Dispelling Myths about the MRC

Writers’ note: This FAQ was written by a group of students in favor of the MRC relocation and knowledgeable about the planned move.These students include Larissa Davis ’13, Alexa Hetwerr ’13, Roshard Bryant ’13, Shayona Cato ’13, Adrianna Turner ’14, Josh Greer ’14 and Kamaria Laing ’16, among numerous others.

1) Why does the MRC need to be on the first floor? Specifically, why does the MRC necessitate the game room space?
• The MRC does not require the current game room space to “increase foot traffic” though, this change in location will likely increase the amount of students who are able to see, interact with, and participate in the MRC functions with a campus wide impact.
• The functions of the MRC require it to be located in an open, visible, central location at Amherst College.
• The open, visible, and central location of the MRC affirms the identity and value of historically underrepresented or marginalized persons present at Amherst College.
• Moving the MRC to an open, visible, and adequate central location will ensure the MRC will have the necessary space, and [accountability] resources on campus.

2) The Keefe Campus Center has not always looked the way it does now. This is what the Campus Center used to look like:
• In September 1987, the Keefe Campus Center opened with the game room located on the second floor.
• Schwemm’s had a café are located on the second floor of the Campus Center.
• The game room was relocated to where the Center for Community Engagement is currently located during the late 1990s.
• Before the Center for Community Engagement was located where it is on the first floor, it was inadequately located in the basement of Keefe: where the MRC is currently located.

3) What about the poll?
• The campus community should be aware that there were definite plans to move the game room to the second floor of Keefe Campus Center, and the MRC into the current first floor game room location at the beginning of the semester.
• Only about 30 percent of the student population voted in this poll, which was issued as non-binding. At a December 3rd meeting, AAS senators expressed that the intent of the poll was never to change the intent of the administration to move the MRC to the game room.
• Even the administration was hesitant to issue the poll, for reasons of and including majority voting against minority rights. Therefore, they drafted a poll that included the history of the MRC and context about why MRCs operate on college campus, and specifically why Amherst’s student composition and stated goals require a vibrant, fully functional and central MRC. Nevertheless, the AAS created a new poll, which did not include this information over the objections of students and college administration.
• The referendum did not provide the necessary context or history to make a more informed decision. By offering two reductive questions and eliding context, the AAS referendum biased the referendum against the proposed move to the MRC. Moreover, the second option amounted to a zero–sum game by pitting the current game room against the MRC. Not only does this show the abject disregard and little worth that the AAS shows toward the mission of the MRC and the student body its presence would affirm, it omits the fact that the MRC’s relocation only moves the game room in the campus center, it does not remove it.
• What’s more, the referendum violated a central tenet of the democracy we live in this nation and as constituents to our student government on this campus: majority rules, minority rights.
• The diversity on this campus means that “minorities” (e.g. religious; sexuality and gender; national; ideological, ethic, racial, etc.) exist and the rights of these persons must be taken into account, not simply held at the whim of the majority. This simple fact alone renders the results of the referendum impermissible and challenges its validity.
• The poll was supposed to be non-binding. At a December 3rd meeting, AAS expressed that the intent of the poll was never to change the intent of the administration to move the MRC to the game room. In addition, the poll was non-binding.

4) What other changes to the campus center did the administration intend to implement when they moved the game room to the second floor?
• At an open meeting Tuesday, November 27, the night before the referendum was issued, a representative from the college’s department of architecture and design stated the college wasplanning to re-model the entire campus center.
• This involved knocking down walls and the wooden beams/banisters upstairs and replacing everything with glass to increase the visibility (and aesthetic) of the second floor specifically for the game room.
• They also planned repaint the entire campus center and replace the lighting. It would look nothing like it currently does.

5) Why does the MRC have a less-than stellar record? Addressing the MRC track record and the re-envisioning of the MRC.
• Until Fall 2012, the MRC provided frequent and effective campus-wide programming. This includes: Elephant in the Room Discussions, Jamboree, film screenings and other programs.
• The MRC is currently and has historically been an underfunded resource on this campus. Therefore, the amount and type of programs able to be facilitated have been limited. Nevertheless, the programming provide in the past has been substantive and varied.
• The disparities in experiences with the MRC from one class year to another are a symptom of the lack of a permanent director, rather than the uselessness of the center. The disparities in experiences reflect a need for a permanent full-time, and qualified staff for the MRC.
• That the MRC is “an echo chamber” or a group of students “preaching us vs. them” is a common perception or misrepresentation of what the MRC does. Rather than promoting an “us vs. them” mentality, the MRC would aim to foster coalitions among communities.
• It is true that in many respects that the campus is divided into homogeneous groups. Thus, that is the reason why we need an MRC to address these fragmentations on our campus.
• Even more, this campus somewhat promotes/pushes that self-segregation with the team/sport culture.

6) Why does the move to the current game room location have to happen simultaneously with the MRC receiving increased funding, staffing and institutional support?
• At the beginning of the Fall Semester 2012, a graduate student from UMass-Amherst turned down an offer to be a co-director of the current MRC specifically because the MRC did not have adequate funding and space allocation in the basement of Keefe. This points to the necessity of moving the location simultaneously with the MRC receiving increased funding, staffing and institutional support.
• The development of the CCE exemplifies the necessity of moving the physical location while increasing other resources such as funding and hiring a permanent director.
• The CCE moved to its current location at the same time it received increased funding and a director to head the organization.
• The College hired the director of the CCE, then as the CCE was growing, the director hired other staff members and shaped the vision of the center.

7) How can the entire student body, and not just minorities, benefit from an MRC?
• The MRC is not a counseling/therapy center; it is an administrative office on the order of the Center for Community Engagement.
• The MRC “acts as a communications and activities, [and programming] hub.” (MRC current mission)
• The MRC is a unique campus entity for faculty, staff and students that provides resources including information on inter-group dialogue, documentaries on ethic, gender, and social class studies and serves as a comfortable meeting space for classes, campus organizations and individuals.