New Space Promises Opportunities for MRC

Anna Kozler, Contributing Writer

The Multicultural Resource Center moved from its former space on the second floor of Wilder and into North Campus’ International House, previously occupied by the International Student Organization and Wilder Voice, along with other groups.

An on-campus resource for marginalized and underrepresented students, the MRC defines itself in its mission statement as a “gathering place for the collaborative support of historically disenfranchised communities,” serving members of the College and the surrounding area.

The new space is a significant upgrade in square footage from the MRC’s former home in Wilder 208, offering the MRC an entire building rather than one room. The MRC’s staff believes that the expanded space will aid them in carrying out this mission, and views the change optimistically.

“It’s a blessing, definitely,” said Khalid Taylor, OC ’17, who was involved in the MRC as a student and is now one of the MRC’s student life program coordinators. “I think that this move creates a legitimate home, both metaphorically and physically, for a lot of people and communities to … not just exist, but to thrive and to come together for a lot of powerful work and social change that needs to happen.”

The new space’s size and flexibility are major assets for the MRC, and emoloyees are excited about the possibilities that being in a house — complete with multiple levels, a kitchen, and a resident dog named Kota — will create.

“There’s just a lot more space for student groups to do things here, which I think is so important,” said Taylor. “[A house] can be so many things, and it can be multiple things at the same time, but also it can change throughout the residency of whoever is creating the space within it. I think it has a very powerful opportunity to create and sustain history, but also to move forward and to be a focal point as it needs to be for the communities it’s serving.”

While some have voiced concerns that the MRC’s move to the northernmost end of campus will decrease student accessibility, College sophomore Ehryn Ortega, an MRC student staff member, framed its less central location as a potential advantage. She said the relocation of the MRC could be an important step in reducing the cultural gap between North and South Campus.

“With the MRC here, students have a reason to come to North Campus and maybe engage with people who they might not otherwise,” said Ortega, who worked in the MRC last semester as a social justice education student associate. “I feel like the MRC being on North Campus helps bridge that divide.”

Taylor also commented on the move’s potential to lessen this physical and cultural gulf between the two ends of campus. Like Ortega, he believes that the presence of the MRC on North Campus will bring positive changes to the culture of the school.

“I think [this house will be] really helpful in bridging the divide I’ve somewhat sensed between North and South Campus,” Taylor stated. “I think it’ll create a better sense of connection and communication around campus.”

MRC Director Toni Myers said accessibility concerns could be further addressed when the new campus shuttle service officially begins. She hopes that the MRC could be a potential stop along the route.

For Ortega, Taylor, and many others, the MRC creates an important space that allows them to feel heard, validated, and supported in all of their identities and experiences.

“It’s definitely been a place of grounding and healing and release,” Ortega said of the MRC. “I feel like, in that space, I am valid in all of my emotions, whatever they may be. It’s a place where I can just sit with them and be okay with that.”

Wilder 208, the MRC’s old office space, now houses Oberlin’s International Student Resource Center.

Correction 9/29/17: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the photograph to Hugh Newcomb. The photographer is Justin Bank.