Safe spaces for students of color have been in high-demand at Arizona State University. The Multicultural Solidarity Coalition (MSC) has been in talks with the university for six years to establish multicultural spaces around the four campuses for students of color to seek refuge. Finally, these spaces are available to ASU students.
Earlier this semester, an incident occurred in the Tempe campus’ multicultural center. Two white students sporting a shirt and laptop sticker that showed support of police and disapproval of Joe Biden’s presidency were video-recorded while studying in the multicultural center. Members of the MSC asked the students to leave, deeming the students’ apparel insensitive.
Wendy Ruiz, a Latina student attending ASU, said she felt uncomfortable that the students of color were portrayed negatively on social media.
“I felt very uncomfortable just because on Instagram, the two girls were shown in the wrong and the two men were the victim,” she said. “I definitely disagree because these two white men purposefully came into a multicultural space and purposefully put their propaganda that makes students of color uncomfortable because of the issues they face in real life.”
Ahzaè Heard, a member of the Black African Coalition at ASU said that though she personally does not agree with the students’ choice of shirt and sticker, not much could have been done to prevent them from entering the multicultural space.
“I feel like him bringing that into the space was a little disrespectful, but no one could really prevent him from being there, so it kind of just sucks that it’s something we still have to deal with,” she said. “People will always have an opinion but unfortunately that’s not a good enough reason to prevent someone from a building.”
Sarra Tekola, the student who recorded the video, explained the MSC’s perspective to ABC 15.
“We weren’t just triggered by a sticker. The way we see it, we have ownership of that space, and we had to protect it.”
According to the ASU website, multicultural spaces at ASU are provided to “a sense of place and support for students of color. Additionally, they celebrate, enhance, enrich and elevate the identities of all historically underrepresented students.”
Multicultural centers are intended for students of color to have a place to connect with one another and foster relationships with peers who share their same struggles. The importance of having an easily accessible “safe space” for students of color on all campuses is not unheard.
Monaliza Hernandez, a Filipino student agrees that a multicultural space Downtown can help students of color feel safe amongst familiar faces.
“Students can go and be like, ‘oh, all these people look like me,’ or ‘we come from the same background and they have the same struggles as me, so I feel safe in this space.’”
Despite the events that occurred in Tempe, Heard says that just knowing there is a multicultural center on the Downtown campus makes her feel more safe.
“The importance of having this space is that it’s providing people of color on campus support. It lets us know that this school sees us and is making it known that we are here too I now know that this school also includes their POC (People of Color) students and I love everything about this multicultural space idea. I do wish there were more spaces like this on all the campuses but it’s a start,” she said.
Heard adds that in order for white students or non-students of color to foster positive and safe relationships with students of color on their campuses, they should prioritize being kind.
“There isn’t many of us overall at this school which already makes us feel like we don’t really belong, and if non-POC students aren’t being kind, that just adds on to the doubt we already have about going here,” she said. “Literally saying hi, giving out a compliment, inviting them somewhere, any