Feb 18, 2015 - Save Minnesota State University Moorhead’s American Indian Center by Brianna Bradley
“Our faculty, staff, and students form a caring community. This is evident in how people treat each other as well as in the way our staff maintain our building and grounds…our campus welcomes and celebrates diversity and works to actively combat racism…”
Listed in the parentheses above is an excerpt from Minnesota State University Moorhead’s About MSUM section on their official website. While they attempt to achieve this, it’s very questionable as to whether or not they do so. The reason I say this is because, while I love the school, they struggle with making their more diverse population feel like they truly are a part of campus. Diverse spaces around campus such as the American Indian Research & Resource Center, Anita Bender Women’s Center, and Rainbow (lgbtqia) Dragon Center are being threatened. These autonomous safe spaces are at risk of being “relocated”, a decision being made by the school and student union’s administration not the students who utilize the spaces, into a single space called the mosaic center as a part of the student union’s renovation that will start at the end of this spring semester.
This proposed center, as of right now, is expected to house the three previous listed groups as well as the international student population. This is 600-700 people we’re talking about, 500+ of them alone are international students. The maximum capacity of the mosaic center? 60 people. According an architect who is in charge of the renovation project, even that was said to be pushing its capacity. The only benefit of this center is that the international students, who definitely deserve to have a space of their own, will finally have one.
Students that utilize the spaces and, more recently, myself have been fighting to keep the three spaces autonomy for the better portion of two years, if not longer. Administration doesn’t seem to care since the numerous times we’ve met with different people we’ve gotten backlash and disrespect. Their argument time and time again about the relocation is that all of our spaces are temporary, and this will be their permanent home. Even though the most recent renovation plans that I have seen have nothing replacing our spaces. Nothing.
This is not okay. Especially since the MSUM Indian education council has a written document stating that the Native American population has their own space on campus, among other things. While I’ve been told that the president, Dr. Anne Blackhurst, has stated that the American Indian center is safe from being put in the space, I don’t fully believe it and it is important that we continue to fight for the other spaces autonomy because if they go for one marginalized, they’ll eventually go for all of them. They already neglect to announce each center’s presence on campus by avoiding going by them on campus tours. When they do mention them it isn’t even close to being an accurate description of what the center does, but I digress.
The pressure is on and there are only months until they start the renovations. We no longer have a say in if the mosaic center is built, but we do still have a say in who gets to be relocated to the space.
This is where others, hopefully people in Indian country, come in. We need help. We need these centers for American Indians, breast feeding mothers, fathers, children, feminists, people with disabilities, lgbtqia people, and whoever else wants to be a part of these communities. Depending on the environment and the individual, we don’t feel comfortable hanging out in open areas around campus or our own dorm rooms. These spaces give us a place where we can unapologetically be ourselves and know we won’t receive any backlash. This is where our friends, mentors, and people we’ll mentor are. These spaces are home to many student organizations who would more than likely have to disband if placed in the mosaic center due to lack of being able to find a way to not only find a time that works for as many people in the organization as possible but to also make sure it doesn’t conflict with any of the other student organizations, or events the center may be hosting.
Almost everyone who has attended school has a place similar to this in their memory regardless of if you fit the criteria of any of the above or not. You know the importance of having that space, and how it helped you in your success. We know it too and we want them to be at MSUM long after we graduate.
Recently we have gone to twitter to use the hashtag #spacesinsolidarity, to try to gain momentum and will only be increasing our outreach soon. Administration has been trying to silence our voices and we will not tolerate it any longer.