Umbrella Organizations Left with No Access to Shared Space

On March 1, 2019, Organization for Latinx Awareness (OLA) celebrated the Brazilian festival Carnaval making masks and beaded bracelets and learning about its history. OLA is one of the eight Umbrella organizations affected by the recent shut down of the Umbrella House (Photo by Irene Corona-Avila).

Umbrella governs nine multicultural student organizations to create a safe space for underrepresented student populations where the students can voice their concerns and bring awareness to the Albion community. The nine organizations include Asian Awareness Group (AAG), Black Student Alliance (BSA), Diversability, Hillel, LGBriTS, Organization for Latinx Awareness (OLA), United Voices of Albion College (UVAC) and International Student Union (ISU). The Umbrella House offers a hub to all of the Umbrella organizations except one. BSA is housed in a separate building. 

On Dec. 21, 2020, Smooth Transitions Director and Intercultural Affairs (ICA) Coordinator Vanesa Jackson sent an email to each executive board in Umbrella. 

“Due to the Umbrella House being left a mess, I will be shutting down access until further notice,” said Jackson in the email. 

The Umbrella House is not only a hub for multicultural communities. It is also a space for organizations to use the basement to store their supplies and materials for their events. At the end of each semester, each of the Umbrella organizations are tasked to clean their sections in the Umbrella House. However, due to COVID-19 sending Albion College students home in March 2020, some Umbrella organizations were not able to clean the house before they left. 

“For module A and B, I was the president of OLA, the house was already dirty, a lot of mess around there, so that happened during the summer because when we left in the spring semester of 2020, it was super good conditions,” said Vice President of OLA Jose Garza, a sophomore from Dallas. “So, I believe that [the mess] happened during the summer when nobody was here, and they asked us to clean up the mess that was there. But I don’t recognize that someone from the organizations did that.”

Although COVID-19 limited Umbrella House’s capacity to 10 people, the student organizations utilized the house to store and retrieve materials. They have not been able to do this since the space was shut down. This has caused frustrations among Umbrella members accessing their storage and ordering the same materials. 

“[I feel] pretty irritated because when Albion sent out that whole email saying, ‘Let us know what we can do for the Asian community, let us know what we can do,’ they could have opened the Umbrella house,” said AAG President Lily Goldberger, a senior from Allendale. “Let us have meetings there. Let us get our stuff that we need instead of ordering them again and taking from our budget what we already have downstairs.” 

Some of the Umbrella organizations’ executive boards would meet in the Umbrella House. Since COVID-19 and the recent shut down of the shared space, Umbrella organizations have met on the quad, the green space by the Kellogg Center, virtually, behind the Umbrella house and the library. 

Umbrella members expressed the frustrations between the lack of communication with Jackson and administration with Umbrella organizations. Umbrella members also expressed concerns in participation numbers as a result of the lack of communication and support.

“I can totally see why participation rate is decreasing because it just seems like a lot of people on campus want that in-person space to know where something is,” said Diversability Secretary Leiyah Denson, a senior from St. Clair Shores. “I feel like the Umbrella house was pretty close [for campus accessibility].”

About Irene Corona Avila 39 Articles
Irene is a third-year student and a prideful Georgia Peach from Atlanta. She is a biochemistry major in attempt to save the world. Aside from running and writing, you can find Irene dancing freely or talking up a pun. She's currently reading a book on gravity, but she can't seem to put it down.

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