Regents approve new multicultural center
The University’s Board of Regents approved a proposal to build a new $10 million multicultural center Thursday during their monthly meeting.
The new facility will be situated on State Street, behind Betsy Barbour and Helen Newberry Residence Halls on Central Campus, and will replace the current Trotter Multicultural Center on Washtenaw Avenue.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said what will happen to the existing building has not yet been determined.
The new 20,000-square-foot facility will be about 9,000 square feet larger than the current center, and will include a multipurpose room to accommodate 300 people for banquets and conferences as well as a 100-person classroom-style space.
The existing Trotter Multicultural Center underwent a total of $650,000 in renovations in 2014, which included trimming exterior shrubbery, replacing entrance doors and locking devices, repainting the interior, repairing windows and making lighting and parking lot improvements.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the University had discussed two other possible locations for the construction of the multicultural center, including the site of the current Michigan News Service Building on Maynard Street and near the Munger Residences on Thompson and Packard Streets. Further renovations to the current Trotter Center on Washtenaw Avenue were also an option.
In an interview following the meeting, Fitzgerald said the location will help make the center more accessible.
“It’s hard to get any more visible than on State Street on Central Campus,” he said.
Thursday’s vote marked the initial approval of a three-step process that University construction projects must follow. Two more approvals — one for the schematic design and one for construction contracts — from the regents are required before the design of the center can be finalized.
Fitzgerald said because of this multi-step process, there are currently no concrete plans for the new multicultural center.
E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student life, said both student feedback and community voices were key to the proposal for a new center.
She said the leadership team for the project conducted extensive outreach from a variety of constituents, including town hall meetings, eight focus groups, online surveys and trips to other multicultural centers.
The Black Student Union made the initial call for a multicultural center closer to Central Campus in Winter 2014, following the #BBUM (Being Black at U-M) movement — a student-driven Twitter campaign highlighting the experiences of Black students at the University.
Other demands included an improvement to the race and ethnicity requirement and a Black student enrollment of 10 percent.
However, in past months students have voiced concerns over relocating the center. During a September meeting at the existing Trotter Center, Rackham student Asya Harrison, secretary of Students for Color at Rackham, told Harper that moving the multicultural center closer to campus would result in a loss of its quiet atmosphere.
LSA senior Bree Sullivan echoed Harrison’s concern during the meeting, noting that attitudes on campus might have shifted since the initial 2014 request to move the center.
“What students might need at the moment could be very different from what they needed two years ago,” Sullivan said at the meeting. “I would say we should take into consideration how times change and how things in the world are changing around us.”