History of C.R.U at
Michigan State University
Chicano student activism at Michigan State University dates back to the mid to late 1960's.
The first organizations included MAYO (Mexican American Youth Organization), UMAS (United Mexican American Students), and MEXA (Movimento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan). In 1971, MEXA was renamed CHISPA (Chicano Students for Progressive Action). In 1993, CHISPA was renamed to CRU (Culturas de las Razas Unidas) to incorporate all Latino students at Michigan State University.
Several Chicano/Latino organizations and their membership were responsible for continuing activities such as the Chicano Culture Room (now known as the C.R.U room) in Wilson Hall, the Chicano/Latino Studies Program and the Cesar Chavez Library collection at the Michigan State University main library. Since then MEXA has revived and is now an affiliate organization of CRU.
Organizations over Time
MAYO: Mexican American Youth Organization
UMAS: United Mexican American Students
MECha: Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan
ChiSPA: Chicano Students for Progressive Action
SHPE: Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
PRSA: Puerto Rican Student Association
CRU: Culturas de las Razas Unidas (Formerly ChiSPA)
MEXA: Movimiento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlan
OLASW: Organization for Latino Social Workers
NAHBS: Native American and Hispanic Business Students
Sigma Lambda Beta
Zeta Sigma Chi
Sigma Lambda Gamma
Omega Delta Phi
Phi Iota Alpha
Sigma Iota Alpha
Migrant Student Voice
Lambda Theta Alpha
Delta Tau Lambda
Lambda Theta Phi
MANRRS: Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Related Sciences
James Madison Latinx Unidos
MSU Multicultural Building Committee
History of Black Caucus Rooms & Cultural Rooms in the Residence Halls
The national sentiment during the mid-1960's related to needed improvements in civil rights for Black Americans, caused MSU to examine its posture on the recruitment and retention of Black students. It was determined that a special effort, beyond what was currently taking place, was necessary to insure that the University's student population was diverse and representative of the many communities it
served. As a result, the "Detroit Project" was instituted, bringing many more Black students to the campus than had ever been here before.
As larger numbers of Black students enrolled at MSU in the late 1960's, it became evident that more comprehensive efforts were needed to retain these students and to insure their academic success. The problems these students were experiencing indicted that the "traditional" approach used for all students was not sufficient.
One of the major points of difficulty for Black students was in their residential environment. As minorities, these students often experienced feelings of isolation, loneliness and alienation that frequently obscured their academic and career goals. Overt racist acts directed at them were additional obstacles to their success.
Ervin Armstrong presented the idea of Black Culture rooms in order to help Black students establish their own cultural niche in Michigan State's environment, a predominately White institution. The culture rooms were to be the center of his proposal to formulate a base of Black Culture on the MSU Campus. He had an idea that Black students, in their struggle for survival in the early era of MSU's Black student recruitment thrust, needed something to identify with at the University that would not be transient. They needed something that all Black students, both then and those of the future, would be able to look at, draw encouragement from, and make additions to with their own impressions of the culture. The students realized that special programs, grant in aid, remedial and counseling programs would rise and fall with the administrative whims. The establishment of the Black Culture room was their answer to "working within the system," to become part of it by finding their place in it.
History gives evidence to the either inherent or created differences between White and Black cultures, which stands now for the reason why the culture rooms were proposed to serve as a room for Black students' self-expression. One culture room was founded in each hall, with the planning and cooperation of then Residence Life Director Gary North, Carl Taylor and financial support through Robert Underwood, then manager of Residence Halls, along with student input and involvement. The first Black Culture Room, located in Shaw Hall, was established in September 1969.
In 1987, APA students were given space in the basement of Holden Hall, which they named the Asian Pacific American Heritage Room. Starting with little more than a few chairs and a couple of tables from storage, APA students used this room for various student organization meetings, especially the Asian Pacific American student Organization (APASO).
A Native American Heritage Room is also located in the basement of Hubbard Hall, where the North American Indigenous Student Organization (NAISO) holds many of its meetings and activities.
Centro de la Raza, now known as the CRU Room is located in the basement of Wilson Hall, where the Culturas de las Razas Unidas (CRU) holds its general body meetings and activities. East Lansing local artist, Jose Romero II, generously painted the CRU Room walls with art that highlights Latinx cultures, as well as marked the emblem of several Latinx-based or Latinx-reaching Fraternities and Sororities, including Sigma Lambda Beta, Sigma Lambda Gamma, Delta Tau Lambda, Phi Iota Alpha, Zeta Sigma Chi, Kappa Delta Chi, Lambda Theta Alpha, and Lambda Theta Phi.
Currently, there are 19 caucus rooms throughout the residence hall system. They were initially used for and continue to be used as: libraries, places for social and academic activities, and as performing arts meeting places. Since the 1980’s, these caucus rooms are still used by African American students residing in the halls to conduct caucus meetings, hold small-scale programs, and serve as a place where students can study. Improvements, renovations, and efforts to beautify and maintain these rooms continue to be a challenge to meet as little financial support for these efforts is there.