The Freedom Center opens in WUC

A place for connection, understanding and learning about heritage and culture 

Mikayla Coleman | News Editor 

Oct. 1 marked the opening of Western’s Freedom Center. Located in the Werner University Center, the Freedom Center is meant to be a physical space in which students of color are able to find refuge. While this is the main purpose of the Freedom Center, different clubs and organizations that are culturally specific are able to use the space to hold meetings and collaborate with one another. 

The road to the opening of the Freedom Center proved to be a treacherous longhaul. Students have been advocating for the creation of a space like the Freedom Center for quite some time.

“It has been a project that has been requested by the students for a very long time, and to finally have it shows all the hard work that past and current students put into it,” said Elisa Tenido, Associated Students of Western Oregon University Director of Multicultural Advocacy. 

The establishment of the Freedom Center is hoped to expand cultural competency among everyone on Western’s campus, something that many believe has been lacking for far too long. The Freedom Center is expected to be a place where students can make connections based on cultural backgrounds, whether they are similar to or different from one another. 

“As a Filipino, I do not know a lot of other Filipinos on campus and the (Freedom Center) provides a space where we can meet,” said Tenido. 

The Freedom Center was officially opened by co-founders senior communications studies major Makana Ripley and junior social science major Arlette Topia Lopez with a ceremony and cake pops.

In the same way that Western works hard to ensure the comfortability of everyone on campus — taking this step will allow a safe space in which students are able to talk about differences and make connections between the vast amount of different traditions and heritages students bring with them when they come here to pursue their higher education. 

For those who have experienced racial profiling or discrimination, it can be hard to explain and make connections with people who have not had to experience those hardships. 

“Personally it is hard for me to put into words how important this space is for people of color. When people of color talk about their experiences with non-people of color, there always seems to be this layer of explaining that is done … explaining why something is funny or why something is offensive,” said Tenido. 

The Freedom Center hopes to be able to bridge these gaps through growth in knowledge and understanding. 

“Having the (Freedom Center) takes away that layer because people of color can just talk about their experience or something funny that happened when they were growing up or (compare) random cultural superstitions,” said Tenido. “It is a space for students of color to be seen by other students of color to share and bond.”

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