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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The IBC and ‘La Casita’ will remain two separate buildings, MCDA announces

After weeks of tense back and forth between students and faculty, UF’s Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures will remain two separate buildings. 

At the end of a public meeting Tuesday, four core committee members for Multicultural and Diversity Affairs on the IBC and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, or “La Casita,” renovations agreed to “restart” the project.

MCDA will abandon its originally proposed “U” shaped joint building plan and work with architects on a new design for two separate houses, said MCDA executive director Will Atkins.

“We wanted to make sure that students felt heard,” Atkins said.

Plans for renovating the IBC and La Casita started in April 2016, when it was announced that the institutes would be torn down and rebuilt due to a presence of mold, termites, moisture and structural damage, according to Alligator archives.

Last week, in an effort to protest the possible “U” shaped building, about 100 students from both the IBC and La Casita marched from Turlington Plaza to the Reitz Union, where a renovation advisory committee meeting was taking place.

Latinx and black student activists opposed to the conjoined building plan — arguing the “U” shape would merge cultures as opposed to honoring the two separate communities — created a Facebook page titled “No La IBCita.” In the span of 14 days, the page garnered more than 600 likes. 

On Tuesday, less than a week after the “No La IBCita” movement held its march, the four committee members were in full agreement on starting over with a new plan for two houses.  

“Peace is really important for me,” Atkins said. “What’s needed for the community right now is for students to feel heard and to feel affirmed and to feel like the university is taking their concerns very, very seriously.”

Mary Kay Carodine, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs, mentioned that a major downside in keeping two separate houses would be reduced space for students to study, given the money MCDA has available to construct the sites.

UF spokesperson Margot Winick said in an email that MCDA’s budget for the project is $5.3 million.

Robert Hatker, who will oversee construction work on the IBC and La Casita renovations, said from a construction standpoint the “U” shaped building would be the most cost effective.

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He said constructing two individual buildings, installing staircases, installing elevators and installing bathrooms into each will take away from money the institutes may need in the future.

However, he said he has no personal stake in either plan.

“Obviously, from the outpouring of emotion and everything I feel it’s best to move forward with two separate institutes,” Hatker said.

After the meeting, students and organizers who attended stepped out into the MCDA’s waiting room on the second level of the Reitz Union and immediately began discussing what comes next.

While some were relieved upon hearing the news, they said they were still concerned about keeping MCDA accountable.

In an 11-day span in February, three MCDA directors announced their resignations, two of whom only held their positions for about seven months, according to Alligator archives. In the span of four years, 12 directors have resigned.

Gian Mattei, a student member representing La Casita on the renovations advisory committee, said he was pleased by the news but is still concerned about MCDA being forthcoming in the future.

“A lot of the things that went on in that meeting was a lot of conversation,” said Mattei, an 18-year-old UF psychology sophomore. “It’s very important that action is also taken.”

Adebola Adeboyin, a UF alumna who attended the meeting to represent herself and the African-American community, said she’s pleased by the news but wants to see MCDA stick to their commitments.

“They’re going to start the process over, and it’s going to take some time,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s action for me, it’s not words.”

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