Students, staff and alumni in support of El Centro Chicano stood in front of Tommy Trojan at noon on Thursday to protest the university’s decision to relocate the center to the Student Union.
About 40 protestors with signs reading “We belong here” and “No taxation without representation” shouted “Si se puede” and “Fight on” at the protest. Student speakers said that they were speaking on behalf of the students who used El Centro and that the university’s impending decision to move El Centro did not take student voices into account.
The El Centro Ambassadors, a united group of students against the proposed relocation of El Centro, started a petition on April 3 that objected to the university’s decision to relocate the center from the United University Church, where it has been for 33 of its 40 years, to the Student Union, where other cultural centers student organizations currently are located.
Protesters voiced complaints detailed in the petition, a chief criticism being that the proposed space to move El Centro is half the space in the United University Church.
El Centro Director William N. Vela, who observed the protest from several yards away, said he estimates that between 200 and 400 students pass through El Centro each week.
“What we’ve started in the last eight years since I’ve been here is special,” Vela said. “We’ve been there for over 30 years. We do a lot of work with the community, and there are a lot of students who respect the history.”
The relocation of the center will also mean the elimination of free printing and computer services that El Centro currently offers to its students.
Edgar Aguilar, a senior majoring in theatre, said the resources that El Centro provides would be lost through the relocation.
“All of it will be gone,” Aguilar said. “There will be no place for students to study, no place for meetings and no place for students to just hang out.”
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Denzil Suite told the Daily Trojan that the university’s plan to move El Centro Chicano is aimed at better fostering the interaction between El Centro and other cultural organizations on campus.
Despite the argument that the move will consolidate all of the cultural organizations under one roof, many supporters of El Centro Chicano argue that the center is already heavily involved with the other cultural organizations on campus.
“We already work in collaboration with all of the other groups on campus,” said Consuelo Siguenza-Ortiz, an assistant professor of Spanish and a USC alumna. “Having this physical proximity will not work any better.”
Some protestors also feel that the relocation will remove what has become a second home to many Latino students.
“It has a special place in my heart,” Aguilar said of the center. “It’s a place that is able to unite us and they shouldn’t be able to take that away from us.”
Susana Pineda, a junior majoring in psychology, said the move will be a loss to many Latino students who have built emotional connections to El Centro.
“Moving El Centro is like moving homes for so many students,” Pineda told the Daily Trojan on April 13. “Although [it’s] just a location, it’s absurd to say that this place has not grown on so many students.”