Plans for PAC and Rainbow room changes following petition

by Elizabeth Janowski | 5/17/18 2:40am

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by Arianna LaBarbiera / Arianna LaBarbiera/ The Dartmouth

Over 900 individuals have signed a petition opposing a joint decision by the Office of Pluralism and Leadership and the Office of Student Life to move the Pan-Asian Community resource room and Rainbow Room from their current locations on the first floor of Robinson Hall. The petition argues that the relocation of these spaces will relegate them from a central location on campus to the “physical margins of Dartmouth.” Following the demands of students, the rooms will become open reservable spaces, according to senior associate dean of student affairs Liz Agosto ’01.

In a plan announced earlier this term, OPAL and the Office of Student Life revealed their decision to relocate the Rainbow Room to Triangle House, while the PAC lounge would be moved to a room in the OPAL Student Resource Center — known previously as the Center for Gender and Student Engagement — in the Choates housing cluster. According to Agosto, the original intention of this decision was to convert the PAC and Rainbow rooms to office spaces, which would be used to centralize OPAL staff and increase their accessibility to students.

LGBTQIA+ student group Spectra currently uses the Rainbow Room to host weekly meetings, community dinners and movie nights, according to Spectra president Maddy Mayer ’20. Asian American Students for Action holds weekly meetings in the PAC room, according to 4A member Todd Huang ’19. Both student organizations have cited issues with accessibility and safety as primary concerns over the relocation of these spaces.

Members of both Spectra and 4A have expressed discontent over the loss of a space that is open 24 hours in a centralized location. Mayer noted that the Triangle House is only open to non-resident students from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, which would require Spectra to change its weekly meeting time. She added that holding weekly Spectra meetings in the Triangle House may be an inconvenience to the residents of the house, who do not all participate or wish to participate in Spectra club activities and events.

Huang added that the PAC and Rainbow rooms hold historical significance to many alumni and student groups on campus.

“Moving the [PAC and Rainbow rooms] means our community would lose an incredibly symbolic and practical space,” Huang said. “Asian Americans do not have a residential space in which to organize like Shabazz, so it is especially important that we have this central room.”

The petition, which is addressed to the Office of Student Life, called for the immediate cancellation of any plans to displace the PAC and Rainbow rooms, the permanent installation of these rooms in Robinson Hall, a student-advised renovation of these rooms and a plan to expand spaces for affinity groups in central locations in the future.

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Agosto said that there has been ongoing communication among OPAL, the Office of Student Life and concerned students in order to respond to the needs of campus affinity groups. While OPAL and the Office of Student Life currently do not have plans to keep the PAC and Rainbow rooms in Robinson Hall in their current state, Agosto said she has announced a new plan that “will get closer to a place where students feel like they’ve been heard and where we’ve made accommodations to meet their values.”

“I know that this has felt jarring to the student community, and that wasn’t the goal,” she said. “I certainly own that our communication structure could have been better and more timely, but the goal was never to displace people or make them feel invisible.”

Now, the current plans for the PAC and Rainbow rooms stipulate that they will become reservable spaces open to all students, similar to other reservable meeting rooms inside the Collis Center for Student Involvement and Robinson Hall. The Rainbow Room will retain its name, and OPAL and the Office of Student Life will work in partnership with Dartmouth’s LGBTQIA+ alumni association to create a commemorative display inside it to honor the history of LGBTQIA+ life on campus. The room will be open to campus as a reservable space between the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., after which it will be turned over to affinity groups in order to coincide with the hours during which the Triangle House is not open, according to Agosto.

Agosto also extended to the pan-Asian community the additional option to relocate the PAC room to a room on the second floor of Robinson Hall. The room in the OPAL Student Resource Center, which Agosto envisions developing into a “multi-cultural and multi-community hub,” remains an option for its relocation as well.

In response to the new plans, Mayer and Huang retain some reservations over the planned usage of the PAC and Rainbow rooms as reservable spaces open to campus.

“We are still concerned with this current decision, as it undermines and dismisses the importance of safe spaces for these marginalized communities,” Huang said.

“The [Dartmouth Outing Club] created those rooms for us — they were one of the first organizations on campus that specifically made safe spaces on campus for these affinity groups,” Mayer said. “I think the reason that the Office of Student Life and OPAL have decided to do this is because they’ve gotten mixed responses in the past over whether those rooms are actually used or if they’re really necessary. Now we’re saying, ‘Yes, they’re necessary. We need them.’”