Future status of campus cultural houses pending

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The long-standing cultural houses at CSUN may be torn down, renovated or remain the same in about 30 years due to the school’s expected population growth, according to Provost Harold Hellenbrand.

The Children’s Center, Women’s Resource and Research Center, and the Asian, Black and Chicano houses, also known as campus cultural centers, may be demolished or renovated to help accommodate the estimated 42,000 people who are expected to attend the campus by 2035, Hellenbrand said.

“If you have 42,000 (people), you’re going to be hard-pressed to fit 42,000 students on campus,” Hellenbrand said.

The Asian and Black houses are currently located on Halsted Street, and the Chicano House, Children’s Center and Women’s Research and Resource Center are located on Plummer Street.

The plan is part of the Envision 2035 proposal, which was introduced in Fall 2004 as a plan to beautify and make physical changes to CSUN’s campus.

Hellenbrand, along with an ad hoc committee that includes the chairs of those departments responsible for each house, are creating a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a clause that will outline detailed plans pertaining to the future of the houses and centers.

The committee will most likely finalize the MOU after one more meeting, which should take place in May, said Hellenbrand.

After the MOU is finalized, CSUN’s Facilities Planning, Design and Construction Department will begin to work with the various departments this summer to assess the needs for each center, Hellenbrand said.

Focus groups will be formed to receive student feedback, and the chairs of each department will have a say in how they want the redesigned centers to look.

Afterward, the committee will collectively make a decision.

“We all have the final say together,” Hellenbrand said.

Tom Spencer-Walters, chair of the Pan African Studies Department and a member of the committee, emphasized that CSUN is not trying get rid of the cultural houses, and said this fact will be explicitly stated in the MOU.

“This is the first time any facilities document has documented the importance of ethnic structures for the future,” Spencer-Walters said.

He said that in 30 years, the areas where the houses are now located will most likely not look the same, due to the Envision 2035 renovations.

There were originally talks suggesting the creation of one multicultural center instead of the multiple houses, but Spencer-Walters said every chair was against the idea.

However, Hellenbrand said the possibility of having one multicultural house could resurface later this year or next year. The advantage of having one multicultural center would be having everything centralized, and also that certain facilities would not have to be duplicated in every cultural house, Hellenbrand said.

However, Hellenbrand also said having only one multicultural center would compromise the unique contribution of each cultural house.

“One thing people (are) always scared of is losing what they already have,” Hellenbrand said.

Spencer-Walters expressed a similar opinion.

“They’re not being torn down because people don’t (value them),” Spencer-Walters said. “Basically, what they’re doing is preparing for the future. We’re going to look at alternatives.”

The houses, which were always considered temporary, serve a purpose, Spencer-Walters said. If the houses are torn down or renovated, each department will choose the look of its new house, he said.

“I think each chair has different needs,” said Mary Pardo, chair of the Chicano/a Studies Department.

The Chicano House is now used as a cultural arts and resource center, featuring activities including painting, Pardo said. Those who will use the Chicano House in the future will need expanded resources, she said.

“We do see a need for classroom space,” Pardo said. “We see it as part of our integral issue.”

Pardo said she is thinking of planning for the house to have a dance floor, and even an amphitheater. Funding for the project is yet to be determined.

Safa Sajadi, senior political science major and A.S. vice-presidential candidate, said it upsets her to know the houses may be torn down.

“They add richness to CSUN,” Sajadi said.

But will be an amazing thing if the cultural centers are rebuilt, she said.

“I think it’ll bring students together,” Sajadi said. “More students will get plugged in to the university. More students will get plugged into other cultures.”

She did say, however, that she would not like to see one multicultural center built in place of the individual cultural houses.

“I’m kind of skeptical, because I don’t know how that center would accommodate the students,” Sajadi said.