The Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is the SUNY Plattsburgh Angell College Center’s new and vibrant addition to campus life. This is a space where students can come together to relax, where making conversation with strangers is encouraged and where the people support and accept their fellow humans and the differences that make us unique.
The Center – formerly the Student Support Services office – is a shared space between the new Title IX office and the Center for Honoring, Uniting, and Building Community (HUB).
Zyaijah Nadler, the Violence Prevention, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Title IX, stated that the office which prevents discrimination on all fronts is now more accessible than ever.
“For the Title IX office, it really centralizes us a lot more,” Nadler said. “When students had to make a report or had questions or concerns about the resources available to them, they always had to go all the way to Hawkins or Beaumont.”
The central location allows campus members to report incidents immediately, and also makes the trek shorter for individuals with disabilities.
“I believe this aligns with the values of honoring, uniting and building the community,” Nadler said.
The Director of HUB, Mona El-Shahat, is working to ensure every niche of student needs are met through her section of the diversity center.
“Last semester we spent a lot of time with student clubs and organizations and also students who just wanted to come in and give input,” El-Shahat said. “We gathered that they want representation, that’s what everyone said. They want representation. They want to find something that is a piece of them.”
The HUB is a bright, open and airy space furnished with modern blue and green chairs and couches. Images including Frida Kahlo and inspirational quotes and sayings sit at the center of each round work table. LGBTQ+ flags adorn one of the HUBs walls.
The lack of artwork hanging from the walls is not to complete this diverse space’s minimalistic ambience, but is in fact because the walls will soon be covered in homemade paintings done on canvases that students created at a ‘DIY’ night on Thursday. Visitors of the HUB will be able to see artwork of their own or from their peers decorating the cream-colored walls.
Jarrin Jeffrey is a PSUC alumnus who is currently here in the Counselor Education graduate program for student affairs and higher education. He is a graduate assistant to El-Shahat and helps with student outreach and programming for the HUB.
Jeffrey stated that HUB programs and events will be centered around monthly celebrations of culture and diversity.
“Things that we will do [this month] will be centered around black history month in some type of way,” Jeffrey said.
Tuesday night, the HUB hosted a Black History trivia event designed to increase awareness and knowledge.
“Even if you don’t know the answers, you’re learning something about black history that you may not have known,” El-Shahat said.
A heritage celebration will be held at the end of this month in Burghy’s, across the hall from the center. Music, dance and spoken word will be the mediums of spreading cultural awareness and diversity to those in attendance. El-Shahat stated it will be “kind of like a mini Night of Nations.”
The HUB has held several events with the goal of inclusion and unity in mind. El-Shahat said that more curriculum-based programs and peer education will come with time and planning.
“I don’t believe the best way to do things is by jumping and doing everything all at once,” El-Shahat said. “If you take time to actually figure out what the student needs are, then you’ll be able to address them.”
The students and campus community are the key component of the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Great care and thought was placed into the creation of a safe space for not only gender or race, but every “variable of difference” you could imagine.
Even the dim lighting in the Title IX office, and soon to be HUB, is intentional and meant to accommodate those who are possibly living with autism or chronic migraines.
Some students, like junior accounting major from Egypt Mariam Barghash, have stayed in the HUB lounge all day in between classes doing their homework, relaxing, eating meals and and striking up conversations.
“This space is very free,” Barghash said. “It’s really calm and I feel comfortable staying here.”
She stated that the HUB has a very different feel from the library or the lounge near the information desk where everyone seems busy and unable to talk.
“Earlier I was just interacting with people who are not in my major or grade and there’s very little in common,” Barghash said. “I like that [this space] gives us an opportunity to meet people from different circles and different backgrounds.”
The staff of the new HUB and Title IX office stress that this space is one of absolute community and unity and is here to make our days on campus more enjoyable and enlightened.
“I really value the students here and I want to make sure they’re getting the most out of the center that they could possibly get,” Jeffrey said.
El-Shahat reciprocates this message.
“Come in, walk into our office and talk to us,” El-Shahat said. “We have a very open-door policy here.”