Lightning struck the Women’s Resource center over summer break on Thursday, June 13. The strike caused a fire on the third floor where the library, featuring various books on feminist literature and gender studies, was located; luckily, no one was inside when it occurred. William Maguire, who is both a college maintenance manager and deputy chief of Delaware County’s fire company, was first on the scene. He said that, when he arrived, there was “heavy fire on the third floor and flames coming through the center of the area.” He added that this has been one of the worst fires on campus in recent years. After helping with the extinguishing of the fire, Maguire went on to run the renovation project.
Hannah Armbruster ’15, the liaison between the WRC board and Dean Karen Henry, was on campus while working for Trash 2 Treasure when she received a call from Paul Bierman ’15 at 9:30 in the morning about the fire. Armbruster was upset by the news and cynical about the restoration, feeling that it would take longer as she thought the damage was much worse.Luckily, the restoration went as planned without delay, and Mar Firke ’14, a house sitter since her sophomore year, said that while the WRC is a lot nicer and newer,“it’s a shame we missed orientation.” The WRC’s reopening was the first event held there since the fire as students weren’t allowed in during the restoration for safety reasons. The WRC also has a record of the lost books thanks to McCabe’s title scanning technology, and has enough money to replace them. They are also open to suggestions from anyone, as they realized when looking through the record of books that their library contained multiple copies of a few popular books and a disproportionately large amount of works on Second-wave feminism.
“We’re trying to get more organized in representing each wave of feminism, since I’m certain we have books from each of them. We don’t just have scholarly books — we have books like Middlesex, and I requested Persepolis, and we are expanding the collection past books to include movies and hopefully Riot Grrl zines,” said Armbruster.
Last Friday marked the official reopening of the WRC. The event was marked by an open house and the return of the Coffeehouse, a dry, alternative party space offered at the WRC on Saturday. The open house showcased pictures of the third floor after the lightning strike and included performances from Grapevine and OASIS hor d’oeuvres. Many students visited and left various notes expressing gratitude to the WRC for providing a safe space and the workers involved in the restoration.
The Women’s Resource Center, originally built in 1925 as Kappa Sigma Pi’s fraternity housing according to the SCCS’s building history website, now serves as a community space for all genders, and not only women, despite the name. The housesitters and student volunteers have all been anxiously awaiting the reopening and are excited to reintroduce the WRC to campus, and provide a safe space for students to gather and socialize. Firke said, “I think for a lot of people the WRC is a place where you can come together and meet people you have something in common with. You don’t need to come with an agenda or specific discussion in mind.”
“It’s really rewarding to provide this space for so many people,” said Armbruster, “I have a lot of people come up to me and tell me how much they love it here and how safe they feel, and I’m more open to get them to come, for everyone to feel welcome and make this a vital space for all kinds of folk to use.”
The Women’s Resource Center is open Thursday, Friday, and Sunday from 8 PM to midnight, and from Saturdays from 9 PM to 1 AM when they host the Coffeehouse.