Updated at 1:25 p.m. on August 24, 2015:
Following opposition from many members of Northwestern's black community, the Black House will not be immediately undergoing the structural changes outlined last week, according to a letter from VP of Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin.
The University has halted any changes in facilities and suspended the proposed office changes listed below, and says it will make these decisions by having further discussions with students on campus as well as alumni partners.
“This endeavor aligns well with our goal to understand the Black Student Experience through the formation of a task force, planned to begin this fall, in order to improve Black/African American student experiences at Northwestern,” Telles-Irvin said in her letter.
In response to these proposed changes, students formed a new coalition called Sheridan Block Club. The entity, which consists of students, alumni and organizations who are dediated to advocating for the black student experience, formed “when the powers that be came into our home, built upon resistance with a foundation of tradition, and gutted our safe space,” according to the group’s website.
“As a space that students sacrificed so much for, it is nonsensical at the least to have turned The Black House into, in simple terms, an ‘everything house,’” the coalition said in a press release.
Among its many missions to empower black students on campus, Sheridan Block Club is focused on preserving the Black House and the community it helps build, especially since more discussions will be taking place next quarter regarding the facility. The Black House was originally formed in 1968 when many students sat in the Bursar’s office and fought for a space designated to the black community on campus.
The Department of Campus Inclusion and Community is expanding this summer, leading to new arrangements of campus office space in the fall, according to an e-mail sent to the Multicultural Student Affairs listserv Friday morning.
Several of these changes, which include combining office space for some student groups and repurposing large amounts of space in the Black House, have garnered negative reactions from affected students. CIC, which encompasses Multicultural Student Affairs, Student Enrichment Services and (new this fall) Social Justice Education, recently received funding to hire an assistant director for Multicultural Student Affairs focusing on “Identity Engagement initiatives and the Native American student experience,” according to CIC’s presentation on the new changes that has since been removed.
According to CIC, this new hire and the renovation of Scott Hall, as well as a need for new student space, required that CIC find new office space, which is set to largely come from existing space in the Multicultural Center and Black House.
A key source of contention in these changes is likely to be the repurposing of parts of 1914 Sheridan Road, more commonly known as the Black House, into office space for departments besides African American Student Affairs. Formerly located at 619 Emerson Road, the Black House has historically served as a specific centralized space for AASA staff as well as a safe community space for black students – a space that black students have fought to keep. The presence of other CIC offices seems to deviate somewhat from that purpose.
This rearrangement also means that some student groups, including For Members Only, One Step Before, the African Students Association, Northwestern Community Ensemble, the Asian Pacific American Coalition and the Muslim-cultural Student Association, will come back to campus in Fall Quarter to find their offices combined or relocated. Alianza and the South Asian Students Association, which already share an office, have also had their office moved.