Northwestern cancels Black House changes


Daily file photo by Jerry Lee

Plans to move Campus Inclusion and Community offices to the Black House have officially been cancelled, administrators announced during Monday’s listening session. A fourth listening session is still planned for Friday to discuss future enhancements to the Black House.

Mariana Alfaro, Development and Recruitment Editor

Proposed changes to the Black House have been canceled, administrators announced Monday afternoon at the third Black House listening session.

Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, and Charles Whitaker, chair of the Black House Facility Review Committee, said the plans announced over the summer to move some Campus Inclusion and Community administrative offices into the Black House have been called off.

“We need to figure out what to do with this space to enhance what we have for our black students,” Telles-Irvin said. “I thank everyone who has spoken.”

Whitaker, a member of Student Publishings Co., The Daily’s parent company, told The Daily the committee will now focus on enhancing the services the Black House currently has to better benefit black students at Northwestern.

“The original plan is now out the window,” Whitaker said. “Now the committee’s charge is to make recommendations about how to enhance the Black House and the Black House experience.”

The third Black House listening session was held at Norris University Center’s Wildcat Room. About 100 students, faculty and community members attended, including University President Morton Schapiro.

At the beginning of the session, Telles-Irvin told the crowd that what was said during the discussion would determine if there would be a fourth listening session Friday.

That changed, however, by the end of the session. Participants argued it was unfair to decide the possibility of a Friday listening session for students who were unable to attend, and Schapiro, Telles-Irvin and Whitaker, among other faculty members, decided that Friday’s session would focus on enhancing the Black House’s services rather than discussing the proposed changes.

“I’m going to ask the committee to meet with all of you at that fourth session,” Telles-Irvin said. “We’re not going to cancel (it). The charge will be how do we enhance the Black House? How do we honor it in perpetuity? What do we need to do to make sure we never have these sessions again?”

Schapiro said he wasn’t surprised by what participants said during the session, arguing that everyone needs a safe space on campus.

Had the changes gone through, CIC offices would be moved from Scott Hall to the Black House and all the Multicultural Student Affairs offices would be located at the Multicultural Center.

Participants complained about the third session’s timing, saying it was unfair for students who had to choose between going to class, getting lunch or going to the session. Charles Kellom, MSA director, said this session was scheduled at noon on Monday so Jamie Washington, who presents annually at Wildcat Welcome’s diversity and inclusion Essential NU, could facilitate. Washington presided over the last two sessions and will lead the next and final one, which will be held Friday at 5 p.m. in Scott Hall. Kelly Schaefer, assistant vice president of student engagement, said the sessions were scheduled so there would be a variety of times to accommodate alumni and students.

During the session, alumni, faculty and students defended the Black House, emphasizing its role in the day-to-day lives of black students on campus, with many of them referring to it as a safe space.

Asadah Kirkland (Communication ‘93) said the Black House was the reason she came to NU. She said her godmother helped support protesters in 1968 who fought for the University to create the Black House as a space for black students at NU.

“The Black House was not granted, like a gift, by the University,” she said. “(The protesters) could’ve gotten expelled. They sacrificed their college careers to get the house for us to be able to have some sanity, and that is what it did.”

McCormick sophomore Bobbie Burgess said the University should add resources for black students of all majors to the Black House rather than adding external offices.

“I can’t always study there because it’s not always a space that has what I need to study there,” she said. “Let’s renovate the Black House, let’s make it a space that is accessible, that works for everybody and that more people can visit.”

This decision comes three days after hundreds of student protesters interrupted a groundbreaking ceremony as part of a solidarity action in response to the current racial issues at University of Missouri.

This story was updated at 7:11 p.m.

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