While I have always known the Women’s Resource Center existed, it has not yet played a major role in my life at Swat; I visited it a grand total of once, for Cookie in a Jar night (even now, I remember that bitter tang of disappointment upon realizing that required actual cooking and not receiving a jar of cookie dough). It suddenly surged back to mind after I read one of Dean Shá Smith’s emails, informing students that a) the WRC would be hiring a Fellow, and b) Nina Harris, the Violence Prevention Educator/Advocate, a role tied to the Title IX Office, would soon be leaving her position as the Fellow Advisor. I knew that other students used the WRC for a variety of reasons — as a safe space to study and socialize, talk about gender issues, or browse through the extensive library. At long last, I decided it was time to start looking into what the WRC does.
The WRC is a woman-centric space on campus that is officially open to all marginalized genders, including trans women and nonbinary persons. The Center often collaborates with the Title IX Office, one of its key partners and collaborators, or stakeholders. This collaboration appears particularly relevant when one remembers that Title IX, although it is more widely linked to sexual assault cases, is fundamentally a gender equity law. Other partner organizations include student groups such as the Swarthmore Queer Union and Women of Color Kick Ass, faculty members, the Gender and Sexuality Department, and Worth Health Center.
Reading through the official description of the WRC’s mission and goals provided by Dean Smith, I could not help but raise an occasional, skeptical eyebrow at the Center’s guidelines (“Recognize Unity of Purpose”‚ too many solemn capitalizations for my taste) and its 2017-2018 plans (which include Yoga in the Yard — when did yoga become a miracle cure for everything from anxiety to pneumonia?) But, to give credit where credit is due, the Women’s Resource Center is genuinely trying to reach out to a variety of students.
“We want everyone who wants to be a part of the WRC to feel comfortable and like they are a part of the community. As a woman of color I know what it feels like to be uncomfortable in spaces on campus … [We] try and make sure that any decisions that are being made in the WRC … fall in line with our mission to offer support for all women and marginalized genders” explains Niyah Morgan-Dantzler ’18, a returning WRC Associate. Dantzler’s responsibilities include working weekly shifts at the WRC and helping organize events.
“Making the physical space more inviting” is another major goal for the WRC, according to Dantzler.
I’ll admit it sounds like a good idea — the first time I went to the WRC, on a dark Friday night, I accidentally walked into a frat house and couldn’t help but think that beer cups and large numbers of shirtless guys seemed an odd decorating choice for a “safe and inclusive space for women and marginalized genders.” Maybe the WRC could try painting their walls bright pink or carving Judith Butler quotes around Olde Club to spare incoming freshmen any confusion.
My only regret is that in our exchange of emails, Dean Smith did not answer my question about a petition started by Swarthmore alum Jodie Goodman, that demanded Swarthmore reaffirm its commitment to protecting Title IX and supporting sexual assault survivors. In the past, the administration has been accused of showing a tendency to disregard survivors, pose to them intrusive and insensitive questions, and hesitate to accuse or prosecute accused students (as discussed in the now famous documentary The Hunting Ground, which prominently featured a Swarthmore alum). While sexual assault tragically affects people all across the gender spectrum, its victims are predominantly female-bodied. We can only hope that the continuing and developing partnership between the WRC and Title IX will play a significant role in ensuring that survivors are listened to and respected.
One of the best ways we can do so is by making sure that the WRC knows what students are feeling, and what our needs and concerns are. So join me, and at least attempt to come to WRC events in the future — which includes pizza and movie nights, baking sessions, Yoga in the Yard, and an Open House on Garnet Weekend (Oc. 6, 7 to 9 pmmm). Should be pretty easy, now that you know open hours exist.
The WRC holds open hours Tuesdays, 2 to 5 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays, 8 p.m. to midnight; and Sundays, 6 to 8 p.m.