Out of Protest...Comes Progress
The Center for Identity, Inclusion and Social Change at DePaul University has a shared history with similar institutions on college campuses across the country. It was conceived in response to student protest that challenged the institution to increase its commitment to marginalized students, who recognized that there was a need for a space for students to see their cultural heritage and experiences honored and celebrated.
Two important events precipitated the creation of the Cultural Center. In May 1994, Latino students who were concerned about questionable personnel decisions in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs decided to stage a sit-in demonstration in the office. After two days of negotiations, the students received several assurances from the administration. One of the commitments was that there would be a place created where their history, experiences and culture could be celebrated and honored. President (Father) John Minogue established the Student and Faculty Multicultural Implementation Committee, a university-wide group chaired by Dr. Jack Lane (then Director of the Center for the Study of Values). The Committee released a report in January 1995 and, in addition to addressing the need to increase the number of faculty of color and support for the Centers for Latino and African American Research, this document suggested that funds should be allocated to support multicultural programming on campus and should be housed in a “center [that would be] a place for sharing among and between groups and a source of education for the university community.”
The second significant event that led to the creation of the Cultural Center occurred a few months later. For 10 days in April 1995, members of the Concerned Black Students (CBS) of DePaul University staged a second sit-in demonstration; this time in the headquarters of the student newspaper, The DePaulia in response to what they identified as “insensitive and inadequate coverage of minority issues.” These students received valuable support from other student organizations (UMMA, etc.), DePaul staff and faculty as well as key figures in the Chicago community.
In response, DePaul President John P. Minogue and Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Doyle worked to secure the resources and personnel to run the new Center. Esther Muhammed Sharif was hired in 1995 and the Center was officially opened to the public on January 22, 1996. The work of the Center enhanced DePaul’s distinguishing character as a Catholic, urban and Vincentian educational institution. The Center was designed to give students a voice to express their unique cultures, issues and concerns, joys and participate in programming designed to educate, inform and celebrate their cultures, traditions and lifestyles.
The idea of a space that would recognize the inherent dignity of all individuals, regardless of race, class, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, ability, and age in this community, which was core to the original mission of the Center, remains true today. The Center continues to provide opportunities for students to learn outside of the classroom, a venue for faculty and staff to present their work or interests, collaborate on projects and issues, research and write and to volunteer. We also invite and welcome the community-at-large to participate in many of our programs and projects.