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Multicultural center proposal submitted to Abbott, council

The proposal to bring a multicultural student center to the University of South Dakota is one step closer to becoming a reality.

According to Jesus Trevino, associate vice president for diversity, an official proposal has been submitted to President James Abbott and the executive council to be vetted and approved or returned with recommendations.

“Ultimately, the vision is to have a central area where there are lots of activities going on around issues of diversity,” Trevino said.

Two locations are being considered for the proposed multicultural student center — the former Continuing Education building and the current Commons facility in North Complex.

Trevino said the goal of the proposed multicultural student center is to deter away from the traditional perception of diversity.

“Diversity has become very complex,” he said. “It is not a problem to be solved, but it is an asset that can be very valuable and used to achieve a variety of educational and institutional outcomes related to teaching, learning, research and the preparation for students to engage in a diverse world.”

In an open forum between USD students and Trevino Dec. 5, Trevino went over the proposal with students, and afterward students shared comments and concerns about the proposal.

Alexis Oskolkoff was among the 15 students present at the forum.

“It’s a step-by-step process and it starts with education,” Oskolkoff said. “We need to teach students what the definition of diversity is, what the definition of inclusive excellence is, and then we can start moving forward.”

Oskolkoff, Arts and Sciences senator for the Student Government Association, said the basis of her campaign platform was to eventually convince the SGA to pass a resolution in favor of a multicultural student center.

According to Oskolkoff, she received opposition from various constituents concerning her platform right away, as she says some think a multicultural student center would “create segregation instead of inclusion.”

“It’s another way to promote inclusive excellence, which is now in the university’s strategic plan, and this is one way we can accomplish those goals in the plan,” Oskolkoff said.

A common concern among many who have been involved in developing the proposal, nine names for the multicultural center have been submitted within the proposal.

The process of how to develop a multicultural center at USD first began in October 2012, when the Office for Diversity brought in two consultants to evaluate the university’s physical and social environments.

From there, a subcommittee under the Provost Staben’s committee on African American student success prepared the proposal.

Trevino said the last process of the proposal was to report back to USD students on the progress being made on the multicultural center before sending it on for review.

Trevino said there is no official timeline for when the multicultural student center would be operational, but he is hopeful the process is headed in the right direction.

“Some multicultural centers only focus on race and ethnicity,” Trevino said. “In this case, we’re trying to bring everybody together.”