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Bryan Center to house more space for multicultural groups

<p>The space formerly occupied by Au Bon Pain will be used for events, with renovations set to be completed by the Spring.</p>

The space formerly occupied by Au Bon Pain will be used for events, with renovations set to be completed by the Spring.

As several major construction projects on campus come to an end, space in the Bryan Center has been rearranged to create more room for student activities and organizations.

One of the many changes is the expansion of the Center for Multicultural Affairs, which now occupies much of the space downstairs, displacing other groups. Zoila Airall, associate vice president of student affairs for campus life, said the change was in part due to protests during the Spring.

“What came out of the protest from last year was that Latin and Asian-American students wanted their own center,” Airall explained. “And so what was determined was that the Center for Multicultural Affairs could be enlarged so that they’d get more space.”

Several student groups presented the administration with a list of demands at the second community forum Nov. 20. The representatives called for “increased pay for all black and brown labor,” stronger support for Latino and Latina faculty members, a new cultural center and a public apology from Duke administration for failing to deal with Latino student issues, among other demands.

Last April, students and Duke community members staged a protest demanding increased action from the administration to create a better campus environment. These protests came after a report that Executive Vice President Tallman Trask hit a contract employee with his car and allegedly used a racial slur as well as a second article outlining allegations of a hostile work environment in the Parking and Transportation Services department.

A number of student groups—including the Asian American Alliance, Mi Gente, the Native American Students Association and Diya—signed a statement on Change.org calling for Trask’s removal. 

Groups that have space in the Center for Multicultural Affairs include Mi Gente, the Asian-American Alliance, the Asian Students Association, Diya, a South Asian student organization, and the Native American Students Association. 

Mi Gente will take the former place of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and the Asian-American groups will occupy the former office of the Center for Leadership Development and Social Action. In addition, both the Latin American and Asian-American student groups have new program coordinators.

“Having a physical space is not only a logistical victory, but also a deeply emotional and symbolic one as well. Many students within our communities do not feel that they have a place to be safe on campus, or a place to call home,” wrote representatives from Mi Gente, AAA, ASA, Diya and NASA in a statement.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life moved into the University Center for Activities and Events within the Bryan Center, Airall explained. 

Another big change to the Bryan Center is the move of restaurant Au Bon Pain to the West Union. Chris Roby, assistant vice president for student affairs, said that Au Bon Pain will no longer be operating in the Bryan Center. The West Union version opened its doors Friday, where it will reside permanently.

Although plans have not been completely finalized, the space which ABP formerly occupied will become programming space for events. It is expected to be completed before the Spring, but potentially by Thanksgiving if renovation plans run smoothly, Roby explained.

“We will be working with [Duke University Union] and other student leaders to think about how best to utilize the space,” Roby said. “And what students have been asking for is a cool kind of programming space in the Bryan Center. So we think that that could be a great place for café-style coffee house programs, or spoken word, small lectures and events that would hold a couple hundred people.”

The renovation to the space formerly occupied by ABP will begin after a lighting upgrade is completed in the ABP space. The lighting upgrade is expected to take between three weeks and a month.

The Bryan Center also received substantial lighting upgrades throughout the building, Roby noted.

“We had a lot of complaints that the space just felt dark, and that it wasn’t a great place for students to study,” he said. “So we’ve put in really nice lighting up on the upper level.”

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