Cultural centers work together to reach goals

by Rebecca Czaplewski

Sue Lindgren smiled as she remembered the awkward atmosphere of the first Inter-Cultural Center Committee retreat three years ago, in contrast to the changes that have come about since.
“Everybody was very quiet, just sitting in their own groups,” said Lindgren, a cultural programming specialist for the Disabled Student Cultural Center. “Lately, I can walk along and know a lot of people from other cultural centers.”
Much has changed for the University’s cultural centers in the past three years, due in part to the development of the Inter-Cultural Center Committee. The committee consists of representatives from seven different cultural centers on campus: the Asian-American, Africana, American Indian, Disabled, La Raza, and Queer Student Cultural centers, working with members from the University Young Women.
The ICCC, which is in its second year of committee meetings, was formed in response to a lawsuit filed against the University last year. The lawsuit, brought against the University by five students to challenge the mandatory student services fees, was specifically directed at three University cultural centers.
Brandon Lacy Campos, ICCC representative and co-chairman of QSCC, described the lawsuit as a turning point for all cultural centers.
“This pushed us to work even closer together. It gave us another reason to know what goes on,” Lacy said.
These representatives work with University administration in an effort to address the needs of cultural centers on campus. Although each cultural center might have different goals, they successfully collaborate to get their issues across.
“We all serve different needs, but we’re there to promote and educate the greater University community to the culture and needs of the centers,” Lacy said.
The ICCC meets at least once a month and is often advised by Nancy Barcel¢, vice president for the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs. Barcel¢ said bringing the cultural centers together was one of her main concerns when she came to the University three years ago.
“I think they have common issues, and this will provide them with an opportunity to work together and support their issues,” Barcel¢ said.
Currently, the largest issue for the ICCC is the Coffman Union renovation, specifically the question of where the centers will be located after the renovation. But the committee is also looking toward the future in other ways — particularly the spring Minnesota Student Association elections.
The ICCC plans to present candidates voted on and endorsed by the cultural centers for the upcoming elections. This would be a first for the cultural centers; Lindgren believes it would ensure the cultural centers a voice in the University student government.
“A candidate could be an advocate for their own center and a popular advocate for all the others,” Lindgren said.
In addition to the ICCC, the cultural center general assembly is a group comprised of various cultural center members in meetings that are less formal and structured than the ICCC. The general assembly meets once a month to discuss issues and plan group events, such as a food drive competition between the centers. The assembly also began a student cultural center newsletter this winter, highlighting events and information from different centers.
Many members of cultural centers feel that both the ICCC and the general assembly bring a sense of community and strength to the centers.
“We feel by getting all the cultural centers together we give each other more support and resources,” said Dao Her, president of the Asian-American Student Cultural Center. “It’s creating a stronger community besides ourselves.”