Last month, representatives from a variety of student groups met with Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) members at 190 High St.—home to the University Organizing Center (UOC), a meeting and organizing space for students group, and the Queer Resource Center (QRC)—to discuss the future of the building. Confusion arose this fall when students returned to campus and found the floor of the UOC under construction and student groups’ materials missing.
“People were especially upset because their stuff was getting thrown away,” said Zak Kirwood ’12, a student who meets in the UOC regularly as a member of Amnesty International.
As it turned out, the changes were the result of a summer renovation, arranged without the knowledge of students or administration members involved with the UOC. The renovation was the informal initiative of a few WSA members who had observed areas of the space they felt could use construction upgrades.
“Some members of WSA did know about the project, but there were various miscommunications all throughout the summer, and I don’t think many of them understood exactly what was going on,” wrote Sylvie Stein ’12, Chair of the Community Outreach Committee of the WSA, in an e-mail to The Argus. “Everyone had good intentions but there were a number of miscommunications and misunderstandings that complicated the process.”
The changes raised the question of ownership of the space, prompting a series of meetings involving student groups, the WSA, and the administration. According to former UOC Intern Lex Horan ’10, the meetings established that both the student intern and the faculty advisor must approve future decisions about 190 High St., making sure that the building remains student-controlled.
September’s meeting cleared up misunderstandings among the parties who use the space.
“The tone was good,” Kirwood said. “[The administration] was very accommodating and seemed to understand where [the student groups] were coming from. I was worried at first that the WSA would do whatever they wanted with the space.”
The dialogue raised other questions about the organization of the building. In an effort to clean the house, student groups with permanent spaces reserved will have to reapply for their spaces, although the availability of permanent space has yet to be established. Public access hours were set daily from noon to midnight, with students free to call Public Safety any other time to be let inside. Some individual rooms and offices will be locked, but meeting rooms will remain open.
“Such guidelines focus on finding a balance between protecting the possessions of the student groups who use the space while keeping the space accessible,” Horan said.
Many students are unaware of the UOC, which was created to help facilitate campus activism. The UOC was established in 2004, in the building that housed the old WSA offices, in response to the demand for a meeting space for student groups. Today it permanently houses the Emergence Infoshop, the QRC, and the office of Hermes, the longest-running progressive college publication in New England. In addition to functioning as a meeting venue, it has limited space for student groups to store both private and public materials, including a Queer Library.
“The UOC is a really valuable space,” Horan said. “It was established after years and years of student struggle, and we owe it to ourselves and the folks who came before us to make full use of it as a resource.”