North Texas Daily

Plans for stand-alone multicultural center underway

Plans for stand-alone multicultural center underway

Plans for stand-alone multicultural center underway
March 10
10:00 2021

The university is in the programming stages of developing a stand-alone multicultural center after organizations said the center was overcrowded and no longer suited their growing needs.

The building is estimated to be completed in the summer of 2022 and has a proposed budget of $5 million, according to a meeting book published by the UNT System Strategic Infrastructure Committee. The location and size of the building is not determined, but UNT President Neil Smatresk said the university is in the process of retaining a design build contractor.

“We want [the Multicultural Center] to resemble the Welcome Center in terms of fit and finish and make it really, really nice, with lots of great meeting space in it,” Smatresk told the North Texas Daily. “With a little luck, we could get construction to start sometime in the fall.”

As a member of the Multicultural Center planning committee and Multicultural Center Director, Damien Torres said more definite plans will begin to materialize once an architect is identified. The planning committee, which is composed of faculty, staff, and student representatives from minority student organizations, will begin talks with potential architects in the near future to discuss the logistics of the construction.

The university’s first steps towards creating a stand-alone multicultural center will come over a year after students demanded that the university institute racial awareness and inclusivity training for faculty and students. Following the events after a university faculty member said a racial slur during a free speech event in November of 2019, Student Government Association released a letter outlining a series of demands the university implement to rectify the issue. Expanding the multicultural center was among the listed demands.

“This is definitely a long overdue development,” then SGA vice president Hilary Shah said. “And only shows how these kinds of movements take time, but at the end of the day will get done when it’s the right thing to do.”

While the current center has experienced less traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hispanic Student Union President Josselyne Sibrian said student desires for a new center persists.

“I feel like lately our minority groups on campus have really been fighting for UNT to show us support like they say they do. A lot of groups that used to be in the MC space pre-COVID saw how limited of a space the MC was in the Union,” Sibrian said. “I feel like when we get a bigger space it would be the same energy as it was pre-COVID but hopefully with more resources and spaces for organizations like these students want.”

Torres said once the new MC is completed, he anticipates expanding the center’s work of connecting students from historically underserved and marginalized backgrounds to established communities on campus. With a larger base of operations, the center could employ more staff too.

“Maybe we have full time staff members, for identities that we currently just don’t have the capacity to fill. So maybe an Asian Pacific Islander, Desi American student services coordinator, perhaps an opportunity to hire a Native American indigenous student services coordinator,” Torres said. “Honestly, I think the possibilities are going to be much more than exist right now and will give us the ability to hopefully explore some new ways of serving students.”

The current multicultural center is housed within the third floor of the Union and serves as the sole shared space for an increasingly diverse student population, and the 139 countries represented on campus.

Featured Image: The Multicultural Center sits on the third floor of the Union on March 3, 2021. Image by John Anderson

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Cristóbal Soto

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