The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has approved a Ball State University plan to build a new multicultural center on its Muncie campus. But the vote by the state board wasn’t unanimous.
Ball State announced in May it wanted to build a new 10,000 square foot multicultural center, replacing one currently housed in a former residential home that was built in 1934 and not accessible for students with disabilities.
To do that, Ball State will spend $4 million. Because it’s a public university, it first must get permission from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
But at a meeting in an air hangar at Vincennes University, one committee member was skeptical of the plan. John Popp is the President and CEO of Aunt Millie’s Bakeries.
“Ball State has one of the best student unions. It’s one of their best facilities on the campus," he said. "I just feel that that could be used as opposed to spending $4 million of taxpayers’ money.”
It wasn’t just the cost of the project, though. He also questioned its mission.
“We spent 50 years making sure that we integrate the minorities in our schools," he said. "And it seems to me counterproductive to set up a $4 million facility to segregate.”
Becca Rice, Ball State’s vice president for governmental relations, said Popp’s second point is precisely why Ball State needs a new, prominent multicultural center.
“To make sure that we’re supporting we’re supporting all our diverse students," Rice said. "It’s not for one set of diverse students or another, but to support diversity as a whole.”
According to Ball State data, enrollment of what the school calls “underrepresented minority” students has increased by almost 89 percent in the last decade.
Ball State hasn’t announced a specific location for the new building, only saying it will be on the “East Mall” near Bracken Library and the Whitinger Business Building. When first announced, university officials hoped construction could begin this summer or fall.