The Center for Intercultural Life (CIL) and the Office of Spiritual Life hope to have a new home by the end of the term: the House of Peace and Equity Center, or H.O.P.E. Center.
The name was developed by students, including MSAC and student workers for Spiritual Life, because the anonymous alum donor wanted the students involved to name it, Student Senate Diversity Chair and MSAC member junior Amn Farooq explained.
“[Knox] asked [the donor] to choose the name, but they wanted … students who will be using the building or who will be involved in it to kind of decide what it should be named,” Farooq said. “Because according to them students would be able to name it better.”
The purchase was covered entirely by the alum’s donation. Director of Spiritual Life Monica Corsaro explained that the church congregation that met at the corner of South Street and Cherry Street was getting older and finding the stairs more difficult.
So, Second Baptist decided to sell the building and approached Knox. For Corsaro, the fact that many African-American students have found a spiritual home in the historically African-American church in the past only adds meaning to the purchase.
“We’re definitely going to be having events where we honor and remember the history of those who built it …” Corsaro said. “I think that’s a great thing too, African-American students who were here through the years, since it was so close, would engage with this church. We have alumni that this was an important place for them.”
The renovated space will have an elevator, making the building ADA accessible, something Director of the Center for Intercultural Life Tianna Cervantez is excited about.
“That’s been one challenge being here is that … you have to climb stairs whatever entrance,” she said.
However, the elevator is also part of what is limiting when they can move into the new building, because of the time needed to ship it, install it and then get it inspected.
The new space will largely consist of two floors, plus a balcony. The Office of Spiritual Life will mostly be using the upper floor, where the sanctuary of the church is currently. The plan is to keep the space as a single room for use for religious and spiritual services and clubs.
Corsaro said the former sanctuary will have the pews removed, allowing more flexible arrangements so different religious groups can use the space as they need. She also hopes the space can provide a home for non-theists on campus.
“This will also be a place for atheists and humanists and people who want to do philosophical and ethical thinking, but there doesn’t necessarily [need to] be a deity involved or something called the divine,” Corsaro said.
The lower level will have the offices for the CIL, another multipurpose conference room, storage space, a shared kitchen and a multifunction space similar to the current CIL. However, this space will be a little larger in the new building.
The balcony will be made into a hangout space, and will include two of the original pews.
The new, separated spaces give both offices a chance to look at their schedules of events. Cervantez talked about some of the difficulties in scheduling with their current space, which does not offer separate large rooms for meetings.
“While I love this [current] space, I’ve really come to appreciate this building, I think [the move] will provide us the ability to do a multitude of things at a variety of times and not be so time constricted,” she said.
Cervantez has moved buildings before. She was originally in the cottage in the Quads, and then moved to the building on South Street the offices are currently in. Each time, students have complained about how far of a walk it is, but they still come.
“We do see a lot of students in our center, whether it’s for student organization meetings or coming in to see one of the three of us or if it’s just to grab a snack off the table, you know? … I think there’s a lot of opportunity, it will be interesting to see all the things that we can do with it,” Cervantez said.
Farooq’s excitement comes from the new space offering students new chances to grow during their time at Knox by providing a space for spiritual and cross-cultural dialogue and practice.
“For me [CIL has] been a place of hard growth, like growing pains kind of a thing, but I’ve learned a lot of lessons and grown to become a very different person,” Farooq said. “It’s one of the few places for me on campus where I can go where I know if I just want to be, I can just be.”