In late September, CMC announced the official name of its new resource center, which opened at the beginning of the semester. The second floor of the Heggblade Center will now be called the CARE (Civility, Access, Resource, Expression) Center following a process that involved over 600 votes on various name suggestions from students, faculty, and staff. Administrators hope the center will serve as a space where the CMC community can receive support and communicate across differences through various programs and services.
In the words of Vince Greer, the new Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion, the CARE Center was designed to “concentrate expertise (faculty, student services, counseling, student fellows) and educational programming (forums, workshops, difficult conversations, reading groups) in order to support and challenge all of our students.” Furthermore, the Center aims to serve as a space where students with different backgrounds, experiences, ideas, and identities can support and learn from each other.
The process to establish the CARE Center was extensive; CMC developed a temporary resource space for students in the spring of 2016. Modular G, or Mod G, was established following the demands for a resource center by student organizers from members of different student affinity groups – CMCers of Color, BSA, SAGA, GenU, and APAM – since the spring of 2015. It served as a place for exploration of the different ways in which intersecting identities inform and influence human interaction.
In early May 2016, CMC announced the selection of Greer, the former Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion at DePauw University, as the new Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion at CMC. Greer currently serves as a member of Dean of Students and is the CARE Center’s inaugural director.
Greer, a Chicago native, was not surprised to find himself doing diversity and inclusion work. He developed a passion for increasing retention rates, particularly those of students of color and underrepresented communities, while in college. “I saw first-hand during my time in college that there were students who were high-achieving and bright, but for a lot of reasons did not return,” Greer said. “I think institutionally there could have been more support.” After witnessing these decisions play out, Greer wanted to be a part of the solution and has enjoyed doing so. “Words cannot describe the relationships you build with students,” Greer said.
Greer entered CMC during a time when controversy surrounded the establishment of the resource center as well as his role of Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion, putting him in a difficult position. There was opposition to the establishment of a resource center at CMC from students and faculty following the protests of last fall: they saw the creation of a resource center and a dean for diversity and inclusion as a political statement or an example of “coddling” students.
Greer has interacted with some students and faculty that did not want his position or the resource center to exist in the first place, but he tries to avoid getting caught up in this. “I think it’s a matter of not understanding [my] role,” he said. “My job is to help us as a community understand different backgrounds and perspectives and learn from one another, particularly the people who want to do the work, and try to push others as well. In any position there are always going to be folks who are not going to connect with that perspective.”
Greer envisions the CARE Center as a space to which every person feels that they can relate, in one way or another. “We really want this to be a place where it sets a bar, and is a role model for the types of dialogues and discussions we want to have,” Greer said. “It isn’t about forced consensus; it’s about getting a lot of different perspectives in the room and having a way to talk about these conversations where we are learning from one another in a civil manner.” The Center has already hosted a series of “Real Talks,” which feature conversations on current events that intersect with various aspects of identity. Additionally, the Center has hosted a series of VISA (Values, Identity, Scholarship, and the Arts) luncheons, which gives people the opportunity to learn about faculty and staff members’ paths to working in higher education, what draws them to their fields, and their intellectual passions. Several CMC organizations have also hosted their meetings at the CARE Center.
Greer also recently hired a group of students to serve as fellows responsible for supporting the daily operations of the space as well as planning and executing the Center’s programs.
One of the newly hired fellows, Timothy Song ‘19, was motivated to apply to work for the CARE Center because he felt that students did not have a secure place on campus to discuss important issues ranging from gender and sexuality to race and religion. “I am most excited for us to be able to define the direction and purpose of the resource center for future generations of CMCers,” Song said. He looks forward to working on a project to hold Title IX educational sessions to teach students how to help friends who have been victims of sexual assault or harassment.
As the year progresses, Greer looks forward to meeting more students. “I’m starting to connect with more students in different ways,” he said. “I want to go out to more events and really just connect and learn more of the traditions.” According to Greer, a couple hundred students have been involved with the Center in one way or another. He and a group of students recently traveled to Washington D.C. over fall break to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. He is excited for students to gain a better understanding of one another as a community and develop useful skills that they will be able to apply in their lives following graduation.
Betzy Perez ‘19 expressed similar enthusiasm about the Center. “I hope the Center can serve as a welcoming space where all students, especially those of marginalized identities, can find support and opportunities on and off-campus that will help them thrive while at CMC and beyond,” she said.