U of C unveils new Woodlawn Ave. diversity center

By Aviva Rosman

[img id=”80386″ align=”alignleft”] On Monday morning, construction workers were still placing the finishing touches on the new University building at 5710 South Woodlawn Avenue. But by Tuesday, the building was ready for the crowd of students, faculty, administrators, and alumni that gathered to celebrate the new home for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), the Amandla Center, and the LGBTQ Student Resource Center.

Brightly colored balloons, sparkling apple cider, and reggae drumming by the group Funkadesi accompanied the grand opening of the building, which has been under renovation for the past six months.

Although the building has been in use since December, Tuesday marked the location’s official opening.

Activities continued throughout the day with raffles, panels, television marathons, and karaoke.

“This opening represents an important day for the University, both for the content—the programming and enjoyment that will come from this building—but also symbolically as a component in the University’s ongoing commitment to diversity in all its aspects,” said President Robert Zimmer in his welcome address.

“I hope this becomes a place where the communities involved in this building can flourish—celebrate ebulliently and communicate difficulties, have a place to share the good and the bad,” he said. “You are setting the future course of what will happen here, and this will be an important place for the University for many years to come.”

Speakers paid tribute to both current students and alumni who had pushed for the creation of the space and the administrators who helped secure funding.

“The story of 5710 begins and ends with students and student effort,” said Deputy Provost Kevin Warren.

Warren and others described how students advocated the creation of the Amandla Center in 2003 and then lobbied for a bigger building when that space proved insufficient.

Lizette Durand, A.B. ’01, Ph.D. ’07, spoke about her own contribution to the creation of 5710.

“Some questioned why we needed this space,” she said. “We needed a more visible commitment to diversity, space to express our individuality, a place to draw from and contribute to student life.”

Kimberly Goff-Crews, vice president and dean of students, paid tribute to the past students who had “convinced the skeptics” of the U of C’s need for the new center.

Following Goff-Crews’s speech, students representing eight different RSOs, including the Organization of Black Students, Queers and Associates, the Organization of Latin American Students, and the Chinese Students’ Association helped cut the ribbon across the entrance to 5710, to cheers and drum rolls by Funkadesi.

The crowd then dispersed to enjoy snacks spread throughout the building in conference rooms, study lounges, and meeting spaces for the various OMSA organizations.

Peter Ascoli, A.B. ’64, said he came to the event because he believes in the programs 5710 is meant to support.

“I think this is very important, and the building really looks wonderful,” he said.

“This represents a wonderful example of students coming together with faculty and administrators to accomplish something great,” said Bill Michel, assistant vice president for student life, who was heavily involved with the creation of 5710. “The energy of these students over the last eight years deserves to be celebrated as it was today.”