Since it was established in 1999, the Human Rights Center has been an important gathering place for many activism-based clubs on campus. Recently, it has housed SASS, M.E.Ch.A., Common Ground, SHAG and other club meetings.
It is an important and safe space for students involved in these groups, and it has unfortunately been overlooked in recent years, not receiving necessary upkeep. We are happy to know that repairs have been made or are being made and that club leaders have been working to organize and clean the house.
Though it is certainly not the most widely used building on campus, we believe the HRC should be more accessible and that the history and resources within it should be preserved.
Inside the HRC, there are posters from clubs from past years, a library of books assembled by the various clubs that use the house as well as other resources. Unfortunately, the house is generally locked and only open for club meetings.
We would love to see this change and for the house to have open hours where students could access the history and resources inside it. As the house is being cleaned and organized, it would be wonderful to see this happen as soon as next year.
There are multiple ways that these open hours could operate. The college could potentially offer a work study position and pay students to work as HRC Librarians during open hours. These student workers could be familiarized with what is in the house and continue to maintain the collections.
Having a paid worker would add work study positions to the college and could allow students that are interested in working in activism, libraries or other related fields to gain hands-on and relevant experience.
If it is not feasible to make working in the HRC a paid position, we believe the space could operate similarly to the Share Shop, which is run by Students for Sustainability and is manned by student volunteers several times per week.
Since the HRC is basically only open during club meeting times, students outside of the clubs are often unaware of the resources within it or may not be aware the space even exists. The limited access to the space may make students interested in seeing it feel unable to visit if they are not a part of the clubs that meet there. Students who want to see or utilize resources in it, but are not in clubs that meet inside it, would be able to do so through open hours.
Additionally, members of clubs might be interested in looking through historic posters and other paraphernalia that former members created to see what the club took on in the past.
Inside the HRC there are also condoms, dental dams and brochures and other information about safe sex, STIs, abortion and resources in the Illinois area. It is important that students have greater access to materials like this and they may feel more comfortable going to a space like the HRC that is focused on activism and student-run rather than the Health Center, which has a more clinical feel.