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There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

Florida State University’s Black Student Union may lose its base of operations if
the current plan for ‘improving’ the university life of its students is carried out.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State University claims to take great pride in its diversity. And that is why when the Black Student Union house — which accommodates the BSU’s 3,800 members and the services it provides for those members — closes in 2003, university officials want to assure the institution’s African American students that they will continue to be treated fairly.
“The Florida State University conforms to both the spirit and the letter of nondiscrimination laws,” FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte said in a statement about the equal opportunity policy. “It actively strives to build a pluralistic community characterized by diversity and full equality of opportunities.”
The BSU currently occupies a house off of Woodward Avenue on the FSU campus, but recently their home base has been jeopardized by FSU’s master plan for improving university life for students. Though the BSU supports the proposed Student Life Center,it feels that the organization deserves a house of equal value to continue serving the student body at FSU. An office, BSU officials say, simply isn’t good enough.
“It’s a demotion. How can the university put the most powerful agency, which caters to 11 percent of the student population, into a little office,” Black Student Union President Aysha House says. “That is not a pluralistic community and this is not what FSU strives for. FSU prides itself on diversity and that is what I respect most about my university.”
The BSU house, along with others located along that block, will be replaced by the Student Life Center after 2003. The new structure will provide new offices, a multimedia theater, and other advantages to future FSU students, but it will mean the demolition of the BSU house. This new building is part of FSU’s master plan for improvements to the school.
“FSU has a master plan for great improvements for the university starting in 2003 and beyond. New teaching facilities and other improvements will be made for the benefit of the student body. There are no plans for removing the [BSU] house at present,” FSU’s vice president for student affairs, Dr. Jon Dalton, says.
In an e-mail sent to other FSU officials, D’Alemberte commented on the future of the new structure and the BSU house: “We have been through a lot of effort to develop a master plan and this structure simply doesn’t fit. On the other hand, I believe we need to provide a clear plan for the BSU facilities and I will ask that student affairs provide us that plan.”
Though FSU officials try  to assure the BSU that it will not be without a home base, many do not feel certain that there will be adequate compensation. The student government is working closely with the BSU and the university to ensure that everyone gets fair treatment.
“I can’t say exactly what the university is going to do. What my understanding is, [BSU members] called to get maintenance on the house and they were told that it was terminated, meaning the state would no longer pay for the house,” FSU’s student body president, Kim Fedele, says of what started the problem.
Fedele says the Student Government Association would do everything it could to make sure that the BSU receives fair treatment and a suitable replacement for their house.
“My ultimate goal is to make sure that they have a house,” Fedele says.
For the moment, student affairs, not the university, has assumed responsibility for the maintenance problems at the BSU house, but BSU leaders question how long this can last.
“Student affairs is maintaining our house because we made a fuss. The university won’t support it because it’s a terminated house. They’re just hoping that this will die away,” House says.
FSU officials say they will do what they can for BSU and that they recognize the services the organization provides for the student body.
“I know they are anxious and I want them to be certain that their house will not be taken away. We recognize that BSU is a very important part of student life,” Dalton says.
According to House, the Center for Civic Education will be moved to a new location, leaving their house empty. The 10-year master plan leaves that property terminated and it will become a garden area like many other flowery spots appearing on campus. BSU members can not understand why they should not be able to occupy this space in the future. Surely, they say, the needs of such a large organization should outweigh any cosmetic improvements.
Recent tuition hikes will provide some extra funds for campus organizations, and Dalton assured BSU leaders in a meeting recently that some of that money might be used to accommodate the needs of the organization. He also suggested that aid from the Black alumni and other national organizations might also be able to provide needed funding.
During a meeting held at the BSU house, which was attended by top school officials including D’Alemberte, the university informed BSU leaders that building another house on campus did not appear to be a possibility because of a lack of space. Instead, they suggested fitting them into the new FSU Student Life Building — to be constructed where the BSU house and other organizational bases currently sit, according to Fedele.
“While the Student Life Building will be great for students, we have to make sure that we do not overlook the BSU because it is an important part of  FSU’s campus life. It’s something they can’t just sweep under the rug,” Fedele  says.       

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