Western Washington University located near Seattle announced a new space designed to house only Black students and create diversity, Black Affinity Housing.
“Black Affinity Housing residents, representing all diverse identities, pride themselves on fostering a sense of belonging for all residents by creating a safe environment for open, honest, and sometimes challenging dialogue,”
This initiative comes almost a year after the Black Student Organization made their demands to create a space for more diversity at the university. Out of the 16,000 students enrolled at Western Washington, only 29.6 percent are people of color, according to admissions.
The program isn’t anything new to PWIs, New York University, the University of Colorado, Stanford University and Cornell University have implemented similar programs for Black students in an effort to make Black students feel more comfortable at Predominantly White Institutions.
Western Washington University “consulted multiple universities around the nation during the discovery phase of this program to learn more about their affinity-based housing, challenges, and how to grow and support the program.”
“I think it’s important, especially in this country, where many people have been sort of outcasted,” said Mwangi (Mwah’-ghee) Payton, an African-American and Mûgìkûyû (mo-gei-koh-yoh) Kenyan student who is a BSO coalition development specialist. “Like a lot of these institutions that we’re in right now were established mainly with a Eurocentric framework in mind, and with a specific type of student in mind that doesn’t represent me.” Payton continued.
In addition to housing, the Western Washington will coordinate discussions and socials specifically for students staying in the housing designated for Black students.
“Currently, the project manager for Alma Clark Glass Hall is collaborating with a consulting firm, MultiCultural Collaborative, in identifying artwork and signage for the new space, which will celebrate the history of Alma Clark Glass and also represent the Black student experience at Western today,” Eaves said.
“As future generations of Black students go through the university, they’re going to make their own contributions to how the space changes and grows overtime,” stated Micere Keels, associate professor at the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.
The university does not have a timeline for when the space for Black students will be completed, and whether it will be ready for Black students returning to campus in the fall remains uncertain, according to AS President Abdul-Malik Ford.