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The University of Michigan Board of Regents received a letter on Feb. 22 titled “White Students Colonizing Trotter,” which advised the administration to focus on building and preserving designated safe spaces on campus for students of color. In the letter, Social Work and Education Masters student Byron Brooks, CSG Deputy Policy Advisor, outlined the history and purpose of the Trotter Multicultural Center.

“Trotter house was birthed out of this movement, yet through its expansion and relocation to its current location, the very students who fought for Trotter’s inception are being oppressed through the power and privilege that is embedded within our community,” the letter read. 

History of Trotter Multicultural Center

Since 2019, the University’s multicultural center has been located on South State Street. Before then, the building was known as “Trotter House” and was located on South University Avenue. “Trotter House” was first created in 1971 through the efforts of the Black Action Movement. In 1972, it moved to Washtenaw Avenue after the building was damaged in a fire. Since its creation, the Trotter Center has served as a safe space for Black students; multicultural student organizations have facilitated community engagement in both Trotter House and what is now Trotter Center.

The letter explained this history and concerns about non-multicultural organizations reserving rooms in the building. 

“What is supposed to be a Mecca for Students of Color has become a white-washed space where white students have no regard for the sacredness or purpose of the space,” the letter reads.

University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen explained the process for reserving space in Trotter in an email to The Michigan Daily and wrote that the building aims to include all student organizations on campus.

“As a national leader in promoting an inclusive campus climate, the Trotter Multicultural Center serves as a campus facilitator, convener and coordinator of intercultural engagement and inclusive leadership education initiatives for University of Michigan students,” Broekhuizen wrote. “As such, Trotter does not discriminate against who can use the facility.”

The statement also described the reservation process: Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA)-affiliated organizations, which represent various minority groups on campus, get the first priority for reservations in the beginning of August. Once that deadline has passed, room reservations are opened to the rest of the campus community on the first day of class. 

Reservations are open from the first day of class to the last day of the Winter semester,”   Broekhuizen wrote. “Reservations are open to all student organizations through Conference and Event Services. As a result, the events are posted on each door for the community to view.”

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Brooks said witnessing predominantly white students occupying Trotter made him feel like safe spaces were not being respected on campus. 

“I witness white organizations’ students that are not marginalized people — that are (a) majority on campus — come into the space that’s supposed to be a safe space for minorities and multicultural students,” Brooks said. “For people to know the background of Trotter and just (overlook it) and disrespect the sacredness of it supposedly posed to be in a safe space that shows the issue of power privilege dynamics that still affect the campus I felt like it needed to be addressed.”

Brooks said safe spaces go beyond symbolic gestures and the regents should enforce respect for these spaces.

“Now it’s one thing to just say that this place is a safe space from the top of the administration on down, (and it’s another) not to secure a safe space,” Brooks said. “It continues to become watered down and no longer be towards what it was meant to be.”

Engineering sophomore Devyn Griffin, a member of the Black Student Union, said safe spaces on campus ensure the emotional well-being of minority students. He said there are not many Black students on campus, which is why preserving safe spaces is essential. Just 3.92% of undergraduate students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor identify as Black or African American.

“It can get lonely if you don’t stay relatively close to home,” Griffin said. “It’s very important to have something that’s familiar, something that you can call home. These cultural orgs are some of the best ways to do that. Safe spaces are so essential because it can be detrimental to your mental health (if they are not there).”

Griffin said when safe spaces are taken away to make room for others, it can defeat the entire purpose of a safe space.

“You can’t just throw everything in a pot and expect someone to feel like that’s an accurate representation of their culture or somewhere that they can feel safe,” Brooks said. “The University should focus less on trying to make one safe space for everyone and instead actually listen to the students and act on what they’re asking for.”

Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at