One of the most welcoming places on Butler’s campus is the Efroymson Diversity Center. While there are plenty of places to hang out, study, or make friends, the Diversity Center—or DC, as we lovingly call it—is home to some of my favorite memories at Butler.
I have met some of my closest friends through attending DC events and volunteering to be a Multicultural Mentor for Dawg Days, Butler’s pre-orientation experience designed to support underrepresented groups. Not only have I met amazing students through my work in the DC, but I have built relationships with several professors who sponsor and attend diversity-related events. I have also had the opportunity to get in contact with several alumni, making connections that have been valuable to my college experience.
The DC features several lounge areas, a boardroom, study tables, a kitchen, and two gender-neutral bathrooms. There is also an area dedicated to reflection, meditation, and prayer.
Gina Forrest, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, has her office in the space. Since day one, Dr. Forrest has been like everyone’s second mom: She’s someone we all know we can go to for help. Even students who don’t make regular appearances in the DC constantly see Dr. Forrest around campus starting conversations, making people laugh, and showcasing students and their talents through her social media.
The DC also serves as home base for several diversity-related organizations on campus. These groups have offices in the space, where they hold office hours and plan for their next events. Most afternoons, you can find different organizations hosting events in the DC, ranging from hangouts and meetings to celebrations and learning opportunities.
Some of the student organizations that have offices in the DC are the Asian and Pacific Islander Association, the Gender Equity Movement, the Black Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, Butler’s LGBTQIA+ Alliance, and Latinos Unidos. Each organization serves a different group of people and has a unique outlook regarding the programming they do and in what capacity they choose to do it.
The Asian and Pacific Islander Association aims to educate the Butler community about a wide array of different Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, as well as provide empowerment for those within these cultures. One of my favorite events from this organization was a Lunar New Year celebration, which featured a discussion about the importance of Lunar New Year and its traditions, as well as traditional home-cooked food that we could all try and enjoy.
The Gender Equity Movement, or GEM, is Butler’s intersectional feminist organization. Their name is a homage to the first black woman who graduated from Butler, Gertrude Amelia MaHorney. The organization seeks to be a support system for Butler students through education, activism, and celebration. GEM recently got a complete branding makeover and has big plans for ways in which they can support students both on and off campus.
The Black Student Union (BSU) is one of the oldest diversity organizations on Butler’s campus. They seek to support Black students at Butler, as well as to raise awareness of Black cultures. Every year, BSU hosts a week in February that celebrates Black History Month. One of my favorite events in that week is the Unity Ball, which brings together students from Butler and surrounding universities to celebrate and dance.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is an organization that works for the freedom, justice, and equality of the Palestinian people who are under Israeli occupation. My favorite event that they host is the Palestinian culture night, where they provide education on their culture, teach those in attendance their dances, and showcase their food. SJP often also collaborates with other DC organizations, as they believe that all struggles for freedom, justice, and equality are interconnected.
Butler LGBTQIA+ Alliance is a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as allies, to find community through education, communication, activism, and celebration. Events range from game nights and discussion circles to the annual Alliance-hosted Drag Show and the Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival (held annually at Newfields). While the Drag Show is always a fun time, my favorite event has been the Faculty and Staff Dinner this group hosts during Coming Out Week, which helps students find allies and fellow LGBTQ+ individuals among the staff and faculty at Butler.
Latinos Unidos is an organization that is dedicated to advocating, educating, celebrating, and helping Latinx students transition from high school into college through community programs. Similar to BSU, Latinos Unidos hosts a week of events during Latinx Heritage Month. One of the most popular days during that week is Salsa Night, during which a local dance company comes to teach students how to dance, and chips and salsa are served.
But the DC is not just for these organizations. Plenty of other diverse, equitable, and inclusive groups utilize the space, along with individuals looking for support. Even a scholarship program calls the DC home: the Dr. John Morton-Finney Leadership Program supports students who have taken a leadership role promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their communities.
Everyone is welcome to come to the DC to hang out, study, meditate, go to an organization meeting, or just enjoy a snack in the kitchen.
Cassandra Stec is a junior at Butler studying Computer Science and Art + Design. She’s involved in many student organizations across campus, including several within the Efroymson Diversity Center.