Asian center seeks more space
The Asian Student Council, an umbrella governing council that oversees the 40 Asian-interest organizations on campus, is calling for a new Asian American Cultural Center after nearly 14 years of taking up residence in a trailer compound on the outskirts of the Livingston campus.
The AACC is a space dedicated to bringing together Asian-American students and organizations, said Marielle Fajardo, president of the Asian Student Council. The center is used to organize meetings, store materials and even host practice sessions for dance routines by Asian-interest dance troupes.
“The biggest problem with the cultural center is the lack of space,” said Fajardo, a third-year student in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. “It’s just not enough resources for us to use when the Asian-American population takes up 20 percent of the student population on campus.”
In addition to the cramped accommodations, the center’s isolated location gives AACC a lack of visibility, she said.
Fajardo said the University assigned the AACC to its current location in 2000, informing the center that it was a temporary location.
“If it wasn’t suitable to our needs in 2000, it’s obviously not going to be suitable for our needs in 2013,” she said.
More than a decade’s worth of vying for a new center can be attributed to the big changes in the framework of Rutgers, said Valeria Chew, vice president of the Asian Student Council.
“It’s the change in administration, and over the years Rutgers has been going through a lot, especially with the merger [between Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey] and the development across the campuses,” said Chew, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “It’s been busy, and I guess they felt that the AACC was not a main priority.”
Now with the bulk of the administration set in place, she said she expects that the AACC should finally receive its overdue share of attention.
“We just want to emphasize that we’ve been pushed back before to the back burners, and it’s time we get some thought,” she said.
With the growing number of Asian-interest organizations on campus, groups are frequently competing to reserve space at the center. This makes creating a cohesive environment for Asian-American students much more difficult despite the Asian Student Council’s attempts to unite the Asian-interest organizations with each other and the Rutgers community.
Chew said constructing a new center would cost a total of $7 million.
“We’re hoping that the University would be able to represent the growing Asian population by setting aside a relatively small amount for a new AACC,” she said.
Farjado said in the last two years, the administration brought to light a feasibility plan from FxFowle, an architectural firm.
“They generated a blueprint of a two-story building, and it included several workspaces so it wouldn’t just be one multipurpose room,” she said. “We have one conference room in the current AACC, and this new one would include a couple conference rooms.”
Rutgers did not respond to The Daily Targum about the issue by press time.
“Rutgers never promised the AACC a building,” Fajardo said in an email statement. “A feasibility study was just meant to show that a new center is possible, in the location that we would like it to be and outlined what the ideal space would look like. Creating a feasibility study wasn’t the school promising us that it would be done.”
Most Asian-interest organizations are obligated to congregate in classrooms or spaces around campus because of the severe space limitations, she said. The opening of a new center would bring together the organizations and redefine being in an Asian-American community.
YooRi Won, the vice president of programming in the Korean Student Association, said KSA holds multiple events that require rehearsal times. This year, the organization is hosting a spring charity show.
“[The show] requires people to rehearse talent portions,” said Won, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “We need acting rehearsal space as well as singing rehearsals and dance rehearsals, so we need a big space for that as well.”
She said that after viewing the blueprints of the potential new AACC, which includes several multipurpose rooms, the competition between many of the organizations under the ASC would be eliminated entirely.
The ASC is in its preliminary stage of rallying support to build a new AACC, Chew said. Momentum is being built with a petition on Change.org, where the ultimate goal is to appeal to the highest administrators at the University, according to the website.
“We are working together with the other cultural councils like the Latino Student Council and the Black Student Council,” she said. “With their full support behind us, we’re going to gradually rally support just to show that it’s not just us that want a new center, but other communities around us also see the need for us to have a new center.”
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