QARC, bridges Multicultural Resource Center space renovation in early stages of planning

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On May 4, the bridges Multicultural Resource Center and the Queer Alliance Resource Center, or QARC, signed three memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, with campus and student body officials to solidify the next step in obtaining visible and accessible spaces for the organizations.

The Fight4Spaces campaign has been long-lasting, with public protests including a occupation of the Cal Student Store and a blockade of Sather Gate. Representatives from the ASUC, ASUC Student Union and campus administration signed the memorandums with the Fight4Spaces core team: outgoing QARC Director Amir Amerian, incoming QARC Director Regan Putnam, outgoing bridges Internal Director Redjan Quarto and outgoing bridges External Director Daniel Russell Cheung.

“(We want to) bring our power back, bring our visibility back, the sort of momentum we had during Fight4Spaces … bring it as much back to a grassroots movement, because we spent the last year playing the respectability politics, playing the bureaucracy, and that has not done us well,” Putnam said. “We’ve tried to play by their rules, and they used their rules to keep us from doing as much work as we can.”

According to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff, the fourth floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building, or MLK, was allocated to bridges and QARC until their new permanent location — Hearst Field Annex, or HFA, buildings A and D — is renovated to fit their needs. Before being moved into the basement of Eshleman Hall, both organizations were located in HFA.

“The (vice chancellor of equity and inclusion and the vice chancellor for student affairs) are meeting with the bridges and QARC staff once a month during the academic year to track progress and continue to advance this work,” Ratliff said in an email. “Overall, we have jointly established a fundraising plan, detailed floor plans, a firm estimate of costs, and are set to move forward once there are secured funds.”

According to Amerian, although QARC and bridges have completed their interior drawings and received some cost estimates, renovations have not officially started.

While the organizations’ main goal over the past few months has been transitioning their new leadership, they are still in the process of getting exterior costs estimates, according to Quarto — a delay attributed to exterior planning difficulties.

QARC and bridges also wanted to look into constructing a new ramp to HFA, Putnam said. They later added that the campus discouraged the group from major construction, which would have forced the campus to revisit the HFA’s accessibility.

“It is about a mile for people who are of different ability to get to HFA, which is horrendous. The school essentially told us it doesn’t fall out of compliance so they’re not gonna do it,” Putnam said. “The school has done this thing of ‘You need to focus on interior, exterior,’ and just trying to whittle away at the sort of support that we have.”

Regarding the specific renovations, one of the goals is to implement more data-based technology in order to better track the effectiveness of the programs, according to both Amerian and Quarto.

By tracking the organizations’ event attendance and attendance frequency, they hope to obtain concrete data rather than relying on anecdotal evidence to support their work, Amerian said.

“Having our first full year within the fourth floor made a big difference, because now we can have (organization) meetings in the same space,” Amerian said. “Just having these marginalized groups near each other, working by each other, facilitated more collaboration among our orgs, and it also allowed us to be closer to our orgs so we can mobilize them to make the sort of gains we saw with funding and MOUs.”

Contact Mani Sandhu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ManiSandhu24.