In July, the University commissioned a renovation of the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding to create a more welcoming space for all University students, according to director of the Fields Center, Tennille Haynes.
Haynes explained that this renovation comes as part of the recommendations from a special, student-led task force commissioned by University President Christopher Eisgruber '83. The task force sought to suggest specific changes that could improve the quality of life for all students on campus.
The task force was established in the wake of last year's campus protests, after student groups, including the Black Justice League, demanded more inclusion and acceptance of diversity on campus.
Slated for full completion by the fall of 2017, the first phase of renovations for the building was completed this summer.
Haynes said that the original Fields Center space was not adequate for the programming held there. Although the Center has always served and acted as a facility for cultural awareness and student advocacy, the space itself was described as having “no personality” and simply “did not reflect the program," Haynes said.
Previously, the Fields Center had a polished wooden interior and khaki-colored walls eliciting the question, “How do we rebrand this space?” That problem has been resolved, according to Haynes.
The new, modern, and colorful décor, accompanied by natural lighting, enhances the spaciousness of the Center. Haynes explained that the interior has been dramatically improved and the area cheerfully transformed. The once-dull space is now bright, colorful, and spacious, adding warmth and inviting comfort to students walking in.
The walls exhibit vinyl images of student advocates, alumni of color, and various cultural groups. Bold quotes written by current students decorate the walls, and new plush furniture surround these images.
Samuel Santiago '19, secretary of Princeton Latinos y Amigos, has his message "Everyone should feel welcome in every space at Princeton" painted on the wall. He believes that the renovations are "going to have a positive impact on student life on campus."
The Fields Center also has new cultural affinity spaces — rooms dedicated specifically to culture and identity-focused student groups, but open to all University residents.
"The majority of the ideas for the new renovations were made directly by students,” Haynes said, calling the project "student-driven." The initial recommendations came out of the student task force, she said, and a subsequent survey was conducted on student focus groups. The planning and design team also had various student members on board.
Briana Christophers '17, a member of the Renovation Steering Committee and current advocacy chair for Princeton Latinos y Amigos, said she believes that "therenovations will encourage more students to engage with the Fields Center, both in events and by connecting with other students in the space,creating a space that empowers current students of color."
Right after the renovations were completed, Haynes said she observed an increase in student visits.
“We want all students to know about the change and that they have a place here: It’s a student place,” Haynes said.
The Fields Center renovation is only one of the many changes student advocates pushed for last year. Others are ongoing. Although the University has not agreed to all student demands, it has moved forward on some, such as the Fields Center.
“The great part is … all the decorations are interchangeable, so the Princeton now may not be the Princeton in five years or ten years, [but] we’ll be able to keep up with what the current climate is like … and what’s happening, and so this place might not be the same place in ten years; it’ll be different," Haynes said.