The Multicultural Student Space, located in Whitehurst, is a space for multicultural students to gather, connect and call their own, Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs Morgan Russell said. However, the Space has been closed this semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the Space were open, student coordinators would have to work around COVID-19 restrictions, such as not being able to move furniture or have events.
The Space is small, so it was not able to be open during the Red Stage of University of Richmond's Physical Distancing Framework, junior Esmeralda Castillo said. When UR transitioned to the Orange Stage, the second most restrictive stage of the four-stage framework, the Space was technically allowed to be open, but student coordinators and the advisory board decided to keep it closed for the whole semester, Castillo said. Now that UR has transitioned back into the Red Stage, the space will remain closed for the rest of the semester, Castillo said.
"That is not how [the student coordinators] see people needing the space to be, so we now shifted to planning events outside [of the Space],” Castillo said.
The Space began in a pilot program in September 2019, said junior Anthony Lawrence, who is currently on theadvisory board of the Multicultural Space. Lawrence said the pilot began with the goal of serving and meeting the needs of students of color, a space on campus to call their own.
Lawrence was involved in writing the proposal for the Space and served as the chair of the Space’s student council last year, he said. This semester, the student council has transitioned into one large advisory board, Lawrence said.
Castillo is one of the student coordinators for the Space. As a student coordinator, Castillo is in charge of setting up the Space each day and organizing and leading events such as game nights and study breaks, she said. The Space itself, which Castillo said is funded by the president’s office, was completely transformed at the beginning of the pilot.
The Space used to be a game room with two pool tables, Lawrence said. In fall 2019, the room was repainted and recarpeted to be transitioned into the Space, he said.
The Space is designed to be easily adapted to however students want to use it, Castillo said. It has been used as a place to hang out, study or do homework, play video games or just relax, she said. Castillo, who is a part of the Ritmo Latino dance group, sometimes uses the space to choreograph dances with her friends, she said.
“We kept our mission very open," Castillo said. "This space will be whatever you need it to be. It is also a place where we can have difficult conversations.”
Since its opening, the Space advisory board has collaborated with groups such as cultural dance organizations and the Black Student Alliance to hold events, Castillo said. But although the Space partners with cultural groups on campus, students not affiliated with groups are also encouraged to use the Space, Lawrence said.
Castillo agreed. Everyone is welcome, she said.
“I want to emphasize that it’s for all students," Castillo said. "I know we intended it to be specifically for students or color and international students to come together, but everyone has culture."
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Russell also serves on the Space advisory board. She said the pilot had already started when she began working at UR in August 2019.
Groups interested in using the Space can fill out an application online, but the room is open for general use for collaboration with cultural groups and students of color, Russell said.
“We want to cultivate a culture around the space,” Russell said. “The hope is that it will eventually become a hub of additional support for multicultural people.”
In the future, Castillo said she hopes to find a bigger space for students to connect.
“It's our hopes and dreams that one day we can have a multicultural building,” Castillo said.
Additionally, the Space advisory board and the student coordinators want to raise more awareness of the Space among students, especially first-years, Castillo said. She said that she hopes to plan a karaoke night once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
They have received positive feedback about the Space from students, Castillo said.
“It has become a warm space that people feel safe to gather [in] and can call their own," Russell said.
Contact features writer Anna Ridilla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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