Offices move around for a more ‘inclusive’ feel

The third floor of the Student Union will look a bit different to students returning next January, the goal of which is to create a more inclusive environment.

Plans are in place to add offices and reconfigure the layout of the floor to better facilitate the drive to locate all of the student support groups into one area.

“This involves little construction, but involves a lot of chess pieces moving,” said Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple.

The plans to rearrange offices and relocate people are tentative and only in the drafting stages with no cost estimates currently in place. The changes will be happening though, according to Waple.

“One of the many visions of our new Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. [Peter] Gitau, and the university, is this new concept called inclusive excellence,” Waple said, “where it’s not multicultural barriers; it’s not diversity. It’s about creating inclusive environments for everybody.”

Overall, Waple said the university is aiming to “bring offices together that support students in an inclusive environment,” and that’s what is driving a majority of the planned changes.

“We have limited money and limited space,” Waple said. “I often use the analogy of fitting square pegs into a round hole, so that’s kind of what we’ve been doing.”

Waple said he and Assistant Vice President for Business Services and Operations Kim Turner worked together to get the plan figured out. He said they went through several different plans and are still tweaking the plan.

Among the planned moves include an all-inclusive lounge space; replacing the information desk with student offices; an office section dedicated to student workers, graduate assistants and interns; a disability services section; a new violence against women coordinator funded by a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice; and various other moves.

Waple said there are currently 14 or 15 offices available for 20 people needing office space.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s a puzzle, but we think we finally have a plan together.”

The moves within the current plan, that Waple said “are probably causing the most angst,” involve moving the Activities and Programming Board and the removal of the Latino student lounge to facilitate that move.

“These are all tentative at the moment,” Waple said. “In order to find enough office space, we are going to have to move APB out of their current space.”

The two rooms currently used as the Latino student lounge and a graduate assistant office will be repurposed as the new APB office after knocking down the wall between the two.

The move has caused some frustration among the growing Latino population at NKU.

According to the 2013 Digest of Education Statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics showing college enrollment rates for 2012 high school graduates, Hispanic/Latino college enrollment rates are 70 percent, almost 3 percent higher than their white counterparts. This is up 10 percent from 2010.

The Latino population at NKU has enjoyed a culturally specific lounge for some time now, but with these current plans to institute “inclusive excellence,” that will change.

 “This new lounge space that is out here is becoming the lounge for everybody,” Waple said. “What we heard as the administration, is ‘the Latino students have a lounge, what about us?’ And we don’t have the space to build individual lounge spaces for students.”

The new lounge will be utilized by all of the student groups in the Student Union.

“I really think that they are trying to make it a multicultural thing, which isn’t going to work in my opinion,” said freshman elementary education major Maria Rojas. “We’re all multicultural, but you celebrate diversity and differences, but really it’s just like, clump everyone who’s different into one thing, so it’s really not diversity.”

Rojas went on to explain that the majority of the Latino population is comprised of commuters, and they utilize the lounge as a social meeting place. She said she wasn’t sure if students would use the all-inclusive student lounge as much as they use their own lounge now.

“It’s a lot harder for commuter students to feel at home on campus,” Rojas said. “I’m a commuter student and that’s why I’m always up here and studying. It really is just like a home for us, and a place to go. I don’t know where I’m going to go when it’s not here.”

Waple said the plan was conceived while recognizing the move would cause issues among the Latino students. The lounge has been a place where a lot of the commuter students have gathered, but the new lounge will be dedicated to the idea of inclusive excellence.

Waple said they didn’t want to take away the main gathering space out of the third floor, at the top of the stairs.

“It’s become a good hangout space,” Waple said, “so we didn’t want to take away that gathering space from students.”

Ultimately, the plan is to have the changes completed by the time students come back in January, in hopes that they don’t affect students during the semester.

Waple said the potential disruption to students and the cost were two of the biggest things considered when planning the move.

“When you knock down walls, that costs money, and you have to reconstruct them,” Waple said. “We also want to make sure everybody has temperature controls, sprinkler heads, light control, sound proof. There are a lot of things to figure out with this.”

The plan hinges on the APB move first, and everything can be figured out after that, according to Waple.