March 16, 2007

Residents Attempt to Save Ujamaa

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Last Wednesday, members of the Ujamaa Residential College community discussed last year’s decreased number of applications to the program house.

Kalina Black ’07, a resident advisor in Ujamaa, organized the meeting to accomplish three objectives: “to talk about the concerns and the real issues inside Ujamaa, consider what we can do from here and, lastly, discuss tangible ways we all are going to move forward.”

A large turnout at this open forum and the attendees’ willingness to participate signifies the community’s commitment to “[making] something happen,” Black said.

During the first part of the dialogue, students addressed personal and campus-wide concerns. The forum focused on how the program house, living expenses and the appeal of West Campus’s new dorms are affecting participation in North Campus program houses. The large drop in initial numbers of Ujamaa participants this year was a result of these reasons and more.

“Ujamaa has become many people’s last resort,” said one student. “We have to ask ourselves why isn’t Ujamaa our first choice?”

This was the main concern for the rest of the evening. The community not only discussed why Ujamaa is not considered an ideal living situation, but also looked to the future. They began brainstorming what they can do to make living in Ujamaa as an upperclassmen more appealing.

Kassandra Frederique ’08, an R.A. in Balch Hall, said, “Cornell students don’t even know what [program houses] are all about. All that they affiliate with them are the stigmas.”

Few freshmen, or even upperclassmen, know what the program houses at Cornell have to offer, according to Frederique. Therefore, Ujamaa is looking to heighten the public’s awareness of the house to prospective students.

Additionally, the community wants to strengthen the bonds inside Ujamaa and look to the administration and alumni for help. At Wednesday’s forum, five ground-breaking committees were established to begin Ujamaa’s revival. The Academic Development Committee, The Alumni Relations Committee, The On-Campus Fundraising Team, The Public Relations Committee and The Web Development Committee all look to change the well-known image of Ujamaa at Cornell and increase the awareness of the program house to the general public.

Although Ujamaa is best known as a place to live, the Residential College is a center for anyone to come and relax and learn about historical and cultural forces that helped shape the lives of black people in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.

The students in attendance last night were determined to ensure that Ujamaa will be around for generations of Cornellians to come.