UC San Diego’s six Campus Community Centers are as hard-fought as they are heartfelt: for alumni who helped found them, and the students who find themselves there.
The campus activism of the late ’60s and ’70s would take on many fronts in the ensuing decades—from increasing diversity and ethnic representation on campus—to reactions to national events and global human rights causes like apartheid. Running through the discourse on these matters was an impassioned call for a physical space on campus to foster community for underrepresented students. This call became loudest after particular events of the ’90s: In May 1992, over 500 students halted southbound traffic on I-5 to protest the acquittal of Los Angeles police officers in the Rodney King case. Two years later, the iconic murals of the Che Café were defaced with a swastika as well as anti-gay slogans and hate speech.
“This is why we need a cross-cultural center,” said newly elected Associated Student President Poncho Guevara ’95 at a conference held to discuss the vandalism. “It would not be a center just for students of color. It would also be a center to help people understand that this kind of thing should not be allowed at an institution of higher education like UCSD.”
1995 saw the inception of the Cross-Cultural Center, or “The Cross,” UC San Diego’s first space dedicated to work in equity, inclusion and diversity. “We envisioned the Cross as being the space where individuals would become activists, would mobilize campaigns and protests to continue to create change and make the campus a more vibrant and just place for all,” wrote former Cross-Cultural Center Assistant Director Juan Carlos Astorga ’95 in the center’s 20-year retrospective.
Today, the Cross-Cultural Center has the unique distinction among the six campus community centers as the only one that does not serve a specific ethnic population. Edwina Welch, DEd ’09, who has been director from the start, is often asked the question: “Who does the Cross-Cultural Center serve?”
The center is designed to be a place for all students, faculty and staff, especially underrepresented and underserved, to embrace their culture and identity while discovering shared histories and struggles. Welch believes these spaces serve as a crucial nexus for learning and growing, as well as a place to call home.
“What I have gathered is that people are hungry for places of exploration around equity, diversity and inclusion issues—they want to ask questions and learn,” says Welch. “Our goal is to find the intersection, and work together to become more powerful as a community.”
Learn more at ccc.ucsd.edu.
Picture a funky little room in the old Student Center: a run-down yet comfy couch to crash on and a binder at the front desk providing guidance on issues ranging from sexual harassment to mental health.
The Women’s Center at UC San Diego has come a long way in the decades from its roots as a student collective in 1972. It was the first place Patti Orozco-Cronin ’89 visited as a new freshman hoping to be a peer counselor. She soon took leadership of the group, inviting activists like Angela Davis, MA ’69, and Sonya Johnson to speak, and making even that modest space welcoming to the campus community.
“Women would come in who had never been to a Women’s Resource Center, unsure of what they were seeking,” explains Orozco-Cronin. “Next thing you know they would want to integrate into the group. It gave us fortitude to achieve all that we did.”
Despite the collective’s popularity, for many years UC San Diego remained the only campus in the UC system without an official, university-funded Women’s Center. In 1990, students—along with the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women—began jointly advocating for a formal space. Molly McKay Williams ’92 remembers creating a large “invisible” Women’s Center tent out of a plastic tarp on Sun God lawn. Students camped out to bring attention and support for the critical resource.
“We will not be denied,” McKay Williams wrote in The New Indicator, then a campus newspaper. “Women demand our needs to be met. The ten-year battle must end now! The budget will always be tight; it comes down to priorities.”
The proposal for a Women’s Center was approved in 1995 and the space opened a year later. Today it is a thriving hub for education and community building, with an expansive resource library, a community kitchen and meeting space, a private lactation room and baby changing stations, as well as a single- occupancy gender-neutral restroom with a shower.
“My favorite part of the Women’s Center is the feeling of calmness and community when you walk in—I never feel like an outsider,” says Dominique Strickland ’18, a former Center intern. “It is a place for knowledge, friendship, community or just studying. So many powerful people find space here, and those interactions are invaluable.”
Learn more at women.ucsd.edu.
LGBT Resource Center
For Scott Heath ’00, Nov. 8, 1999 was a joyous day of celebration. There were rainbows everywhere—especially in the bright balloon arch that marked the entrance to UC San Diego’s new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center. Empress XXVIII Tiffany Daniels of the Imperial Court de San Diego arrived in an ivory gown and sparkling tiara, joining Chancellor Robert Dynes in a special ceremony to inaugurate the long-awaited space.
Five years prior, Heath had arrived on campus an intimidated freshman, overcome by isolation. “Among its clusters of brutalist buildings and groves of eucalyptus trees, the campus could be as lonely as it was beautiful for those who didn’t feel they fit into the heteronormative culture of their residential colleges or academic departments,” he said.
At the time, there was no physical space dedicated to providing LGBT resources, just small student collectives like the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Association. Heath joined and began actively sharing information and building community, but he felt compelled to do more.
Heath became a student representative for the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBT Issues—a group of students, faculty and staff that soon became the driving force for a dedicated campus resource center. And yet, progress was slow.
The tide turned in October 1998, when the campus and nation collectively mourned the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in Wyoming. Over 300 students gathered on Library Walk, donning green armbands in honor of Shepard, to inspire awareness and prevent further violence.
Heath invited Joe Leventhal ’99, the student body president, to join in the demonstration. Leventhal supported Heath’s resolution to establish an LGBT Resource Center, which passed successfully with the agreement of the Associated Student Council. Backed by the student body and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBT Issues, the center was approved by Chancellor Dynes in 1999.
This year, the LGBT Resource Center celebrates 20 years of being the space for all students, staff and faculty and community members to explore issues relating to sexual and gender identities, practices and politics.
Black Resource Center
A friendly face at the door gives a warm welcome into a space resembling a living room. Music plays as people share food and talk, while others study diligently.
For Kyler Nathan ’17, the Black Resource Center reminds him of being home. The family vibes drew him into the space as a freshman at UC San Diego, among the first students to use the newly opened community center in 2013. The need and purpose for such a space were made more than apparent after a series of racially motivated events in 2010 roiled the campus community—most notably the “Compton Cookout,” an off-campus party that used racial stereotypes to mock Black History Month. The public demonstrations and student outcry that followed came with demands for university administration to show greater support of diversity. Among the institutional changes effected was the creation of a formal space to cultivate community for the Black population at UC San Diego.
“The Black Resource Center, and all campus resource centers, are really important for students who come from underrepresented populations,” says Nathan. “I was raised in South Central Los Angeles, and I was always surrounded by black and brown faces. I was drawn to the Black Resource Center because I could see myself represented and just exist without a need for explanation.”
Before the space was established, Black students did not have a dedicated place to connect. Porsia Curry ’08, current director of the Black Resource Center, spent most of her time at the Cross-Cultural Center, yet it didn’t have enough room or resources to meet the specific needs of each marginalized community. She sought out the Black Student Union and joined the Student Affirmative Action Committee to make more connections with others.
“The Black Student Union was a great place to be in community, but we only gathered once a week,” explains Curry. “Now, the Black Resource Center is open all day, all week. And we have three full-time staff members who are dedicated to cultivating student belonging and success.”
The Black Resource Center today promotes scholarship, leadership and community for all while emphasizing the Black experience. Open to all students, faculty and staff, the center hosts numerous programs, from the Peer Guidance Program, designed to aid the academic, social and cultural adjustment of incoming first-year students, to Black Fridays, a weekly social to discuss Black culture. An internship program is also offered, designed to build leadership skills and experience in creating student retention programs.
Raza Resource Centro
Walk into Raza Resource Centro at UC San Diego and your gaze is immediately drawn to a prominent and vibrantly colored panorama depicting artists and activists, community builders and rebels—people who have defined, shaped and transformed Latinx/Chicanx identity throughout history.
“It’s really empowering to see faces like mine and others represented in the mural,” says UC San Diego senior Daniella Tajimaroa ’19. “It’s inspiring, not just for the representation, but knowing the history and advocacy work that was put in by students.”
That history and advocacy work dates back to the 1960s–70s, with the establishment of a UC San Diego chapter of the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), an activist group that drew inspiration and empowerment from the larger Chicano Movement of that time. The group shares much history with the Black Student Union—the two organizations rallied together in the student campaign to name Third College in honor of revolutionary icons Patrice Lumumba and Emiliano Zapata. The groups also shared a space in the Student Services Center, but after racially charged events of 2010, campus members spoke out and insisted on more centers for community building.
As a result, the Raza Resource Centro opened in 2014. Jessica Aguilar ’14, who visited the shared space often as an undergraduate, recalls the emotions she felt attending the Centro’s opening celebration while a graduate student. “It was in this community that I cried during finals, met to plan conferences and created lasting friendships,” says Aguilar. “It is great to see the next generation now have access to what we didn’t have before—community, resources and a place of belonging.”
Much more than a study space, the Raza Resource Centro invites all students, staff and faculty to join in community, develop academically and professionally, and become immersed in the diverse Latinx/Chicanx history and culture. “I can be myself and speak my native language,” Aguilar says of the Centro. “I know I can find someone I can talk to who has probably lived the same experiences that I’m trying to navigate.”
Today, the Centro is always buzzing with activity. Every Friday, students gather for a community writing collective to critically examine their work. They prepare undergraduate research, apply to scholarships and internships and polish their speaking skills before presenting at national conferences. In addition, faculty and graduate students hold scholarly conversations during a quarterly Brown Bag Series.
Learn more at raza.ucsd.edu or connect with the Latinx/Chicanx Alumni Network: contact Paula Thomas ’87
Intertribal Resource Center
With approximately 18 American Indian reservations, the County of San Diego has more Indian reservations than any other county in the United States. UC San Diego sits on the ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay Nation, whose people continue to have an important and thriving presence in the region.
When Stan Rodriguez began his doctoral degree in education studies at UC San Diego three years ago, he sought out the Native American community on campus. As a member of the Santa Ysabel Band of Iipay Nation, a northern Kumeyaay tribe, he found friendship, mentorship and academic resources at the newly opened Intertribal Resource Center.
“As Native Americans, our numbers are small on campus,” said Rodriguez. “The Intertribal Resource Center is a place to go for fellowship and to connect with others on the same path. It has been one of the pivotal parts in my ability to navigate the university and succeed in my degree program.”
The Intertribal Resource Center was established by the university in response to a student movement that called for stronger presence and awareness of Native Americans, as well as other underrepresented groups, on campus. The Native American Student Alliance, a campus undergraduate organization, led a student-run community space until the center was officially inaugurated in 2016.
“It provides a central place for the Native community on campus, a place to be safe,” said Burgundy Fletcher ’17, an ethnic studies graduate student and citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. “Here I have found some of my best friends; they are like my family.”
Located in Price Center, the space has developed into a hub for community building for all students, staff and faculty. “You don’t have to be a Native American to use the center,” said Rodriguez. “There is support for all; we encourage each other to succeed.”
From helping students plan the annual UC San Diego Powwow to hosting the Dream the Impossible Native Youth Conference and supporting youth at local reservations, the campus’s newest resource center grows in impact each year.
Learn more at itrc.ucsd.edu.
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