Historic black house led the way for diverse spaces today

In 1971, the college approved a Black Culture House.

The house served as a home to various diversity activities and was owned and overseen by Franklin College and the Black Culture Center Advisory Council.

It was a place solely for multicultural congregation, not living. No overnight stays were allowed in the house, according to a house agreement dated 1971 from the campus archives.

But despite its groundbreaking establishment, by 1976, the structure was vacant.

It was a hodgepodge of spaces and underwent some construction until the mid-1980s when it was torn down.

The dwelling stood at 245 S. Forsythe St.—now a patch of grass between Richardson Chapel and Elsey Hall.

But when the Black Culture House was torn down, other structures went up. Diverse spaces didn’t go away.

One such space is the Building Our Leaders Through Diversity House— better known as the BOLD House.

The house, located in one of the college-owned homes adjacent to Grizzly Park, has been around since 2013 and has a six-student capacity.

Students who live in the house must be involved in a campus organization related to diversity or multiculturalism, maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.6, and complete an interview with Terri Roberts, Office of Diversity Inclusion director, among other requirements.

Sophomore Taylor McElwain is the BOLD house leader this year. She’s in charge of planning various events throughout the semester and upholding the house’s mission to diversity.

Recent events at the house include a Halloween program about cultural appropriation costumes and the demographics at the college.

Right now, the house is at half of its capacity. McElwain, a black woman; senior Jess Leland, a gay woman; and sophomore Logan Thompson, a gay man, all live in the house.

“A big misconception is that diversity is just a race thing,” McElwain said. “But it’s not. We’re all different.”

McElwain said she likes the the idea of dedicated space on campus for people who come from different racial, cultural, socioeconomic and other backgrounds.

“[I like having] places I can go where I feel comfortable talking about my struggles as a minority here,” she said. “Having a safe place and a common place where people like me are able to have shared experiences … [is] kind of like our way to cope.”

Another space is the Multicultural Lounge, which includes a full kitchen, furniture and computers and is located on the second floor of the Student Center.

But McElwain said diverse spaces on campus fall short.

“Our diversity office shouldn’t be in the back of the Student Activities Center in the smallest office possible,” McElwain said. “It’s not adequate.”

McElwain also said she wishes there were black sororities and fraternities on campus to participate in.

Mike Rivera—who works as both a residence hall coordinator and an assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion—said diverse students need dedicated spaces to connect with people like them.

“Why do you need a fraternity house? Why do you need a sorority suite?,” Rivera said. “It’s a place for you as an organization or group to congregate and talk about things. It’s the same thing with the diversity house. It’s a place for people who are passionate about diversity to come and talk about diversity issues on campus.”

One way the college is addressing the need for additional diversity spaces is by creating a Diversity Center in place of the Quiet Lounge in the Student Center.

The center was announced during the annual Board of Trustees meeting by President Thomas Minar earlier this month. The renovations are scheduled to begin this January.

“I love that they’re seeing the need for it,” McElwain said. “I think every university needs—in order to succeed—the ability to grow and meet people who are not like you. It’s such a huge learning experience.”

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About Ashley Shuler 1253 Articles
Ashley Shuler is the executive editor of The Franklin. She has held various multimedia journalism and public relations internships, including positions at Indianapolis Monthly, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis and Dittoe Public Relations. When she isn't staying up late to edit stories, Ashley spends her time boutique shopping and eating as many boneless wings as possible. This is Ashley's third year in a leadership role and her fourth year on The Franklin staff. She previously held positions as web editor and news editor.

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