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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Block Party Sparks Discussion Over Adequacy of Current Student Space

The halls of 3100 block on the third floor of the UMass Boston Campus Center were filled with the intoxicating smell of chicken wings, egg rolls, and Spanish patties, while the sounds of meringue played as new and returning students chatted, ate, and even danced on the grounds of their new space.

Last Wednesday, September 29, several of the student centers and clubs opened their doors to the UMass community in a first time collaborative venture to reach out to the student body.

The collaborative block party assisted UMass students by providing information about the various communities and services available to them. Likewise, the centers and clubs were given the opportunity to promote their organizations. In addition, students could familiarize themselves with student centers and clubs that had been relocated from Wheatley Hall to the new Campus Center. Visiting students walked through the hallway, glancing into the multitude of spaces, and deciding whether or not to sign onto membership lists, mailing lists, or web groups.

Previously, student organizations held open houses separately. However, this year Student Life suggested “that we do it collectively because of lack of funding,” stated Women’s Center coordinator Natalia Cooper. Students belonging to the diverse communities had varied responses to this year’s new setup.

This year’s collective effort to reach out to the UMass community “couldn’t even be compared to how it was done before,” according to Queer Student Center (QSC) coordinator Brandon Gorham. “Everyone gets to see all the clubs this way, we’re all in one room, and that’s an advantage,” stated Simard Pierre, Treasurer of the Hatian-American Society (HAS). The consensus among student organizations is that the new layout encourages all students to poke their heads in, which has diversified membership. “We’re now attracting people of different backgrounds, not just Haitians,” according to Pierre. Gorham’s conclusions concurred. “People generally will came to their own particular center, but now we have people coming in saying ‘I’m not gay, I’ve only been in Casa Latina and I’ve never thought to come in here,'” he stated. Asjah Monroe, a member of the Black Students Center agreed. “I’d say this change is positive because this space is completely open and it makes each club member go around to the other clubs.”

Gorham expressed delight with the manner the QSC has progressed this year. The first four weeks of fall 2004 brought a 42 percent increase in student membership from the previous three years. When asked about what he would attribute the success to, Gorham responded, “I think a lot of it is due to the centers being where they are. People enter and leave the centers more frequently.” However, he recognized that the move to the Campus Center was anything but smooth for the remaining student organizations, stating, “It was poorly executed. Some centers have had to set up makeshift walls because they’ve been forced into cubicles.”

The discrepancy was clear. As some student centers seemed to thrive in the rooms of 3100 block, others struggled to keep their communities as intimate and private as they were in previous years. The student centers that were once allotted separate rooms (the Black Students Center, the ARMS Center, and the Women’s Center) were suddenly in the midst of a fanfare of other clubs and organizations. Some students expressed concern over the lack of privacy in the Women’s Center, a center that also aims to provide referral services to rape victims.

Diagonally across from the QSC, over a six-foot desk in a cubicle, sat the old yellow sign that previously hung over the door in the Haitian-American Society room in Wheatley. Within the tight space of this cubicle sat approximately eight to 10 students. Edson Allen, a member of HAS, reminisced back to the days in Wheatley where students previously gathered for lunch, meetings, or socializing. “We went from having a room to this,” Allen stated as he pointed to one of the four desks in the cubicle. “The move hasn’t been as hard for centers who are now in the rooms here. So what if they don’t have doors, at least they have some privacy,” Allen somberly stated. “I prefer the old setup. This setup prevents us from socializing the way we used to,” voiced Pierre. When asked if this setup hurt HAS, all eight to 10 members unanimously agreed that it did. “This actual cubicle is shared by 10 clubs total,” according to Pierre.

Which was correct. The four desks are in fact shared by the following clubs: the African Hut club, the DSP Club, the Milhal Club, the Real Life Club, the Upside Down Club, the Haitian-American Society, the Association of Computing Machinery, the Business Club, the UMB Republicans Club, and the Cape Verdean Club.

The HAS’s primary concern is that the allotted space “misrepresents the club. We have so many members, yet this space makes it look like we barely exist,” expressed Allen. Members of the Black Students Center (BSC) shared similar feelings about their new space. “Its not a fair amount of space,” stated Ricardo Alexandre, an active member of the BSC. “If the plan was to bring us all to this new and improved Campus Center, the current space does not permit a natural progression of our community.” Jessica Pierre, another BSC member, complained, “Back in the day we’d have 20-25 people in the BSC regularly, now look at us,” she said, looking at the six members sitting in the cubicle. One member claimed that “membership has gone down because of this setup.”

All in all, the students’ main concern was their lack of privacy, something that professors and administrators, who have moved to the Campus Center, complain about rather frequently. With the Campus Center walls open, frequent visitors of the Student Life space worry that their sounds will disrupt the offices and tutoring on the first floor. “We can’t even enjoy our own laughter anymore,” stated Alexandre. “This new setup sucks, plain and simple.”