the Women’s Center.

“I think it was really great,” Rabon said. “I think there are a lot of different students from a lot of different groups here representing a lot of different, important interests.”

Despite this, Rabon said that she was unsure if any actual progress had been made at the meeting.

“What I feel was being discussed was the idea that more things are being taken into consideration, conversations are being had, focus groups are being had, working groups are being created, but that has not necessarily corresponded to real progress or real change, or any real programming or solutions,” Rabon said.

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