Town hall asks for input for Trotter renovation

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By Kristen Fedor, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 21, 2014

Discussions regarding upcoming renovations to the Trotter Multicultural Center were facilitated in an open town hall meeting Monday evening. Architects from Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company, representatives from Doers Consulting Alliance, LLC and University administrators were in attendance to gauge student input.

The New Trotter is a student led initiative to update the existing Trotter Multicultural Center and eventually plan for a new building. When the Black Student Union announced their seven demands for increasing diversity on campus on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, updating the Trotter Center was one of their main requests.

The original Trotter Center opened in 1971 as a space for Black members of the campus community, originally named the Black Culture Center. After it burned down in a 1972 fire, the space was relocated to its current home on Washtenaw Avenue in an old fraternity house.

In 1981, it was renamed the Trotter Multicultural Center — named after William Monroe Trotter, a prominent civil rights activist — to expand the space for other minorities. Today, the center works in coordination with the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs.

In January, the University announced it would be allocating $300,000 toward short-term renovations to the Trotter Center. Moving the space to a new location closer to Central Campus is also a long-term goal.

Students engaged in multiple group activities to identify key issues with diversity on campus and how the New Trotter Center can help to target these concerns.

Danny Sledge, a Doers consultant, led the discussion and spoke to the larger issues of diversity and how the New Trotter Center could help in changing racial climate on campus.

“This is the beginning of a process that is going to be sustained,” he said. “It is about much more than just a building.”

Broad issues regarding campus climate were introduced in the large group dialogue to start the meeting. Multiple students reiterated feelings of frustration regarding the level of awareness about Trotter itself, and the work that they're doing to improve it. They said the University, and overall student body, must acknowledge there is a problem and commit to making it a priority before a solution can be found.

Students then broke into smaller groups, each one targeting a different issue introduced in the initial conversation. Groups focused on how the New Trotter Center could address these issues.

Suggestions included relocating the center and including information about the center in campus tours to increase accessibility and draw more students into the Trotter community.

Public Policy senior Fernando Coello, a member of the New Trotter core team, said the meeting was useful in allowing the student body to know who the consultants are and where they come from.

Moving forward, students working on the project said they want to focus on engaging even more of the campus community in the upcoming fall semester.

Engineering freshman Logan Pratt suggested providing information to incoming students at summer orientation as a way to build awareness of the Trotter Center.

LSA freshman Victoria Verellen said while it is important to continue the conversation throughout the summer, the priority should be to enact changes when more students are on campus to participate.

“We don’t want to limit the voices that are heard by doing this work over the summer,” she said.

Overall, core team members said they were pleased with the conversation and value consultants placed on hearing student input.

Rackham student Maite Villareal said though the process will be long, she is glad the University is taking action.

“We’re moving from the stage of things being a frustration and a conversation and an idea to a reality,” she said.

Another town hall meeting will be held today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Trotter Multicultural Center.