PRCC to shut its doors for remainder of week, citing lack of student support
The Paul Robeson Cultural Center (PRCC), located on the ground floor of the HUB-Robeson Center, announced Monday evening via social media and a sign on its doors that it would close for the remainder of the week, citing a lack of student support.
During the center’s bi-weekly staff meeting Monday morning, the topic of student support for the center came up, specifically the lack of support that the center receives “from students that we serve day in and day out.”
The lack of student support was seen this past weekend during the center’s Hip-Hop summit, a full day of workshops and a concert. The PRCC voiced its disappointment following the event, posting to social media an empty photo of Heritage Hall.
Thank you all for coming out , and your continuous support😒 pic.twitter.com/Pyz4V2k89q
— Penn State PRCC (@PSUPRCC) October 7, 2017
Carlos Wiley, PRCC Executive Director, expressed his concern at the event on the Heritage Hall stage.
“I don’t spend thousands of dollars to bring people that I already have a relationship with to this institution for the betterment of myself. It is for them [Penn State students],” Wiley said. “But if they don’t want us to do it, fine with me ”
The PRCC said in an open letter that the past weekend’s events were not the only cause of the weeklong closure, but rather “the decline of support for the PRCC” although “PRCC programs has increased over time.”’
“Not every university has a space dedicated to the students of color for their holistic care and health but here at Penn State, we do. But what if we didn’t?” the letter continued.
“We won’t keep you wondering what if. For the remainder of the week, the PRCC will be closed to all students. We will begin our time without the PRCC starting tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM,” the letter concluded.
We do this because we love y'all. pic.twitter.com/gffA1UByat
— Penn State PRCC (@PSUPRCC) October 9, 2017
When asked about the what he hopes will happen as a result of the closure, Wiley told The Underground that he hopes that students will understand the value of the center.
“We want students to understand what the students who helped bring the PRCC into existence had to go through in order for it to be, and then had to support the work being done by the staff in order for it to still be here today.” Wiley said. “If they are not supporting in the same way it may not be here for future students.”
Wiley added that the lack of student involvement is not unique to the PRCC. “I believe it is a Penn State problem as many of the offices on campus struggle with student support when it comes to the programs they offer.”
The center will hold an Open Forum Monday, Oct. 16, in hopes to “build a stronger relationship with students and the PRCC.”
— Penn State PRCC (@PSUPRCC) October 9, 2017
“…We are hoping that next Monday at the open forum we will be able to come up with a workable solution moving forward,” Wiley said.
The PRCC is a division of Student Affairs, a department of services and support for students at Penn State. Other services and departments under the Student Affairs umbrella include Campus Recreation, Residence Life, and Student Legal Services.
What is unclear, however, is if a Student Affairs department has closed its doors for similar reasons in the past and if there are guidelines for such closures.
PRCC programming is subsidized, in part, by student fees, with students paying $2.15 for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs at Penn State responded to a request for comment, telling The Underground that a closure of a Student Affairs unit at Penn State is unprecedented.
“I can safely say that I’m unaware of any other instance in which an office in Student Affairs has unilaterally chosen to close its doors in similar circumstances,” Sims said. Not only does it seem unprecedented to have done so, but I’m concerned about unintended messages the closure may send.”
He continued, “I know with absolute certainty that the PRCC staff and its leadership are deeply committed to our students. They offer a community of support through the Center’s programs and services that is vitally important to achieving the diversity and inclusion we all seek, and they are motivated to do so by sincere concern about our students’ welfare and success.
“The staff’s disappointment about attendance at recent events that it has organized and sponsored is understandable, but the unintended message conveyed through this temporary closure may obscure the actual message the staff intended to communicate. I hope and expect this closure will be short-lived.”
Sims plans to meet with Wiley and the rest of the PRCC staff later this afternoon.
This story will be updated.
[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the funding of the PRCC that is subsidized by students. As mentioned in an external link in the article, the programming of the PRCC is funded by the student fee.]