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Directive to create 'Opportunity Centers' causes confusion on campuses

Kenzie Wagner

A directive to create “Opportunity Centers” is causing confusion on university campuses.

Students and community members peppered the Board of Regents with questions at a meeting in Vermillion.

The board is imposing a January 1st deadline for universities to have Opportunity Centers in place. The board imposed the deadline after a May letter from Governor Kristi Noem. She asked the board to consider whether university diversity offices are experiencing “mission creep.”

According to the board, Opportunity Centers should realign and focus campus resources to effectively assess and address the individual needs of all students. Every university in the state already has some form of a diversity center, which offer programs and services to students from all walks of life.

Addison Miller is president of the Young Democrats of South Dakota and a concerned student. He says students support the current Center for Diversity and Community at the University of South Dakota.

“I think one clarification that just everyone wants to hear is, can the Board of Regents promise that the Opportunity Center will not take away resources from the CDC? And, if it can't, why are you doing it?”

The board’s executive director Brian Maher attended the meeting. He said the board wasn’t there to make promises.

“I am here to tell you that there’s a lot of conversations that aren’t done yet.”

The meeting continued with more students and community members sharing their concerns and questions.

Sheila Gestring is the president of USD. She says the university and the Board will continue to hold community outreach to hear what people have to say. Gestring also says there are things about the Opportunity Centers that the universities don’t know.

“There's some assumptions that have been made when those decisions haven't been made yet. And I want everyone to just stop and think about this Opportunity Center is going to help us to build on and broaden student services.”

The board's next meeting is in December at South Dakota State University in Brookings.