The allocation of campus space can be a contentious issue, particularly for students who come together around and across a range of identities.

The challenges of providing state-of-the-art academic facilities for a world-class university with growth needs, partnered with needs for housing in an extremely high-cost housing market and Santa Clara County’s oversight related to campus growth, present a number of challenges when it comes to how the campus deploys its physical space.

With these challenges in mind, Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs, is forming a short-term committee of faculty, senior staff members and students who will advise her on criteria by which requests to create new community centers are evaluated.

The VPSA Advisory Group on Centers of Community and Belonging for Students will explore community needs and desires while taking into account the historical and cultural origins of existing centers as well as opportunities and future considerations related to belonging and diversity.

Brubaker-Cole said that in informal discussions with colleagues, she has heard a broad range of opinions on how the university should ensure that all student groups feel validated and valued. These discussions include the possibility of new community centers and/or new dedicated physical spaces for community groups.

“At this time, more than a handful of student groups have articulated a desire to be a new center, although the groups have varied definitions of what that might mean,” Brubaker-Cole noted.

Several proposals that emerged as a result of the Long-Range Planning (LRP) process have reinforced the value of the university’s seven existing community centers: the Black Community Services Center, Queer Student Resources, the Women’s Community Center, El Centro Chicano y Latino, the Native American Cultural Center, the Asian American Activities Center and The Markaz: Resource Center. These centers are a key component of the university’s commitment to fostering strong culturally based communities and opportunities for all students to learn to think deeply about the relationship between themselves and others, to gain confidence in interacting across differences and to develop empathy and skills that allow them to be responsive to one another and the larger community.

The LRP process also has revealed the desire of other student communities to have a more formal presence and set of supports on campus, perhaps as formal community centers.

The advisory panel also will advise the vice provost on structures necessary to support a “deep and abiding sense of belonging in our student body. In particular, what is needed to support connections within communities of students,” Brubaker-Cole said. She added that the group will also examine how limitations on campus space might inspire creative thinking about ways to help students feel a sense of belonging and cohesive community within the existing constraints.

Members of the advisory group include:

  • Anthony Antonio, associate professor of education
  • Anika Green, assistant vice provost for graduate education in the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education
  • Allyson Hobbs, associate professor of history
  • Paula Moya, professor of English
  • Rob Reich, professor of political science

There also will be two students on the committee who will be chosen by the ASSU’s Nominations Commission.

Deborah Golder, associate vice provost and dean of residential education, will facilitate the panel’s process, and Jennifer Calvert, associate dean of residential education, will staff the committee.

After the panel reviews relevant LRP documents and refines the focus of its work, it will meet with stakeholders, including community center leaders and other staff with expertise in diversity, inclusion and belonging. There also will be an online form through which individuals can submit input for the committee’s consideration. The panel’s work will take place during this quarter with the possibility of some carryover into the start of the summer.