Racial tensions at Pacific University are growing at an alarmingly fast rate. In light of the fact that Pacific is currently lacking a Diversity Director on campus, it feels as if students have nowhere to turn to when issues regarding discrimination and hate arise on campus.
However, in an attempt to continue providing students with the tools and resources necessary for growth, success and stability the university is in the early stages of developing a multicultural center on the Forest Grove Campus.
Although no concrete plans have been set for the possible creation of this multicultural center, senior Pablo Valenzuela, the Undergraduate Student Senate Vice President of Campus Betterment, has been working with a team of students on the campus betterment committee to brainstorm ideas for what they believe the center could offer to the student population.
“The idea is to provide a center for the students where they can work together and collaborate on different projects that would help us appreciate our differences and diversity,” Valenzuela said. “It would also be a space where students could feel free from discrimination and get help from trained professionals to overcome those types of issues.”
The multicultural center, which would most likely be designated to an area of campus and not its own building, would be open and accessible to all students, faculty and staff.
Valenzuela explained he pictures the center offering occasional classes, workshops and guest lecturers that people could learn about diversity from and learn how to better treat fellow students.
According to Steve Klein, Director of the University Center and Student Activities, there has been a large number of students on campus over that past few years who have reached out to the Undergraduate Student Senate in hopes of starting some type of center like this on campus, especially after seeing other schools in the area with similar programs.
“Students have told me numerous times that they would like to have a center that helps to represent some of the more underrepresented areas on campus,” Klein said. “I think students would appreciate an area where they could go to feel safe and comfortable and talk with someone who might understand what they are facing or going through, someone who might be able to help them navigate through their college experience.”
According to Valenzuela, a number of clubs and organizations, including the Muslim Student Association and Hispanic Student Heritage Association, have voiced their support for the creation of some type of multicultural center as well.
Although the school’s administration has not commented on the creation of a multicultural center this year, President Lesley Hallick, in the past, has voiced her support of bringing something like a multicultural center to campus.
However, the administration may purposely be taking things slow on the project so as to ensure that the center is done in the right way and that the position of the diversity director is filled before work officially begins.
For both Valenzuela and Klein, it will be important that the students are involved in helping to create the multicultural center and that their voices are heard.
“I think its imperative to work with the students on this project,” Klein said. “We want students to be engaged with what’s going on and ensure that everyone has a good experience.”
The entire Undergraduate Student Senate will have a meeting with Hallick on Oct. 27 and they plan to discuss the idea for the multicultural center further with her and more in depth.
Although it may be more of a long term project, it is not impossible to foresee the multicultural center up and running by next fall.
“I think the creation of the multicultural center would show Pacific’s commitment to diversity,” Klein said. “I think it’s a key component on this campus as we move forward into the future.”