Resource Centers Announce Plans for Collaboration
Issue   |   Thu, 09/01/2016 - 21:22

Chief Diversity Officer Norm Jones announced the hiring of Bulaong Ramiz as the new director of the Multicultural Resource Center in an email to the college community on August 16. Jones also announced the creation of the Resource Center Team, which will include directors and student staff from the Multicultural Resource Center, Queer Resource Center and Women’s and Gender Center.

“There really isn’t a change connected to the work of the centers. [It is] more so an additional name given to the team formed by the centers,” Jones said in an email interview. “We will begin to do more work in the collective and it’s important that the community begin to understand both the discrete and collective value of justice work being advanced by all three sites.”

One of the main goals for the Resource Center Team will be to use an intersectional lens to look at community issues and plan for event programming.

“One of the most unfortunate occurrences in diversity work is to watch people swap or make involuntary trade offs of their multiple identities because various cultures privilege certain identities over others,” Jones said. “Intersectionality asks us to be more sophisticated in our engagement of one another — to seek to understand the ways in which reductionism strips away at the richness of our interchange and does more to perpetuate our divisions than to create inclusive communities.”

Angie Tissi-Gassoway, the director of the Queer Resource Center, stressed the importance for the centers to retain individual autonomy while working collaboratively.

[We’re] thinking now about starting to reestablish all of the centers, now that we are all in the same place,” she said. The Queer Resource Center changed locations over the summer, moving from the basement of Morrow Dormitory to the second floor of Keefe Campus Center. “[We’re thinking about] what will be different about the way our collaboration will look and what it means to collaborate now … I’m thinking about how I hold saliency in the work that we’re doing but also know that I cannot do this work without being intersectional. I don’t want to do this work without being intersectional.”

Ramiz also recognized the challenges inherent in maintaining this balance. “[We are] thinking about how to establish when programming is open for everyone,” she said. “But when is the QRC uniquely for trans students of color? Or when is the MRC uniquely for people of color on campus, and when is the WGC doing a program that is specifically geared toward women on campus? Knowing that those spaces are still open to all other people on campus — that messaging is important, [and] it’s challenging to navigate how you share all of that information.”

Another goal for the Resource Center Team is to bring the work they do within their centers outside to the greater Amherst community.

“If I can create, in this space, a sense of belonging for students, and not a place where they are always comfortable but a space where they can feel changed, a space where we can hold each other accountable, where we can build community in an intentional way, [then] my hope is that it will trickle out to the rest of the campus,” Ramiz said.

Tissi-Gassoway echoed this desire to make the resource centers’ spaces accessible to students and other members of the Amherst community who may have previously felt unwelcome. “If we [put] ourselves out there more and show students that we are doing work [and show] a more nuanced way of looking at the work [rather than] very narrow, ‘this is it’ way, then I think those students might become more comfortable,” she said.

With newcomers to the Amherst community in leadership positions on the Resource Center Team, much of the team’s work remains in the early planning stages. In an effort to discuss concrete planning efforts, the team’s members will be going on a resource center retreat to further strategize and discuss their goals. Initial ideas for collaborative programming include discussions surrounding the importance of voting and voter registration and how different identities have the potential to be affected by political outcomes. Additional next steps for the team include a search for an administrative assistant that will work for the Resource Center Team.