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New multicultural center opens at UC Berkeley

– A new student multicultural center opened today at the University of California, Berkeley.

"I'm pleased to see the center is opening, and I hope it's successful in meeting various students' needs," said UC Berkeley Dean of Students Karen Kenney.

The center is located in Heller Lounge on the ground floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union. The large, open, space is filled with new couches and chairs, and when it opened Tuesday, the first day of spring semester classes, a few students already were there mid-morning to catch a quick nap or read quietly.

"I'm excited; it's been five years in the making," said Misha Leybovich, president of UC Berkeley's division of Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), referring to a 1999 hunger strike on campus by members of the Third World Liberation Front that was an early driving force behind the creation of the center. "It was a wonderful experience working with folks in a lot of groups that had a stake in this."

Although the multicultural center has opened for use, students and campus officials are still working out some of the administrative details for the center. At issue is the makeup of an administrative board and agreement on how the space will be used.

"We all know that it's in the best interests of everyone to work this out," Leybovich said.

Working plans call for the administrative board to have representatives from the ASUC, Third World Liberation Front, the chancellor's office, Multicultural Student Development and the ASUC Auxiliary.

A more permanent home for the multicultural center is at least a few years off. The center is scheduled to be part of the renovated Lower Sproul Plaza area, which Kenney said will be known as the Student/Community Center area. There are no dates set for the renovation.