Relocations of major Valparaiso University entities were announced on March 28. The President’s Office, the Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP), Alumni Engagement and the fundraising and operations teams within Advancement are among the affected. 

The Action Agenda for Promoting Racial Equity and Inclusion was highlighted as the primary motivation for the changes. Specifically, Action Item 1.2 calls for a safe space for underrepresented groups on campus. Mainly, student organizations within OMP are being moved to a designated safe space in Loke Hall.

“This location is centrally located and will provide the social-emotional space needed to help students succeed. This space will be used primarily by the student organizations: Alliance (LGBTQIA+), the Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition (APPIC), the Black Student Organization (BSO) and LatinX in Valparaiso for Excellence (LIVE); also involved will be other students whose identities intersect with those of the [OMP],” President Jose Padilla said in a University-wide email.

While other administration groups will also experience relocation, OMP organizations have expressed concerns regarding the change in campus spaces. Currently, the student groups are located in the Harre Union.

“The Gandhi-King Center is a socially central, comfortable, safe space on campus that we’ve always-not relied on-but have been happy to have as a safe space, especially in the Union,” said a president of an OMP organization, who wished to remain anonymous. “Another issue with Loke Hall is that it’s not socially central to campus, so how are all these people going to know where to go? In a sense, it’s kind of designated a building for minorities, which can be seen uncomfortably from our view of it.”

Loke Hall is located near the Guild-Memorial Hall residential building, along with Dickmeyer Hall and the Art-Psychology Building academic buildings. Geographically, Loke is on the south-western side of campus.

“The fraternities are right there, you’ve got classrooms there. Right across the street is one of the biggest dorms there. I don’t think anyone would say they’re [OMP organizations] not parcel. Yes the Union might be a hub, there’s so much activity and I want the whole campus to be engaged, but they don’t have to necessarily be on top of each other either,” Padilla said.

Dominant concerns have remained consistent in pointing out Loke’s location in comparison to Valpo’s campus as a whole. It has been argued that the building doesn’t offer the same socially central advantages of the current Union location of OMP organizations.

“You could say that the dorm that’s next to Loke Hall is one of the bigger dorms, but it’s also upperclassmen. You don’t have the freshmen that are introduced to the Union, they know where it’s at. When it comes to Loke, they’re not going to have any idea unless there are initiatives to make them go there,” the OMP organization president said. “It’s just getting used to how they’re going to get students over there. Our general meetings were upstairs and it’s so easy to say your general meetings are in the Union, but now we would have to reserve a space if we wanted it there, which could be an issue. Whereas being in the Union, we already had that space reserved for us.”

Although the University is moving forward with the relocations on account of the Action Agenda for Promoting Racial Equity and Inclusion’s safe space allocation, they have yet to identify publicly the criteria of a safe space. OMP organizations have had conversations about safe spaces.

“It’s just a place where we can feel authentically like ourselves and people aren’t giving us any looks or judgment or notions of judgment. It’s a place where we can welcome all people despite their walk of life or background. Just a space where we can be who we are, where we don’t have to worry about being looked at or getting a second glance,” the OMP organization president said.

Alternatives were considered for the safe space, including the old veterans’ house and the former social work building. Both locations raised logistical issues concerning safety, accessibility and affordability. Therefore, Loke Hall was chosen as the prime option for housing OMP organizations.

Additionally, Loke Hall offered the opportunity to continue merging old campus, the western portion of the University, with new campus, the eastern part of Valpo.

“If anything, I know we want to express accommodations and what we want out of the space instead of being pessimistic and only having complaints. We want a list of collective accommodations we want after touring the space in order for it to be a safe space for us. That will definitely be expressed,” the OMP organization president said.

OMP organizations will tour the Loke Hall space on April 13. The OMP organizations will be fully moved into the Loke Hall safe space by fall 2022. All other campus space changes are expected to be complete by fall 2022, but could take longer.

“And then once you identified Loke, the dominoes started falling. So I needed somewhere to put Advancement and there was the opportunity to get into Heritage Hall, that’d be a perfect spot. Pursuant to the campus master plan, it wants to tie old campus to new campus. And I thought what better way to do that is for me to be in that building as well along with Advancement. Because I work closely with a lot of folks, but I work very closely with Advancement because we’re always raising money to help this university. So I thought that was perfect,” Padilla said. “Another reason I thought it was good is because I’m going to be using Wesemann a lot more for the two year access college.” 

While the Office of the President is moving out of Kretzmann Hall and into Heritage Hall, Padilla doesn’t foresee the change hindering administration’s operations. He points out that all vice presidents are located in various places across campus to work directly with the entities they manage.

Moreso, Padilla seeks new opportunities from the Heritage Hall location. This includes its proximity to Hilltop Neighborhood House and Project Neighbors.

“I see a closer relationship with them [Hilltop], which is good because we want to be good neighbors to everybody around us and obviously they’re an important neighbor as well,” Padilla said. “So it will help cement the relationship we have. There’s a relationship we can have even better with Project Neighbors. They’re located out that way and a lot of our students volunteer for them and we have three faculty on the board. So this kind of really cements a relationship and also creates the opportunity for more collaboration between those organizations.”

Internally, Padilla hopes for a stronger relationship between Alumni Engagement and the Career Center as Alumni Engagement is set to move into the Union. Within this, a potential addition of free certificate courses for alumni could be available in the future of this collaboration.

“On average, a typical college student who’s graduating now will have eight to 12 career moves and I want to be there as a resource for our alumni and how would I do that, through the Career Center,” Padilla said.

Joining the Office of the President, fundraising and operations teams within Advancement will relocate to the second floor of Heritage Hall to work closely with Padilla. The upcoming vacant space in Kretzmann will be filled by the Office of the Provost, which is still exploring options for the space.

“We can not continue to just do business as usual. The plan sets the course for the next five years and in this environment we always have to be moving, adapting and growing. There will be some further changes, not to the detriment of anybody, but only for the betterment of the University and students,” Padilla said.

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