The William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center will be emptying its rooms and closing its doors in the next week to begin this summer’s planned $800,000 infrastructure renovations.
The majority of the renovations are intended to bring the building up to code, including the electrical system, fire safety and plumbing, said Patricia Aqui Pacania, director of the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs. She added that the plans also include the addition of restrooms on every floor with showers for residents, more adequate student office space, conference rooms, meeting spaces and a small assembly space. Other improvements include new furniture, paint, flooring and carpeting.
Pacania said the final plans for the renovations would be set in the next few days, although a company has not been selected yet to perform the repairs. The building will officially close April 19, the last day of winter classes.
All renovations will be completed by the building’s opening for next fall semester, Pacania said. Originally, Trotter House staff had planned on relocating to another building throughout construction, she added, but the staff dismissed that idea when it determined that all renovations could be performed in the summer.
“We were worried earlier,” she said, about having to move to another building. “Now there really isn’t that inconvenience that we have to contend with, because all of this work can be done in the summer.”
Despite the shutdown of Trotter House, MESA’s summer activities will not be harmed Pacania said.
Ed Burnett, facilities manager and program coordinator for Trotter, said the key interest in the renovations was safety.
“That’s just the bottom line — the facility will be safer. Everything will be brought up to code,” Burnett said.
Much attention was given to Trotter House last spring when the student-interest group Student Voices in Action and the Michigan Student Assembly demanded funding for renovations from the University administration after it cut the MESA budget. SVA protested the cuts outside University buildings, leading to meetings with University President Mary Sue Coleman and other administrators. MSA held a series of meetings at Trotter House and included a $1 increase of student fees on last year’s MSA ballots to go toward Trotter House renovations.
The fee was waived after the administration decided to give $800,000 for Trotter House infrastructure renovations and $200,000 for immediate facility needs. Coleman also personally donated $50,000 toward the repairs.
Throughout the school year, the Trotter Center Advisory Council — consisting of students from various multicultural communities, faculty members and Trotter staff — has been assessing the needs of the facility and giving feedback on proposed changes while also deciding the mission and vision of Trotter in future years, said council member Brittany Marino.
Marino, an LSA sophomore and Native American Student Association member, said the advisory council played a key role in the renovation process because it was essential to give students a voice throughout the process.
“The building was made for students, it was put in place because of students and it’s being renovated because of students. If they don’t have a say in what goes on, it’s not going to be their building,” Marino said.
LSA junior and La Voz Latina member Sashai Alvarez, an MSA representative, said the need for renovations was a reflection of the University’s deficient multicultural facilities.
“Schools like Princeton, Yale and Harvard have diversity centers and multicultural houses that are beautiful and kept up,” Alvarez said. “Why can’t Michigan be like that?”
“(Trotter House) should be a safe place structurally and it should be a comfortable place,” she added.
Marino shared this sentiment, saying that bringing speakers from around the country to Trotter House can be embarrassing because of the building’s condition and that students of color need a place where they can feel at home, whether they are relaxing or holding a group meeting.
“The Trotter House offers community that other places can’t, and with all the work that we do here, I think we deserve a space that’s adequate,” Marino said.
“I mean, basic safety regulations and aesthetic (appeal) aren’t too much to ask for from a university that has so much money and spends it in so many other places.”