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LGBT, Mary Lou centers secure future space

The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture and the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life have officially secured permanent locations in anticipation of their eventual move out of the West Union Building.

When renovations begin summer 2013, the two student centers currently housed in the West Union building will relocate to other West Campus spaces, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said. Administrators decided this past weekend that the Mary Lou Williams Center will move to the bottom two floors of the Flowers Building—currently occupied by the Office of Student Affairs—and the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life will reside in the Bryan Center, in half of the space currently occupied by the University Center for Activities and Events. Both moves are expected to take place during summer 2013, so the spaces are ready for students in the Fall.

“It will be a better space than we have now, as long as we work well with the administration,” said Blue Devils United President Ari Bar-Mashiah, a senior.

Both student centers expect to see a modest increase in the size of their space, but Moneta said he was unable to provide specific figures.

The decision was made based on reports provided by directors of both centers, detailing their ideal new locations, Moneta said. Throughout the academic year, the directors have convened focus groups involving students, faculty and alumni to discuss the changes. Moneta and Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education, received the reports in early March, and Moneta added that he has met with the directors and some students since receiving the reports.

The new location of the Mary Lou Williams Center will provide the opportunity to explore new types of student programming because it is multi-leveled and located so close to the Chapel Quadrangle, said sophomore Marcus Benning, executive vice president of the Black Student Alliance.

But many of the details regarding this move remain unresolved, Moneta noted. In order for the student centers to relocate, the Office of Student Affairs and UCAE will have to transfer out of their respective locations in Flowers and the Bryan Center. Because the LGBT Center will not completely fill the area currently occupied by UCAE, another student group or office might be able to take that portion.

“We may shuffle the whole deck,” Moneta said. “We’re going to use this as an opportunity to look for an ideal outcome for everyone who is involved .... We want to bring some logic and organizational clarity to the locations.”

The Office of Student Affairs and UCAE will possibly relocate to another area in the Bryan Center, Moneta noted. Additional space in the current UCAE location, the Von Canon rooms and the post office mailbox lobby are up for consideration. UCAE administrative offices are currently spread throughout the Bryan Center, and this will be a good opportunity for them to reside in one central location.

Benning added that he has been involved in discussions with various concerned parties throughout the decision process and has also met with Moneta regularly.

“[The process] allowed for the perfect balance of allowing the director to have input and having students weigh in, too,” he said.

Bar-Mashiah noted that although LGBT Center Director Janie Long met with Moneta since submitting the center’s report, it would have been useful for those involved in the focus groups to have met with him as well.

Long informed members of the Duke LGBT community of the decision Monday, but there was no other communication about the space since the group submitted the report, he said.

“We did get what we wanted, but we weren’t so happy with the process,” Bar-Mashiah said.

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