The Diversity Center is open most of the day to all students. Photo by Allegra Taylor
Despite every effort Lawrence makes to build a campus where all people can feel safe and welcomed, there are still areas where students feel they can’t express themselves in full, explained the Diversity Center Social Media Coordinator and sophomore Brandon Polanco.
This is why the Diversity Center exists as a safe space where all Lawrence students regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation—are encouraged to completely be themselves.
“I think to feel unsafe is in any sense and any degree to feel limited from expressing who you are or what you believe,” Polanco said. “Here, I definitely feel much more safe than I would in, say, the library.”
As part of his job as social media coordinator, Polanco publicizes Diversity Center events, trying to reach as many people as possible and invite them to participate.
One such event, an ice cream and smoothie social hosted by the Diversity Center on Wednesday, Sep. 20, was designed to both reach out to Lawrence and the surrounding community and to bring people together.
“The Diversity Center wants to ensure that the public is aware of the existence of this safe space, since there’s such a limited amount of safe spaces in Appleton in general,” Polanco explained. “It was an opportunity to get to know people and for people to get to know what we offer here.”
This particular safe space can be found in Memorial Hall across from the Wriston Art Center. The building is guaranteed to be open from 9 a.m. to midnight every day, and students are able to access a variety of beneficial services for people from all backgrounds.
Chris Vue, the Diversity Center coordinator, oversees the day-to-day operations of the center, but also is available as a confidant.
“We tell all students that even if it is issues that they may not feel comfortable asking or addressing, they can always talk to us,” said Vue. “It’s inclusive. It’s open to anyone and everyone. Nobody should be feeling like they can’t come in here.”
Additionally, Vue works with the student employees at the Diversity Center, like program coordinator and junior Rebecca Bernheimer. Bernheimer is involved with planning events and bringing in guest speakers.
“Since I’ve been working here, I’ve tried to help build up the resources the Diversity Center can provide for students on campus,” Bernheimer said.
Those resources include supporting and partnering with other campus organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, like Alianza, the Black Student Union and Lawrence International.
Upcoming events at the Diversity Center can be found by walking in and viewing the large whiteboard or by visiting their website at lawrence.edu/students/diversity.