UW-Madison will officially open the Latinx Cultural Center and the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Cultural Center in 2019 following remodeling plans this winter.
These will become the university’s third and fourth cultural centers, after the Black Cultural Center and the American Indian Student and Cultural Center. They’ll be in the Red Gym on Langdon street by the memorial union.
This comes after Latinx and APIDA student organizers, including Jonathan Godinez collaborated in lobbying for the spaces with prospective students in mind. He and other organizers don’t want the approximately 600 square foot spaces to be the final homes of the centers — they want to see them grow into larger spaces with professional staff.
“Most of these things that we would like to see come to fruition, that we dream about about aren’t something that we’ll be able to see,” says Godinez. “But if we have spaces that are big enough and have the amount of resources for aspects such as mental health and immigration health and academia, such as tutoring that is tailored toward Latinx students, if we can find that and give that kind of space to future generations of kids to look at at a world-renowned campus, I think that would be wonderful.”
According to a campus climate survey conducted in 2016 by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement and the UW Survey Center, 58 percent of Southeast Asian respondents reported feeling welcome on campus while 72 percent of “other Asian-American” students and 67 percent of Latinx students shared this sentiment.
Having a space tailored to the specific needs of students of color will be conducive to fostering a greater sense of belonging among Latinx and APIDA students. But UW-Madison senior Riley Tsang stresses that the startup spaces are not completed projects or a cure-all for racial bias incidents on campus.
“A lot of the diversity initiatives the University has started to put forward haven’t come out of the University trying to be proactive,” Tsung notes. “They’ve come out of hours and hours of unpaid student activism and labor trying to advocate for their own communities so they can succeed here at University. Even with these cultural centers, they came out of over a year of student activism, hard work, research, and protest, so the University needs to take steps to combat the systemic racism that is here on campus.”
Multicultural Student Center Director and assistant dean of students Gabe Javier emphasizes that the startup spaces are one type of intervention to assist students of color at an institution where white students represent nearly 70 percent of the student body whereas Asian and Latinx students comprise about 5 percent each.
In a press release, Javier says, “The intent of these spaces is not to segregate people, but to give students a chance to learn about themselves en route to learning with and about others.”
Although remodeling is scheduled for January, students intend to use the spaces this fall for cultural events such as National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on September 15th.