University to allocate $300K to Trotter Center

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By Shoham Geva, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 26, 2014

Updated: University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed Tuesday that the University will grant $300,000 to the Trotter Multicultural Center.

The University will allocate $300,000 for renovations to the Trotter Multicultural Center, according to the University’s Black Student Union representatives and University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.

Members of the University’s administration and the BSU met on Friday for the first time.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, LSA senior Tyrell Collier, BSU speaker, said there is no time frame on the building’s renovations yet. The University is currently evaluating costs and designs, but will identify a committee of students to contribute to the renovation process.

“I can say that was a satisfying conclusion for the Multicultural Center demand because I know a building cannot be built within the span of a year or something, I know it needs to be planned out, designed, all of that stuff,” Collier said. “I was at least very pleased with the allocation of that money for the renovations while they figure out the new building.”

Fitzgerald said the meeting was prompted by the seven demands and Monday deadline announced publicly last week by the BSU at a protest held Jan. 20.

Elizabeth Barry, special counsel to the president; E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life; Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones and Provost Martha Pollack represented the administration at the meeting. Three members of the University's Board of Regents, Shauna Ryder Diggs (D), Denise Ilitch (D) and Andrea Fischer Newman (R), also attended the meeting in an observatory capacity.

Since the BSU’s viral Twitter campaign using #BBUM — or Being Black at Michigan — Pollack issued an e-mail promising change in the campus’ diversity climate with a list of several priorities to be implemented by the University.

However, the BSU subsequently protested in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day demonstration, where they released a list of seven demands and a deadline of one week for the University to address them.

The demands included renovations and a more central location for the Trotter Center, increased minority enrollment and lower-cost housing on Central Campus, among other initiatives.

All seven demands issued Monday were discussed during the meeting, according to BSU executives. BSU members said they will continue to meet with the same administrators once a week for status updates on each initiative.

Pollack’s Jan. 16 e-mail addressed to students restated the campus need to advance the campus climate of diversity and inclusion. In the letter, she pledged to improve the Trotter Center in the short-term and, in the long run, investigate how to relocate it. A renovation plan will be completed by the end of the term.

“We will start a broad conversation with students, staff and faculty to capture their best thinking as we collectively reimagine a future multicultural center,” Pollack wrote.

Fitzgerald, who was not at the meeting but spoke afterward with several administrators who were, said administrators felt the discussion was a positive experience.

“(E.) Royster Harper certainly characterized it as a very good meeting, with a much deeper understanding of the concerns raised by the Black Student Union,” Fitzgerald said. “Her characterization of it was that everyone was very prepared; it was a very positive meeting.”

The BSU reacted similarly in a short statement released via Twitter on Friday evening.

“The Black Student Union looks forward to negotiating with University Officials in the coming weeks, and is optimistic about working with the University to create sustainable and positive change,” the statement said.

With more meetings planned for the future, the two groups aim to establish a standing meeting arrangement, the BSU representatives and Fitzgerald both said.

LSA senior Geralyn Gaines, BSU secretary, said in an interview Saturday with The Michigan Daily the organization is pleased with the proceedings so far, but expressed the need for more change.

“I think it was a good outcome but I think there's so much more work to be done,” Gaines said. “It’s always nice to see the vision but we need to see the vision executed.”

—Daily News Editor Will Greenberg contributed to this report.