By Sequoia Hall
VP of Internal Affairs
In Temple’s recent efforts to address and embrace diversity, Temple Student Government developed a TUnity Statement. The statement, which was finalized in October 2014, aims to help the “Diversity University” embody everything that the title represents.
One of the most highly anticipated components to the statement was the impending arrival of a new space for all students to use. The IDEAL Center, which had its grand opening Friday, is now available for use by students.
The furnished multi-room facility offers a kitchen space, a living room with plenty of seating, a flat-screen television, conference tables, rooms to work in and a security desk. There is also a tree-lined outdoor area with a gazebo.
At the opening, students said they were impressed by the space and looking forward to using it.
Leila Stambuli, a junior public health major, said she can see herself using the space frequently to hold meetings with commuter students in a more inviting environment.
“It’s more comfortable here,” Stambuli said. “It’s not like the [Student Center] where you know you’re in a meeting. This is more like somebody’s living room.”
She added that she hopes to use the IDEAL Center as a resource for transfer and commuter students to come together and collaborate. Because not all students have experienced events like freshman orientation, the IDEAL Center will serve as a place for them to discuss all the campus resources available to them, she said.
Tykee James, speaker of the general assembly for Temple Student Government, said he is pleased with the IDEAL Center.
“I’m really excited about it,” James said. “I can’t wait until it’s really crowded – to the point where there is no room for more reservations.”
James also said that he felt a homely vibe in the new space.
“It’s open,” he added. “It’s very free-thinking and flexible to thought. I feel like we can really embrace thought here.”
The facility will also allow students to talk more openly about diversity, said Rhonda Brown, Temple’s associate vice president of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equality, Advocacy and Leadership.
“There has to be a place where people can have hard conversations,” Brown said.
Brown added that she sees the new space as a “burrow” for students to collaborate with one another, work on school projects and have meaningful discussions about diversity issues – she wants them to use it in any way that can benefit them and their goals.
The “burrow” nickname originated from Temple’s mascot, she said.
“A burrow, officially, is an underground owl’s nest,” Brown said. “Because we service [Temple] Owls, [the name] made sense.”
Besides being a gathering space for students, another purpose of the IDEAL Center is to encourage an atmosphere of diversity that adheres to TSG’s TUnity statement.
Brown said minority groups are not solely comprised of racial minorities, and wants every student to know that the new space will be accessible to all students.
“[Multicultural] is more than just ethnic and racial,” Brown said. “It could be orientation, it could be gender, it could be religion. It’s how you define you.”
While the space is inclusive and open to all students, new Director of Student Engagement Carmen Phelps said she wants to make sure the main goal of the IDEAL Center is not lost.
“Our intention is to support the interests, the needs of underrepresented student populations on campus,” Phelps said.
Phelps added that she has high hopes and expectations for the space.
“I’d really like to see it used as a place where students can do coalition building, work together and collaborate,” she said. “The point is for it to be a multifunctional space. We want to be able to measure the impact that all the programming will have on student development.”
“I don’t want to limit what the space could be,” Brown added. “We just need to use it … and use it well.”
She said that the space will also help students identify themselves and decide how they will spend their time on Main Campus.
“It’s about how you define your specific Owl,” she said. “That’s what it’s about … helping you figure out what kind of Owl you want to be. Or what kind of Owl you are, and how you want to celebrate that. This is a place where that development will happen.”
Brown and Phelps said they are planning a multi-intercultural summit for March 28. The summit will give students the opportunity to express how they want to use the IDEAL Center, and what goals should be set.
Phelps also plans to put together a student advisory group. Students interested in either the summit or the advisory group can email Phelps at email@example.com.
Brown said that students can drop by the IDEAL Center on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and added that the space can be reserved with Phelps from 5–8 p.m.