The Acorns Center Open House, originally scheduled for Friday, Oct. 4, continues to be delayed until further notice. In the meantime, the space has been opened to the student body and after-hours swipe access has been granted to students of Asian and Latinx descent.
Plans to convert the Acorns building to a multicultural space were first announced by former Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly, Provost Andrew Shennan and former Dean of Students Adele Wolfson in December 2015. The original plan proposed to renovate the Acorns building and initiate conversations among cultural advisors on how to use the space to best serve student needs. The Acorns building, formerly a residence for the Dean of Students, is now home to the offices of Advisor to Students of Asian Descent Karen Shih, Assistant Dean of Intercultural Education and Advisor to Students of Latinx descent Mared AliceaWestort and Assistant Dean and LGBTQ Advisor Leah Fygetakis, in addition to a living room space, full kitchen and library.
Interim Dean of Students Carol Bate commented that the allocation of a space for students from multicultural backgrounds was a project long overdue.
“The college had heard over time from students that more multicultural space was needed on campus for gathering, programming, and finding community. However, because space is limited, a solution was not readily apparent,” Bate stated. “When the previous Dean retired from Wellesley, the idea was born that Acorns house, located close to both Harambee House and Slater International Center might be an ideal location for new multicultural space.”
Multicultural Affairs Coordinator (MAC) Sydney Stewart affirmed the presence of longtime activism for a multicultural space more appropriate than the small multicultural lounge on the second floor of Billings Hall.
“I do know that there has been for years and years, activism on behalf of the various communities with regard to finding a space that can serve students of Asian and LatinX descent, as well as students with LGBTQ backgrounds. I know that within my time at Wellesley, that activism has increased,” Stewart said. “The intended use of the space is the same for students of Asian and Latinx descent as the Harambee House is for students of African descent.”
Although the renovations relocated Fygetakis’ office to Acorns, LGBTQ students do not have the 24-hour swipe access granted to students of Asian and Latinx descent. Additionally, Acorns does not explicitly allocate space to members of the Wellesley Arab Women Association, many of whom are of Arab descent and do not have a staff advisor.
Co-presidents of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) Nina-Marie Amadeo ‘18 and Liz Wendell ‘18 responded to these policy decisions by advocating for their peers. “The need for a multicultural space has always been advocated by and for students of color, and it is disappointing to us that Acorns was ever conceived of as a space for all LGBTQ students as well,” Amadeo and Wendell commented. “Not only would students of color have had their space invaded by white LGBTQ students, which alone is more than enough of a reason to advocate against the original plan, the arrangement would have meant that any white students in Acorns would have inherently outted themselves.”
Amadeo and Wendell continued to assert the necessity of a separate space allocated for students who identify as LGBTQ. “SAGA looks forward to the day when LGBTQ students have an independent space bigger than the current LGBTQ Resource Room, which is, ironically, not much bigger than a closet,” Amadeo and Wendell argued.
Stewart agreed with these sentiments, adding that “there has for a long time also been activism around LGBTQ students having a space that is adequate. They have argued that the space within Billings is inadequate. It’s a very small space.”
An open house for the Acorns space will be held sometime in November. At that point, Acorns will available for the entire campus to book for social gatherings using 25live. However, priority will be given to Asian and Latinx cultural orgs and students of Asian and Latinx descent, and the Asian and Latinx cultural advisors will also plan events in the space.
“The house will hopefully serve as a meeting space and a gathering space for students from all cultural backgrounds as well as a home to our Latinx students and students of Asian descent,” affirmed Bate.