Students weigh in on State Street Trotter construction
Fifteen minutes away from its current location on Washtenaw Avenue, ground is breaking on the construction of the new Trotter Multicultural Center.
Students first began advocating for a new Trotter Center in 2013. In January 2014, the Black Student Union released seven demands to the University, requesting a space be made on central campus for students of color to gather and share their experiences at the University. After several years of meetings and proposals, in April 2017, the Board of Regents gave final approval for authorization to issue the project for contracts and bids.
The current Trotter Center building, formerly a fraternity house, has been home to the center since 1972. In the summer of 2014, the building was updated with $300,000 in renovations.
The new building will be situated directly in front of the Betsey Barbour House and Helen H. Newberry Residence and will span 20,000-square-foot building.
Students at the Trotter Center thought the move presented both benefits and drawbacks. Information student Alieh Kimbeng said the move might bring a more diffused audience.
“People who make the walk actually want to be a part of Trotter,” she said. “You won’t get that (near) Mason Hall or any building on State Street. I feel like if it’s on State Street it’s just going to be like ‘Hey, I'm just walking into Mason Hall’ and you’re not really going to have those conversations. But people who actually walk here (now), then they’re going to want to talk.”
In Dec. 2016, E. Royster Harper, Director of student life, said in a University press release the new location was chosen to make the Trotter center more visible.
LSA senior Catherine Daoud attested to the increasing importance of wanting to talk, especially with a number of racially-charged incidents happening on and around campus in recent years, including racist writing that occurred as recently as last weekend.
“The students that come here to organize these protests, they utilize our space to write down their demands, write down what they want to be done,” Daoud said. “People will host meetings on how to tackle this racist incident or this racist remark that just occurred, or they will just come in and have discussions and have that dialogue that needs to be done.”
She added the move could have made protests like Monday’s even more centralized.
“The (protests) on the Diag, if we were closer, we would be having a dialogue discussion about it,” Daoud said.
The move, though, comes with logistical implications. The new building is slated to be in front of the Betsy Barbour and Helen Newberry residences, just north of the Kelsey Archaeology Museum, the LSA building and the Michigan Union. Construction has closed half of State Street’s southbound lane and the sidewalk.
Susan Pile, senior director of University Unions and Auxiliary Services, said she thinks the construction on State Street, though a disruption, has made minimal impact.
“I don’t think (the construction) will really have an impact on the Union,” she said. “It’s far enough down the street that we’re not anticipating it’ll have any impact on pedestrian flow and parking and that sort of thing because the street is still open and the sidewalk is open, just kind of across the street.”