DePaul will strengthen its support for students in marginalized groups with the creation of new centers dedicated to serving African-American, Latinx and LGBTQ populations and the addition of a formalized point of contact for undocumented students.
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president, announced the changes on Thursday following more than a year of comprehensive research by the President's Diversity Council and the collection of feedback and perspectives from the university community. Though the university has not received a formal request, administrators will immediately begin a study of whether it should form a similar initiative for Asian-American students as well.
"In January 2016, the Black Student Union requested that DePaul establish a center for our African-American students," Fr. Holtschneider says. "Based on the research and feedback presented to me, it was clear not only that this center would be valuable for our students, but that similar centers dedicated to our Latinx and LGBTQ students would enhance the care we provide to those communities as well. I have asked Student Affairs to implement these changes as soon as possible."
Culture centers such as the one requested by the BSU provide an opportunity for students to find respite among others who share a common culture and provide programming that serves them and the larger university community. Other universities, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, Purdue, Yale and Northwestern, have similar centers. Research into bringing such a center to DePaul was a key initiative on the university's Action Plan on Race and Speech that has advanced this academic year.
Existing space will be repurposed and reconfigured and funding will be provided to allow the centers to start their initiatives quickly. Gene Zdziarski, vice president for Student Affairs, expects that the centers will sponsor some multi-cultural programming to bring together and educate students of different backgrounds and perspectives.
"DePaul's Center for Identity, Inclusion and Social Change has excelled at organizing programming that speaks to marginalized groups of students and is inclusive of diverse viewpoints," Zdziarski says. "As the new centers become established at DePaul, Student Affairs will build on that good work."
The university also will be formalizing a designated point of contact for undocumented students on the recommendation of staff who brought the idea to Fr. Holtschneider. Though DePaul provides undocumented students access to resources and has a formal working group that meets regularly to discuss the university's ongoing support, undocumented students currently have no clear place in the university to turn to when they need assistance.
The new role, which will be housed in Student Affairs, will serve as a centralized space where undocumented students can find information or assistance navigating the many challenges they face, says Elizabeth Ortiz, vice president for Institutional Diversity and Equity.
"I appreciate the work of the PDC, the university allies who lent their perspectives to these initiatives and Father Holtschneider for agreeing to provide extra support for our students of color," Ortiz says. "Though these new initiatives are exciting and important, our work in cultivating an inclusive environment for all at DePaul will continue. The PDC and others at DePaul will continue looking for ways to promote diversity and inclusivity."