Cultural leaders fight for stability

Kendra Marr

Minority student leaders demanded in a dialogue Thursday at Norris University Center that administrators create a coherent plan for the future of the multicultural student affairs division.

Students asked many questions — from how to revitalize the Black House’s “sterile atmosphere” to how to fix the structure of the Multicultural Center, which houses offices for both Asian American and Latino students.

Both Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis and Multicultural Student Affairs Executive Director Carretta Cooke emphasized one solution: the creation of a student advisory board to oversee and initiate change.

“I feel the students’ concern was valid, but there were no answers,” said Ketica Guter, a Weinberg junior and coordinator for black student alliance For Members Only. “We left more frustrated than when we came in.”

The dialogue came after mounting discontent generated by transient MCC staff. None of NU’s recently resigned minority directors — Lupita Temiquel of Latino/Hispanic Student Affairs, Dimple Patel of Asian and Asian American Student Affairs, and James Britt of African American Student Affairs — have stayed more than two years.

“Instability in the administration structure causes instability in the student population,” said Weinberg junior Rosa Nguyen, political action chairwoman of Pan-Asian student group Asian Pacific American Coalition.

Even with salary increases, turnovers can’t be helped, Banis said.

“Young professionals won’t be here forever, though we’d like to think that they’ll be here for a long time,” Banis said. “Northwestern has a track record of helping people’s careers.”

Both Banis and Cooke said they didn’t know if the resignations were prompted by Spring Quarter’s department restructuring, which merged black, Latino and Asian American offices into one umbrella student affairs division. There currently is no central plan for the division, Banis said, but added that he expected staff and students to work collaboratively to create one.

Cooke said she sent out an e-mail soliciting members for a student advisory board last year and received no responses. She said she will try to form the board again.

Many students interested in working on the board said they never received the e-mail.

Students also urged administrators to create incentives to keep student affairs director for longer periods of time, saying Britt left without having another job offer.

“Students love and are attached to their directors,” said Tiffany Beard, a student in the School of Continuing Studies. “I’m tired of seeing people go in and out.”

Nguyen called for administrators to be proactive and not rely solely on students for solutions.

“We have school to worry about,” Nguyen said. “You cannot look to us to give you a foundation. It should have been there from the start.”

When student leaders asked Cooke to list the goals and objectives of each MCC minority division, she said she couldn’t because she did not have them memorized.

Student leaders also complained that Cooke never introduced herself to student groups when she accepted the position of multicultural director. Before the meeting many students said they never knew of her role or her existence.

This was the first meeting since the MCC’s restructuring where students said they could voice their concerns.

But their worries have been ongoing.

Debate surrounded the Black House during Spring Quarter when Cooke, then director of African American Student Affairs, took on the role of supervising the multicultural division. Student leaders said they were worried about her new responsibilities and whether she could balance equally the two jobs without bias.