Penn announced it would allow the three cultural houses to move out of the ARCH basement and occupy the entire building, including the upper floors. But Penn's main minority coalition groups — the 6B — are hesitant to move into the rest of the ARCH because their ultimate goal is to relocate to their own buildings on Locust Walk.
All six minority coalition groups occupy the space in the ARCH, but only three are affiliated with the cultural centers in the basement — the Latinx Coalition with La Casa Latina, UMOJA with Makuu, and the Asian Pacific Student Coalition with the Pan-Asian American Community House.
The other three student groups — the United Minorities Council, the Penn Association for Gender Equity, and the Lambda Alliance — are affiliated with individual houses elsewhere on campus.
Moving the three cultural houses out of the ARCH basement has been a longstanding goal of the entire 6B. In the past, student leaders within the 6B have contrasted the cramped space designated to the cultural houses with the visible spots fraternities occupy on Locust Walk. They said they want minority students to have a more prominent location on campus.
At a meeting with students from the 6B on Nov. 13, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett discussed the possibility of moving the cultural resource centers out of the ARCH basement and into the building’s upper floors.
The 6B’s long-term goal is for the cultural resource centers to occupy their own individual buildings on Locust Walk. PAGE Chair and College senior Tanya Jain said the group wants to prioritize this goal, even if they decide to move into other spaces in the ARCH.
“Students were apprehensive that this would mean that moving onto Locust wasn't a priority,” Jain said. “So we made sure to emphasize when we have these future meetings with administrators, we will also be talking about taking up space on Locust Walk itself.”
Before reaching a decision, members of the 6B said they need to discuss the opportunity with the directors of the cultural centers as well as their constituents. College senior Cinthia Ibarra, chair of external affairs for the Latinx Coalition, said the 6B will not take the decision lightly because it has the potential to affect future generations of students.
“It's something that we need to involve the whole community in,” Ibarra said. “We are in the process of conversation to ensure that it’s something that helps everyone, and it’s something that’s not just beneficial for our class or our group or the current student leaders, but something that will be beneficial for years.”
If the 6B decides that moving the cultural resource centers to the upper level of the ARCH is the right decision, students will work with Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum to determine how best to use the space.
Currently, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, Ben Franklin Scholars, University Scholars, and Student Performing Arts are located in the upper-level of the ARCH. There are no definitive renovation plans as of right now, said VPUL Chief of Staff and Chief Communications Officer Monica Yant-Kinney.
"We’re looking forward to the continued developments and serving students’ needs as effectively as possible," said Makuu Director Brian Peterson. PAACH Director Peter Van Do and La Casa Director Johnny Irizarry did not respond to immediate requests for comment.
Even though the cultural resource centers are confined to the basement, there is a sense of community and intersectionality that the current location fosters, said UMC chair and College junior Kevin Zhou. Zhou said he finds it hard to imagine that other spaces in the ARCH could create a similar environment between the cultural resource centers.
“Having a bigger space in general and allowing constituents from multiple communities to interact with one another is something very nice and we can get behind,” Zhou said. “But it’s problematic because I don’t know if the current layout with that current space is conducive to that type of interaction.”
College senior Kamal Gill, chair of the APSC, said he also has a hard time picturing the spaces the cultural resource centers would occupy on upper floors of the ARCH, and that renovation would have to occur. However, he is grateful that Penn is offering concrete ways to make the centers more accessible.
“This an idea that was seen as feasible,” Gill said. “I was like, ‘Yes, this can happen and the University will back it up.’”
CURF Executive Director Jane Morris said even if CURF leaves the ARCH or moves to the basement, the organization will continue to support undergraduate research opportunities regardless of its location.
“We are confident that any renovations will enable us to continue to support all students and faculty and deepen our partnerships with the Cultural Centers,” Morris wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Members of the 6B said they hope space and resources for the cultural resource centers will continue to adequately serve minority students, especially with their growing population.
“Thankfully, we’ve had an increase in the Latinx student population, and given that we'd like to see the same amount of resources and space allocated to our community change with that,” Ibarra said. “And that’s not only for the Latinx community but also with the other communities within the 6B."
News Editor Manlu Liu contributed reporting.