El Congreso Hosts Sit-In at Cheadle Hall for El Centro Space

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Madeleine Lee
Campus Beat Reporter

In the latest piece of a four-month long dialogue, the students of El Congreso staged a sit-in with administrators on Tuesday to once again address their demands for the future of El Centro the latest of which includes acquiring complete and unfettered access to the second floor rooms of the organization’s central hub.

Though administrators agreed to student demands to preserve the building back in January
— with plans to renovate this coming summer — after foundational rot deemed the building structurally unsound, students gathered in the Chancellor’s Conference room Tuesday afternoon remained unhappy with what they felt was an “unfair” situation.

“We’re not trying to kick them out,” said fourth year biology major Yaneli Gutierrez of the engineering department members that use the second floor space. “We’re just trying to share the space.”

Gutierrez and fellow student representatives claimed that the space has only been minimally used by engineering department members throughout the year, and that the extra space, in a building already used by “hundreds” of students of color, is much needed.

Chancellor Henry Yang, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn, Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall, and Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher were present to hear student concerns; all had been a part of the January negotiations. According to Marshall, he and Klawunn had reached out to those who used the engineering department space, and field members had agreed to move if comparable space were available.

However, the politics of space on a university campus of more than 20,000 students are a fickle thing to negotiate, according to Marshall. For the present situation, Marshall noted that approval to move the current office spaces will be needed from multiple campus sources, including the chair of the engineering department and fellow faculty.

In the long term, as students and administrators both floated the idea of erecting a new El Centro, the process proves even more complicated and can take “some years to do” —
requiring permission from sources as high as the board of and an identifiable source of funding from state legislatures, bond measures, student fees, or donor funds.

“I think that we certainly want to address the immediate needs and do what is in our power to do now and then explore other long term visions that could be pursued,” said Marshall, who emphasized the importance of addressing current and long-term needs simultaneously. “It’s not necessarily an either-or.”

Though administrators agreed to be more aggressive in their efforts to come to a working solution with the engineering department, no deadline was given for the process.

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