Mariana Cruz Resigns as MRC Director
Issue   |   Wed, 10/14/2015 - 02:47
Jingwen Zhang '18
Students work in the Multicultural Resource Center on Oct. 13. The MRC increased its influence on campus during the tenure of Mariana Cruz, who abruptly resigned from her post as the center’s director on Oct. 6.

Mariana Cruz resigned from her position as interim chief diversity officer and director of the Multicultural Resource Center on Tuesday, Oct. 6. President Biddy Martin announced Cruz’s resignation in a campus-wide email.

Martin held an open meeting in the Multicultural Resource Center that evening to discuss the process of finding a replacement for Cruz and adding administrative support to the center in the interim period.

In her email, Martin wrote that Cruz resigned for “personal reasons.” Cruz did not respond to requests for further comment on her resignation. Adriana Turner ’14, the diversity and equity coordinator at the Multicultural Resource Center, declined to comment on the details of Cruz’s departure. Neither Martin nor Dean of Students Alex Vasquez responded to requests for comment.

Cruz became the interim director of the Multicultural Resource Center at the beginning of the fall semester of 2013. She had begun working at the college over the previous summer as a consultant to oversee significant changes to the center, including moving it into its current space on the first floor of Keefe Campus Center. She ended up staying with the college when she was appointed director of the center, working under the new office of the provost. At the beginning of this semester, Cruz assumed her role as the new interim chief diversity officer, a position that was created after the departure of Provost Peter Uvin last semester.

Cruz worked throughout her time at Amherst to expand the presence of the center on campus. She raised the center’s budget, which had been significantly smaller than those of other multicultural centers in small schools in the region, such as Williams and Bowdoin. She also pioneered regular events such as “Café con Leche,” which gave students an opportunity to have conversations with high-level administrators on campus.

At Martin’s meeting in the Multicultural Resource Center, discussions focused first on immediate changes to the administration, such as seeking out candidates to replace Cruz. However, the conversations, which continued for over an hour, shifted to more general on-campus issues, such as loneliness and the role of faculty and staff of color at the college.

Several students at the meeting expressed their distress at Cruz’s sudden departure.

Irisdelia Garcia ’18 was involved in the Multicultural Resource Center and was close with Cruz. Garcia said the community needed “someone who can be there, who understands students of color, who know about how much we struggle here, who know about our background and culture — someone who can be a voice for that.”

Andrew Lindsay ’16 was another student who worked with the center and attended the meeting.

“I think one of the big effects of her leaving is that a lot of the students who were told, ‘It’s going to be okay,’ or ‘Maybe the environment isn’t as hostile as we thought it was,’ now may say ‘I won’t make it,’” Lindsay said. “And that was why her mentorship for minority students was just so crucial, because you had a senior figure who ‘made it,’ sitting there and talking to you.”

After the meeting, Martin sent the attendees a list of the administration’s upcoming projects and tentative deadlines to address Cruz’s resignation. She said that an interim director of the center would be appointed by the end of this week, and the center will temporarily report to Vasquez. According to Martin, a search committee will begin looking for a new chief diversity officer within two months, and a separate committee will start seeking a new director of the center by next semester.

“I really expect the burden of coordinating programs out of the MRC, as well as out of diversity initiatives, to fall heavier now on our remaining staff of color and students of color,” said Kali Robinson ’17, a volunteer for the center.