Everyone reading this is likely aware of the events having transpired over the last year related to proposed changes to the Black House, with its resultant angst. Northwestern Vice-President of Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin convened a series of “listening sessions” in October and November of 2015, and she appointed The Black House Review Committee to form recommendations to be forwarded back to the NU administration based on input provided at these sessions. On Friday, May 20, 2016, the Committee convened to discuss its recommendations. You may recall an earlier proposal that had the support of NUBAA, FMO and a distinguished group of faculty. It is of note that the final report’s recommendations were similar in spirit but greatly expanded.
Words from Committee Chair, Faculty and Alum Charles Whitaker:
Our task was not to look at the Black House as just a facility, and we did not see our task as a decorating committee for Student Affairs. The Black House should be embedded integrally in the University. The perception of under usage is a self-fulfilling prophecy – where there is no programming, the house will be underused. Our committee tackled what we believed The Black House should be. There were four critical areas that our Committee addressed: facility and structural issues; technology; tagging onto the NUBAA Archive project, and filling the leadership void.
Here is an approximation of the various committee recommendations, being mindful of the overall theme of establishing the Black House as a resource center for Black students and a cultural center for the Black community. Details of these initiatives are contained in the full report, which you may access here.
- Reinstitute an Associate Dean-level position for African-American student affairs
- Create a Black House advisory board
- Create a Center of Leadership Training in the Black House
- Create a Black House Graduate Student-in-Residence program
- Create a Scholars-in-Residence program
- Develop programs that promote community engagement
- Provide enhanced opportunities for academic advising
- Provide enhanced tutoring services
- Provide enhanced academic resources
Facility & Structural Improvements
- Overhaul the HVAC system
- Upgrade the electrical panel
- Install an elevator
- Soundproof a portion of the basement
- Create a keycard/Wildcard entry system
- Retain the second floor as largely student space with technology upgrades and dedicated space for displays from the NUBAA Archives
- Use the third floor as office space for student groups, provide a conference room and house the Director of African-American Student Affairs
- Renovate the basement as a space for the rehearsal and congregation needs of African-American performing groups
- Update the Black House to include specifically identified needs for engineering and STEM students, Medill/RTF students, and Weinberg students
- Create a “freenters” station
- Develop a mechanism for iPad rental
- Equip each floor with sufficient charging stations/outlets to meet student need
- Install flat-screen monitors in the corridors to display announcements and showcase NUBAA archival information
The NUBAA Archive
- Conserve, digitize, arrange, manage, protect and provide providence for and make accessible memorabilia related to the Black student experience at Northwestern University
- Use The Black House as the primary venue for receiving and exhibiting these memorabilia
- Curate a rotating exhibit of items, photographs and video that can be viewed at The Black House and shared via social media
- Install an appropriately sized flat-screen monitor in the entry vestibule of The Black House to play videos and slide shows about the history of the facility
- Collaborate with NUBAA to host a campaign to solicit memorabilia and stories from alumni about their experience in The Black House with their classmates, staff, faculty and guests; engage graduate-level or undergraduate students who have an interest in cultural anthropology and history to receive this information and curate it
- Fund student liaison positions to receive archival materials to achieve the above
- Install one-dimensional “way-finding” signage on the walls of The Black House that offers historical perspectives, as well as direction to/purpose of each room
- Create a brochure or rack card about The Black House’s creation/development and its current purpose as a cultural center
- Identify space within The Black House for the proper receipt of memorabilia from NUBAA members or other alumni, to be held temporarily until the materials are moved to a formal archival space for recording, assessment and preservation
We are pleased to report the University has accepted the recommendations of the Black House Review Committee. If you would like to give feedback – you can do so on the Campus Inclusion website – http://www.northwestern.edu/inclusion/. Here are few notable additional considerations.
- The Black House has been added to the virtual tour in the visitor center (gets more than 60,000 visitors per year).
- The Black House has been included in the admitted student portal.
- The Black House will be reviewed in the strategic space committee. This summer an architect will review the space with a particular focus on the basement for use as practice space as has been recommended in the report (Generally basement spaces are not allowed as habitable spaces anymore, but it may be possible to use as artistic practice spaces. The permitted uses will be determined in the architectural review.).
- Faculty Firesides will make a return, and there will be an advisory board, as the committee has recommended.
There simply are not sufficient words of thanks for the efforts of the members of the Black House Review Committee. Your efforts themselves are now a part of our history and will be recorded as such within The NUBAA Archives.
Committee Chair, Faculty and Alum Charles Whitaker, ’80, 81
- Ce Cole Dillon, SESP ‘78
- Jazzy Johnson, SoC ‘13
- Opeyemi Kusoro, WCAS ‘16
- Kimberley Rudd, Medill ‘88
- Henry Binford, Associate Professor, History
- Cariana Chambers, student, SESP, ‘17
- Tunde Kelani, WCAS ‘16
- Kevin Luong, WCAS ‘16
- Pleshette Strong, Kellogg ’16, WCAS ‘15
- Yjaden Wood, WCAS ‘16
NUBAA takes its role in serving the University and acting on the interests of the Black community serious. We believe this effort represents the ongoing evolution partnership we have forged with President Morty Schapiro’s administration. We leave you with this video, first displayed at the 2016 NUBAA Summit and Salute to Excellence, offering in his own words these same sentiments.
We look forward to the timely implementation of these recommendations and our role in overseeing it. We are Proudly Purple. We Are NUBAA Nation. We Are Northwestern.