Student organizations advocate for Middle Eastern cultural center

By Klarize Medenilla

Cal Poly Pomona is known for its diverse student body, and is home to several cultural centers that cater to many student demographics. But the university has yet to establish an on-campus cultural center for CPP’s Middle Eastern community.

The possibility of establishing a Middle Eastern student center was brought up at Pizza with the Presidents on April 28, a quarterly event that gives students a platform to ask questions to university and ASI officials.

If established, the university would grant the center its own permanent on-campus site. The center would also be a part of CPP’s Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers.

The current cultural centers under OSLCC comprise of the African American Student Center, the Asian & Pacific Islander Student Center, the Cesar E. Chevez Center for Higher Education, the Native American Student Center, the Pride Center and the Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center.

Rania Khalil, a second-year animal science student of Egyptian descent and sisters’ chair of CPP’s Muslim Student Association, said that a Middle Eastern cultural center could help connect the Middle Eastern student community to the rest of the student body.

“It will bring us closer to the Cal Poly community,” said Khalil. “If we have a center for people to come and hang out, it will give us an opportunity to meet new clubs, collaborate with more people and expand networking opportunities.”

Khalil said that an Associated Students, Inc. student representative approached MSA last year about what they would look for in a Middle Eastern cultural center. Khalil said that some of the needs that a Middle Eastern cultural center can satisfy would be designated spaces for prayer and networking.

Khalil hopes that a Middle Eastern cultural center at CPP will become a part of the university’s cultural centers because it’ll bring Middle Eastern students closer together.

“I feel really happy for all the cultural centers on campus because they have such a strong sense of community,” said Khalil. “I always walk by their centers and they’re always together. I really want that for the Middle Eastern students on campus.”

As of now, the possibility of establishing a Middle Eastern cultural center is still in its very early stages. The university has not yet made plans for funding or location, according to Senior Coordinator for the Cultural Centers Jami Grosser.

Grosser said via email that the university is still conceptualizing the potential cultural center and what it would offer students.

“There is a lot of diversity within the Middle Eastern community represented at Cal Poly Pomona,” Grosser said. “There are different ethnic and religious identities represented within the group, and different students may have different ideas of what needs to be incorporated into a center.”

Students have tried to bring a Middle Eastern cultural center to CPP in the past.

However, Grosser said that there have never been any official motions to establish the center.

“There have been discussions by different groups of students the past couple of years,” said Grosser. “One group has started to talk about it, but then those students graduate, and then the next year another group starts to talk about it.”

Student activists helped established the cultural centers 20 years ago as a way to create a space for students of color and LGBTQ students, according to Grosser.

CPP could potentially be the first university in the California State University system to establish a cultural center specifically for Middle Eastern students.

So far, the only university in California that has a Middle Eastern cultural center is UC Riverside, which established its center in 2013.

Sara Ahmed, a fourth-year manufacturing engineering student of Egyptian descent, said that having a Middle Eastern cultural center could bring about different campus events that would promote education about the Middle East and tie in current issues going on in the region.

“If it were to be established, I would like to see a humanitarian drive for Syria,” Ahmed said. “It’s something that would connect us all, because we all know what they’re struggling through over there.”

Ahmed also said that having a Middle Eastern cultural center would allow students of varying ethnic groups to interact and learn about different cultures.

But Ahmed said that one of the most important things that the center could provide is a chance for students to interact with others who could relate to the experience of being a Middle Eastern student.

“To have a Middle Eastern center would really help, because I feel like we’re all really separated right now, even though we may want to get together and support one another, especially after everything that’s been happening in the Middle East,” said Ahmed. “It would be really nice to have some solidarity on campus.”

Cultural Centers

Melina Orantes / The Poly Post

Cultural Centers

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