Michigan State approves standalone multicultural center

MOSAIC: The Multicultural Unity Center will relocate from the second floor of the MSU Union to the new building, expected to be largely completed next year.

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Nearly a year after Michigan State University committed to building a standalone multicultural center, the institution is fulfilling students’ and faculty’s long-standing demand for one.

The MSU board of trustees last week unanimously approved the construction of a $38 million center housed in what the university refers to as the central academic zone on the East Lansing campus. It’s a project the Associated Students of MSU, among other groups and individuals, have been advocating for since at least 2017, according to the Lansing State Journal.

“Today marks a history of MSU standing with students from marginalized communities and providing them a space on campus that is solely theirs,” ASMSU president Jo Kovach said, according to the State Journal. “ASMSU is extremely excited for this project to break ground.”

msu multicultural center
MOSAIC: The Multicultural Unity Center, which is currently housed on the second floor of the MSU Union, will soon have a new home, thanks to the construction of a standalone center on campus. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube.com/WXYZ-TV Detroit)

MOSAIC: The Multicultural Unity Center, as the center is named, will relocate from the second floor of the MSU Union to the new building. Construction is expected to begin in April and be substantially completed in October 2024.

MSU issued a 50-point plan to combat racism in 1989 in response to protests and demands by Black students, which included constructing a multicultural center. The university established the center on campus 10 years later, but several students contended it wasn’t a prominent element of campus because of its location in the MSU Union basement.

Fast forward to the early 2010s. Mario Lemons, president of the Black Students’ Alliance, and Council of Racial and Ethnic Students members organized rallies and marches across campus to raise awareness of the basement space, the State Journal reported. Students claimed it did not adequately serve the needs of underrepresented communities.

Multicultural center director Chen Hernandez and Denise Maybank, vice president for student affairs and services, collaborated with students to design a new space, resulting in the multicultural center’s move to the MSU Union in 2003 with permission from former president Lou Anna Simon.

Students such as Sharron Reed-Davis, the former leader of the MSU Black Students’ Alliance, and Miracle Chatman, an MSU alumnus and former student representative on the planning committee, were instrumental in bringing the latest multicultural center project to campus, according to Vennie Gore, MSU’s senior vice president for student life and engagement, and other presenters.

As depicted in the project’s renderings, the future center will include multipurpose rooms, a living room, offices, an amphitheater, a porch and a backyard. Construction will occur in an area designated as protected green space, so trustees had to approve a deviation from the University Zoning Ordinance.

“This project is a culmination of our community coming together,” said Gore, the State Journal reported. “This truly is a university building.”

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