The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Cultural Shock: Students’ Concerns Amidst Cultural House Updates

Graphic by Jane He ’27.

After months of unanswered questions and concerns about the demolition and potential future iteration of the Cultural House, the Macalester community received an announcement in the Mac Daily on Nov. 9 stating that the Cultural House’s programming will be moved “into a renovated and expanded Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Social Justice (LSC) space in Kagin Commons,” in the summer and fall of 2025. 

Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alina Wong discussed the details of this announcement with The Mac Weekly, emphasizing the need to make the space more accessible and move it closer to the LSC, which currently runs the Cultural House.

With the move, Wong and others wanted to address inaccessibility. The Cultural House is split-level and lacks both an elevator and ADA accessible bathrooms The new iteration of the Cultural House will be an expansion of the LSC on the first floor of Kagin.

“The Cultural House in 37 Mac has been there since 1999 and it’s always been part of the LSC.” Wong said. “Part of this decision is from recognizing that the LSC doesn’t have programming space in Kagin, so it just made sense to bring those pieces together.

Currently, the first floor of Kagin Commons holds the LSC, International Student Programs (ISP) and the Career Exploration and Macalester Academic Excellence (MAX) Centers.

The plan, as stated by Wong and the Mac Daily announcement, is to move the MAX Center out of this space and into the library. There is currently no plan as to where exactly the MAX Center will be located or if it will replace another department. 

In the new space in Kagin, a kitchen, dining room and event space will be built to host the popular programming of the Cultural House.

“We’ll work with students on what they want to see and design elements as well,” Wong said.

Cultural programming is only one part of the Cultural House. It is currently home to the students of the residential First Year Course (FYC) We Demand: Student Power, World Building, and Democratizing Higher Education and, in the past, has held many other students. Future residents in coming school years will live on a floor of a dorm building, in line with other residential FYCs. The long-term plan for the Cultural House will come from the reimagining and reconstruction of the language houses on Macalester Street of the comprehensive plan — there is no timeline for this. 

Wong and other members of the senior leadership team told the news to members who would be affected by the move first. They visited the FYC and cultural organization leaders who use the space and answered questions from Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) in attempts to address their questions and concerns. 

Once organization leaders and residents of the space found out its plans, many were left disappointed and felt these changes would not be able to replace the Cultural House. 

Aldric Martinez-Olson ’24, a student staff member at the LSC, shared his personal connection to the house. 

“I’m still grappling with the decision,” Martinez-Olson admitted. “While I understand the need for a new space, I’m worried about the overlapping timelines and the potential gap in programming. Bureaucracy and construction can be unpredictable.”

For many students, particularly first-generation and BIPOC students, the transition into college was not easy. The Cultural House serves as their home, both physically and emotionally. They fear its new less private residential move to the dorms would not facilitate the relationships that have been fostered. 

“Being a BIPOC student in this place really feels like a sense of community when there’s an actual physical house building that we can go to,” Liv Dalby ’26, a Bonner Scholar, shared. “It’s not just a dorm with a bunch of other people walking in; it’s more secluded and family-like.”

For the new space, students have ideas of what needs to be retained. Joshua Segebre ’26, co-chair of ¡Adelante!, expressed the importance of the House’s core values. 

“As long as it preserves the main intention of what the Cultural House stands for, and its values, especially with the cultural student organizations, I think that’s good,” Segebre said. “We all need new facilities, but preserving cultural awareness and identities is crucial.”

Students also pointed to history and another important aspect that has been forgotten in the past that merit a permit exhibition to document the timeline of the Cultural House. 

“This space needs to have a built-in history component, a symbolic representation that BIPOC students and their history at Macalester cannot be erased,” Aldric emphasized. 

Segebre also pointed out the lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

 “The only reason I know that the Cultural House was going to get demolished was through other students,” Segebre said. “It would be nice if the administration could say something.”

In addition to the residential aspect, the main component drawing students to the Cultural House is the kitchen. Cooking together, especially cultural foods, allows people to connect and feel close to their families outside the Macalester community. 

“I discovered a Central American community on campus I didn’t know existed,” Martinez-Olson said.“And that just makes me feel a little bit more whole and eases the isolation at higher ed.”

Programs hosted in the Cultural House, such as “In The Kitchen With…”, are one way the larger community has been brought into this space. Segebre has special memories of his time in the kitchen. 

“I got invited by my friend, and they made spring rolls,” Segebre said. “It was lots of fun. Especially for my friend, she’s from Vietnam. She said it had been a long time since she was able to make spring rolls, and it reminded her of her grandma.”

The Cultural House’s history and significance for residents and the community as a whole has been well documented in recent years. Its move has left many wondering if this space will feel the same as its home at 37 Mac. 

“In my freshman year, especially during COVID-19, finding a sense of community on campus was challenging,” Martinez-Olson ’24 said. “The Cultural House provided a basis, a beginning point where you could access diversity. Diversity isn’t just putting random people together; you have to work harder than that for it to be an inclusive space. The Cultural House programming continues to help with that.”


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Emma Salomon
Emma Salomon, Editor-in-Chief
Emma Salomon '24 (she/her) is the Editor-in-Chief, from Ithaca, NY. She majors in History and International Studies with a minor in French and concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. She is passionate and a little too intense about her Google Calendar.   

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