The newest addition to campus, the Diversity and Equity Center, found its home in the old Belltower office in Harned Hall, rooms 200 and 201. The center was welcomed with a blessing and ceremony on the afternoon of Sep. 13. Students and guest speakers took turns expressing their excitement and sharing their hopes of what potential changes will be made over time, starting with the opening of the Diversity Center.
Everyone is welcome to visit the center to learn about diversity issues and offer support. Serving as a safe space for people of color, the LGBT community, first generation students and religious minorities, the center is geared to support these various individuals as well as help them develop their sense of identity and obtain mentoring. Students, staff and faculty can all become more educated over different social justice areas effecting the community by visiting the Diversity Center.
The center will also be sponsoring various events around campus including the Interfaith Dialogue series and the Breaking Bread social justice series. The center shares the office of John Hopkins, who plays a big role in the diversity of the Saint Martin’s campus.
Harned Hall serves as a crucial location in maintaining a healthy, safe environment for the Diversity Center. With a lot of foot traffic of students and teachers going to classes, as well as the Monks Bean downstairs, more people can find the center easily and conveniently. The last attempt at a Diversity Center took place in the TUB many years ago. However, the layout of the room ended up being difficult to find and turned into a general meeting area rather than serving as a successful Diversity Center. Chantal Arevalo, student guest speaker at the opening ceremony, said, “It was in such an awkward spot, so it’s nice to finally have a designated area with our own label and its decorated and you can really see that it is the Diversity Center.”
Arevalo expressed eagerness over the services this new center will provide. “I’m excited that students, especially marginalized students, will have a space to just come and gather and relax from their days. They have a place where they can feel safe and say what they need to say without any judgement. They can be who they truly are” Arevalo said. It is important to have a room where all students can go and learn in a helpful environment. As Arevalo states, “Students are encouraged to go to the Diversity Center, not only the students that the center was created for, but all students, so that we can learn from each other and make a positive space.”
Having an office dedicated to that program plays an important role in ensuring diversity and helping to encourage students of minority backgrounds or identities. The faculty and institution funding also play a big role in helping this program to thrive. “The positive space comes from administration and faculty really passing this message on to their students,” Arevalo says. This center provides a great opportunity for students and teachers alike to spread awareness on social justice problems, as well as share support.
While it is still a new center, there is a lot of optimism and high expectations on how the center will grow and positively impact the Saint Martin’s campus over the years. A meeting place for clubs, hosting events and serving as a safe place for students to gather and freely express themselves are all uses the center can offer. The Diversity and Equity Center is hoped to be a positive area that will inspire transformation on the Saint Martin’s campus for years to come.
Written by Hannah Gabel, Staff Writer