KEAP diversity resource center re-opens


Mohammed Islam

Winona State University’s KEAP Diversity Resource Center, works to create a safe space and an inclusive atmosphere for diverse persons, organizations and groups. Located in Kryzsko Commons, the KEAP Center is committed to cultural diversity and to prepare all members of the community for successful living in a global society.

McKenna Scherer, Editor-in-Chief

Winona State University reopened its KEAP Diversity Resource Center on Monday, Nov. 2 after being closed due to COVID-19 quarantine.
Winona State implemented a self-imposed two-week quarantine back in September out of concern for increasing COVID cases on campus.
While the quarantine ended on Sept. 22, the KEAP Center remained closed afterwards.
The KEAP Center – the KEAP acronym standing for Knowledge, Empowerment, Advocacy and Pluralism – is the university’s diversity resource center that aims to “create a safe space and an inclusive atmosphere for diverse persons, organizations and groups” according to its webpage.
The Center falls under the Office of Equity and Inclusive Excellence, which also works on diversity programming and training at the university.
Tyler Treptow-Bowman, the intercultural and completion coordinator for the Office of Equity and Inclusive Excellence, said the Center decided to reopen after COVID cases had decreased and student employees were communicated with.
“Out of an abundance of care and concern for our student employees and students who use the space, we kept it closed until further notice,” Treptow-Bowman said. “When the number of new cases had displayed a demonstrated decrease, we reapproached the topic [of reopening].”
Treptow-Bowman said student employees of the KEAP Center were given advanced notice of its reopening.
The Center’s hours, capacity limits and physical set-up were adjusted due to COVID.
The Center is currently open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays.
Treptow-Bowman said that besides the transition to working from home and using technology like Zoom to connect with others, COVID has not changed the nature of his work.
Currently, there are seven student employees working in the KEAP Center throughout each week as well.
There are several clubs that work closely with the Office of Equity and Inclusive Excellence and frequently utilized the Center’s space pre-COVID, including the African Students Association, Asian Student Nation and Full Spectrum: Winona State University Gender and Sexuality Alliance, among others.
Dorothy Devon-Anne Collins, president of Full Spectrum and fourth-year student majoring in sociology, said the KEAP Center creates a safe and inclusive atmosphere for marginalized groups on campus that Full Spectrum tries to use as much as possible.
“Even before the pandemic, the KEAP Center always had something going on in it,” Collins said. “We encourage our members to study and hang out [there] when it is open.”
Treptow-Bowman said the Center has seen “a significant reduction in usage” this semester due to COVID.
Collins said she personally has been back to the Center since its reopening and noticed it’s set up is different than it was pre-COVID.
“There are fewer places to sit, the couch which was a favorite spot for a lot of people is no longer in its corner,” Collins said. “It feels empty in all honesty.”
Collins also said that COVID has dropped Full Spectrum’s weekly meeting attendance significantly.
“Many of our members either are at risk for complications [due to COVID] or have most of their classes online and are not on campus,” Collins said. “So far no one [in Full Spectrum] has tested positive for COVID which is great.”
The club also had to cancel all of its fundraising events, including their drag shows, which have been popular in previous school years.Full Spectrum has also gone partially virtual for their weekly meetings.
Collins said their meetings are now “high-flex”, meaning in-person but with a Zoom component, to be able to include everyone if they aren’t able to attend in-person.
While the Center claims to provide “a variety of programs, activities and services that help diverse leaners develop to their greatest potential, participate in society to their maximum ability [and] systematically explore the ways we culturally construct identity, knowledge, power, community and culture” on their website, Collins said she does not feel the university does well in terms of inclusivity, diversity or equity.
For example, this fall semester was the first time Student Senate had ever participated in Safe Space Training, Collins said.
Safe Space Training is a campus-wide program hosted by Full Spectrum and the Office of Equity and Inclusive Excellence that aims to show people how to create an inclusive community and safe space for LGBTQ+ members to feel respected and welcome.
“Winona State has a long way to go before I can say that WSU is doing well in terms of inclusivity, diversity or equity,” Collins said. “I personally would love to see a campus that is welcoming to everyone, not just a white person.”