Emory Black Student Union is a new campus hub

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Sep. 3, 2013

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The Emory Black Student Union officially opened Aug. 30 with a kick-off event that drew more than 300 faculty, staff and students. Emory Photo/Video.

Long before the Emory Black Student Union (EBSU) officially opened in the Dobbs University Center (DUC), the new space was already being put into service as a "living room" for Emory students.  

"It's been great to see students discover it," says Jessica Morrison, assistant director of multicultural programs and services who will serve as a co-advisor to the EBSU as it opens this fall.  

"It's a space open to all students, and already, we've seen it being used as a meeting ground by a variety of groups, which is really what we had hoped for," Morrison says.  

Developed through the Division of Campus Life, the EBSU arose from the Campus Life Compact for Building an Inclusive Community at Emory — a series of recommendations and initiatives developed by an ad-hoc committee of students, faculty, and administrators last spring in response to a series of campus conversations around issues of race, diversity and inclusion.  

Located across from the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services in the DUC, the EBSU is intended to enhance, celebrate and support Emory's black communities through dedicated space and programming, while serving the University community as a resource for African and African Diaspora culture and history.  

"This is really a space for all students across all organizations at the University, a place where there can be an exploration of culture," says Ajay Nair, dean of Campus Life. "Not culture as a static entity, culture as a fluid entity with constant exchange between all of us." "  

Summer renovations have created a fresh, inviting forum, featuring hardwood floors, bright carpeting, couches, tables, two big-screen televisions, and a cellphone charging station. Around the room, photographs selected by Emory students that depict African American students involved with past Emory events are on display.  

"I think it's going to be a great space to come and hang out, to study, talk, or charge your cell phone," Morrison says. "Another place on campus to go and do and be."  

"That's very important, especially for a generation that can be disconnected physically," she adds. "We have all these devices that keep us in contact, but physically apart. Having a space where you can meet and see each other and talk, it's more like a ‘living room' approach — a feeling like this is a place you belong."  

In addition to providing a meeting and reception space for students, campus groups and historic black organizations, the EBSU will serve as a locus for resources and programs, including a monthly speaker series, a film series and a coffee hour that will showcase student talent and expression, says Marlon Gibson, associate director of student conduct and EBSU co-advisor.  

 "This space was driven by student need," Gibson says. "We've created an advisory board, comprised of faculty, staff and students, who will help determine what they want to see go on there. I really hope to see some collaborative efforts — a space where our black students feel they have a place to feel comfortable and also to invite their peers to feel comfortable."  

The center officially opened Friday, Aug. 30 with an evening barbecue and kick-off event that drew more than 300 faculty, staff and students, and Gibson acknowledges that it is still a work in progress. A formal website is now under development, and a corkboard was recently installed as a community message center for students seeking event information.  

"Even before the first day of classes, you could already see students in there, talking, reading, watching television," he adds. "It's really come alive."