When Armani Eason began her journey at Missouri State University, a predominantly white institution, she struggled to feel included as a black student. The Multicultural Resource Center on campus helped her find the feeling of belonging she was searching for.
Now a junior fashion merchandising and design major, Eason and other students like herself are urging the university to invest in a new diversity center designed to help all students feel included at MSU.
Student Government Association hosted a “Diversity Town Hall” on Nov. 19 to hear student and faculty opinions on building a new diversity center to replace the current Multicultural Resource Center, which is in two separate locations. One MRC location is in the basement of Freudenberger House, and the other is located on the first floor of the Plaster Student Union.
More than one student brought up the issue of the current division of the MRC during the town hall. One student said the MRC in the basement of Freudenberger would often be double-booked and overcrowded when she wanted to hold a meeting there.
“Some people get confused about the two buildings and don’t know where they are,” one student said during the town hall. “It just kind of creates disorganization for people visiting this campus, and it makes it seem like we aren’t credible, like we don’t know what we’re doing. Just combining the two resources and making it a full space would definitely make us look a little more put together.”
Eason said the discussion showed most students agreed the MRC needed to be made larger and known to more students.
“We all felt that it would be best to actually have a building, not a basement or office space where no one notices us,” Eason said.
Another topic of discussion during the town hall was where the diversity center should be located. Students suggested either repurposing McDonald Arena for the new diversity center or building one near the center of campus where students can easily access it.
“I don’t think it should be off-campus,” one student said. “To me, personally, that would make me feel like more a minority. Why should I have to go off-campus just to go hang out with people that look like me?”
Student Body President Abdillahi Dirie and Student Government Association representative Apryl Myers facilitated the conversation, asking students what they would like to see in the new diversity center.
Students suggested amenities such as more interfaith spaces where students of various religions can go to pray during the school day and a space for undocumented students to feel safe. Another student suggested keeping the center open later, and another suggested installing assistive technology for students with disabilities.
MSU President Clif Smart, who was in attendance, informed the town hall attendees that charging an extra $30 per semester for the next 25 years would allow the university to build a diversity center the size of Magers Health and Wellness Center.
Students clapped and cheered at the numbers. The overall consensus from students was that it was a small price to pay for what one student described as a “multicultural PSU.”
“If you want to see something done, you have to put in the time, the money, the effort, whatever it’s going to take to get that done,” one student said.
Another student said although he would not use the diversity center personally, he believes the center could be a useful recruitment tool and investment for the university.
“I believe a new Multicultural Student Center would create more community while also retaining and attracting students to MSU,” Dirie said. “After the discussion, I felt really great with the direction we are going, and it showed that students want this and we need to continue to move the needle on this.”
The town hall closed with a question and answer session, and students were encouraged to email the Diversity Center’s discussion email, firstname.lastname@example.org, with any more questions or concerns.
“This was not random or just thought of overnight,” Eason said. “It was years of isolation and loneliness and feeling unwanted or unwelcome by many students of multicultural backgrounds for us to all team up together to get this changed and even considered. It took a lot of hard work and networking to get this meeting and stuff going. I feel we are finally being heard.”