Over the summer, the University announced plans to relocate the Multicultural Student Center and the LGBTQ+ Center, both of which previously located in the basement of Newcomb Hall.
Additionally, the University is creating a Latinx Student Center and an Interfaith Center.
The Multicultural Student Center is being moved to what was formerly the Game Room on the second floor of Newcomb, while it was decided this semester that the LGBTQ+ Center is being moved to what is currently the Kaleidoscope Room on the third floor.
The new Latinx Student Center, which will be located where the Newcomb Gallery is presently located, and the Interfaith Center will be on the fourth floor of Newcomb in what were formerly rooms 428, 432 and 436.
University Spokesperson Wes Hester said the University plans to open these new student spaces early spring, adding that these spaces in Newcomb are meant to serve students.
“Ultimately, all space decisions are being made to enhance overall student engagement and community,” Hester said.
Third-year College student Mazzen Shalaby, president of the Muslim Student Association and the Virginia Interfaith Coalition, is satisfied with the progress being made on the projectt.
“Given how quickly these things are moving? Yeah, I'm pretty happy with [the space],” Shalaby said.
Shalaby did acknowledge that he would have liked a bigger space, although he stated that simply having a space for interfaith use is important for those in the University community who have no other place to worship. The current space on Newcomb’s fourth floor that is frequented by students looking for prayer space is “slightly bigger than a closet,” Shalaby noted.
“There's a bunch of different groups that are part of the Interfaith Coalition that don't have any places of worship in the Albemarle Community, [including] the Sikh Student Association and the Hindu Student Council,” Shalaby said.
Creating an Interfaith space will allow these individuals to store worship materials and have a place to congregate as a community, he explained.
Blake Hesson, a fouth-year College student and president of the Queer Student Union, is similarly excited about having a new space for the LGBTQ+ community to gather.
“I think the size and location is perfect, especially since we will now be closer to the gender-inclusive bathroom on the 4th floor,” Hesson said.
According to an interactive bathroom map provided by LGBTQ Student Services, the one on the fourth floor is the only single-stall gender-inclusive bathroom available in Newcomb, but it is not handicap accessible.
Hesson also noted that while the LGBTQ+ Center’s former location in the basement had some positives — it was a more private safe space for students who have not come out yet, as it was somewhat hidden — they are looking into taking measures to create a sense of privacy in the fourth floor location as well.
Hesson also said the new location allows the LGBTQ+ community on-Grounds to be more prominent. According to Hesson, the new space is larger than the basement location — the Kaleidoscope Room can hold up to 121 people, whereas the current LGBTQ+ Center is limited to 50.
“With the new space, we can be more present in space of the University and hopefully be more present in the culture of U.Va.,” Hesson said.
Natalie Romero, a fourth-year College student and co-president of Political Latinxs United for Movement & Action in Society, said in June that she hoped a Latinx space would work to not just support the Latinx community but also to promote institutional change at the University.
“What really needs to be done is to make U.Va. a space that is welcoming to its disenfranchised students and marginalized students, even the DACA students or undocumented students,” Romero said. “Like we have a Latinx space, but how many Latinx undocumented students are being accepted to the University compared to other universities in Virginia?”
The University announced that this fall it would begin offering financial aid to in-state students who benefit from DACA, which was established by the Obama administration in 2012 to allow those who are undocumented and arrived in the U.S. as children to stay in the country. Hester said in a previous statement to The Cavalier Daily that aid for DACA students is an “extension of AccessUVA,” which is the University’s financial aid program that meets all undergraduate students’ demonstrated need.