The University has assigned temporary affinity rooms in the Fields Center to the black, African-American, Latinx, Asian, Asian-American, Arab and Middle-Eastern student communities, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun said.
Work on more permanent architectural changes to the Fields Center will begin in the summer,Calhoun said, adding thatstudents would hopefullybe able to use the new space beginning in fall 2016.
Calhoun explained that the University assigned the temporary affinity rooms because students were dissatisfied with the way the Fields Center was structured as a formal presentational space rather than a space with a comfortable community feel. She said that discussions over the need for affinity rooms began a year ago, and the University had decided that some currently available rooms would be identified for use immediately, and spaces would be incorporated into the architecture of the building in the longer run.
Leaders of various student groups on campus met with Calhoun and Fields Center Director Tennille Haynes last month to select rooms and decide how they would be decorated and what they would be used for, Calhoun said.
Haynes declined to comment.
Myesha Jemison ’18, board member of Princeton Caribbean Connection, and member of various student groups including the Black Student Union and the Princeton Association of Black Women, said that most groups are using the rooms as a relaxed hangout space, and as a location for meetings. Courtney Perales ’17, diversity chair of Princeton University Latinx Perspective Organization said that each room would serve as a safe space for students belonging to that community.
“Sometimes you just want to be in a space with others who have the same cultural background. You don’t want every small thing you say to be analyzed and debated, as often happens in other common spaces on campus,” Perales said, regarding the need for a safe space.
Jemison added that the room for the black and African-American community would incorporate black culture in the way of artwork and posters of black and African-American people. Perales said that while decorating their room, the Latinx Perspective Organization will keep in mind that Latinx students have been at the University for a long time and have not been recognized.
Calhoun explained that while the rooms were assigned to a few communities, the spaces are still open to students from all cultures.
“The Fields Center is a place where a lot of cultures interact, but it is still one where people should feel deeply comfortable in their own culture,” she said.
Briana Christophers, ’17, co-president of Princeton Latinos y Amigos, noted that that the purpose of the affinity rooms was not segregation between different groups among the student body.
“These spaces will help make the Fields Center more representative of the students it serves while also giving students of color the agency to design a space that represents their experience and identity, as the Third World Center did decades ago,” she explained.
Christophers said that the cost of restructuring the Fields Center has not yet been discussed as architectural planning is still in progress.