Two of the cultural centers at Yale — La Casa Cultural and the Asian American Cultural Center — are in drastic need of renovation, according to students involved in the houses.
According to the report released on Feb. 3 by the consultation committee convened on the cultural centers, the state of some of the cultural centers appears to be equally pessimistic.
“Spaces that are inaccessible, unventilated, or even dangerous due to asbestos or electrical shock risk, pose an immediate and urgent call to action,” the report stated. “Neglected, outdated buildings — and furnishings or equipment — do not foster a welcoming environment.”
It added that as diversity will be a defining feature of the University’s future, the physical presence of the cultural centers will offer visible evidence of that commitment.
La Casa and the AACC, both of which are on Crown Street, are plagued with structural problems, students say, with some calling the houses “decrepit” and alleging certain spaces have even been deemed “dangerous” to enter. Though Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said there are plans in the coming months to upgrade the state of the buildings, students said small-scale renovations may not be enough to resolve these issues.
“There are scratches and cracks in the walls, there are ceilings falling down and floors sunken in,” AACC Co-Head Coordinator Hiral Doshi ’17 said. “It’s not just enough to renovate a room. We need a new house.”
However, in recent months, it appears the administration has taken some initial steps to address concerns about the cultural houses.
Holloway said that starting in April and over the summer, there will be some changes made in dealing with issues of accessibility and asbestos abatement. He added that there will also be smaller-scale improvements, such as furniture replacement and painting.
“Yale remains committed to making sure the places are fully accessible,” he said.
Still, Holloway said though it may change, he did not believe there would be a full renovation of the houses due to constraints on the facilities budget.
Students, however, argued for immediate and complete renovations.
While the asbestos in the ceiling of one of AACC’s meeting rooms has been fixed, Doshi said meetings were still held in the room for a few months because no one from the University had notified them of the hazard.
Similar problems have also been reported at La Casa, where students said certain parts of the building are in such poor condition that they are rendered inaccessible.
La Casa Peer Liaison Israel Tovar ’17 said the basement of the house was deemed “hazardous.” La Casa Student Coordinator Benjamin Bartolome ’16 said the third floor of the building is unheated.
“You can’t go downstairs,” Tovar said. “Oftentimes we have to reserve a room in the [Afro-American Cultural Center] because we don’t have enough space in the center to accommodate everyone.”
He said other problems include a lack of handicap access, couches that have not been replaced in 20 years and a dilapidated third floor. Due to poor heating systems, Tovar said students need to wear a jacket inside La Casa since it is often very cold.
However, University spokesman Tom Conroy said the process of making these buildings accessible has been an ongoing effort over the last eight years.
According to Holloway, each year facilities does a survey and keeps records of repair requests, which is then used to prioritize what needs to get done, he said.
According to Yale’s most recent Financial Report, the University facility budget in fiscal 2014 was $270.5 million for capital projects, which include major building projects, renovations on Science Hill, construction on Evans Hall and design work on the new residential colleges. Thirteen percent — roughly $35 million — was used on projects to upgrade infrastructure systems and complete exterior corrective work throughout the central campus, along with other planned capital maintenance projects throughout the University.
Conroy said $6 million has been spent on the cultural houses over the last 10 years, funding both the comprehensive renovation on 26 High St. for the Native American House and implementing a variety of upgrades at the other facilities.
“In general, the overall condition of space within the portfolio of cultural houses is similar to that of the entire campus,” Conroy said.
Looking forward, students at both La Casa and the AACC said they have high expectations for the administration. Some of these requests, Bartolome said, are pretty basic needs, including handicap access and safety concerns, that can easily be fulfilled at an institution like Yale.