Multicultural Community Space open to students as of Oct. 28

Over 200 people attended the grand opening, which featured a ribbon cutting, keynote speakers and food trucks.

The front of the newly opened Multicultural Community Space, as photographed on Oct. 28, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Shun Ahmed)

Shun Ahmed

The front of the newly opened Multicultural Community Space, as photographed on Oct. 28, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Shun Ahmed)

Katherine Oung, Deputy News Editor

On Oct. 28 from 1-4 p.m. CDT, the Student Center for Social Justice & Identity (SCSJI), the Office of the Dean of Students and the Multicultural Leadership Council (MLC) hosted the grand opening of the Multicultural Community Space (MCS). 

Opening the MCS was one of the university’s equity, diversion and inclusion (EDI) goals published on June 30, 2020. On June 25, 2021, the SCSJI and the Office of the Dean of Students announced that the MCS would be established in the former Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) house in Fall 2021.

“I think it’s cool that we finally have a space for students of color and people who aren’t from the U.S. in a predominantly white part of Greek Row,” MLC Community Relations Co-Chair Indu Kumar, a sophomore, said. “Hopefully, it’ll be something that Greek students take the time to interact and learn from.”

Per Dr. Ashley Brown, director of the SCSJI, over 200 people registered to attend the event. Reservations to use the MCS will open on Nov. 11.

“Opening up a space for us is something that has been asked for since before I went to school here. We [the MLC] and VSG had been putting pressure on administration and the SCSJI,” Kumar said. “ It shows that student leadership and organizing can get change to happen.”

The event began with speeches from Brown, Associate Provost and the Dean of Students G.L. Black, Vice Chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion André Churchwell, Indigenous Scholars Organization (ISO) President and senior Gabrielle Guarna and MLC President and junior Safa Shahzad. This was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony to symbolically establish the MCS on campus.

“I came to support the amazing work that SCSJI has been doing with supporting students and the campus,” Franklin Ellis, director of intercultural education and outreach for the Office for EDI, said. “Representation is powerful, and I think this space builds a community for us with identities that tend to fall into being institutionally marginalized.”

The event also featured food trucks and a Vantea pop-up. Attendees could receive tours of the MCS and take pictures in the photo booth outside the house. Inside the house, attendees could fill out cards answering the question “What does the MCS mean to you?” and pin their country of origin on a world map hanging on the wall.

“We finally have a space for cultural events and important internal discussions,” Kumar said. “It’s also a place to be joyful and have fun with a community of people who you can learn from, that anyone can enter as long as they’re being respectful.”

Kumar also discussed the importance of community-wide engagement in cultural events.

“The biggest thing is giving [cultural organizations] the same resources that other organizations have historically had. A space is the first step. The next step is more money and [then] getting people outside of that identity group to come to events,” Kumar said. “Actually getting that ‘diverse experience’ Vanderbilt loves to advertise would mean that we all learn from and go to events from other cultures.”