Women’s center expands, re-envisions role

The Women’s Resource Center announced plans to re-define and expand its presence on campus.

This year, the Women’s Resource Center is working to increase its hours and the availability of its resources. Although the WRC has always aimed to provide a safe space for students of all backgrounds and identities to come together, its goals have remained largely undefined. Recently, coordinators have begun to refine the role of the WRC, working to host group events and create a space for the discussion of gender, sexuality, and violence prevention through a strong network of student workers and staff members.

In the past, the Women’s Resource Center functioned primarily as an open dry space, providing an alternative area for student programming. Unlike the Black Cultural Center and Intercultural Center, the WRC was run as a “student committee” and had very little administrative guidance. Due to this, the WRC was requesting the majority of their funding through the SBC and did not have a large central budget like the BCC or IC, making it more difficult to host events.

Although the WRC student committee still hosted events such as coffee houses, this lack of budgeting and administrative planning led it to have a less focused purpose than other campus organizations. Because of this, the WRC will be increasing the availability of staff members to implement more central planning. “Our hope with these changes is that we can create more with an inclusive community that feels accessible, and that isn’t dependent on students who are already over-taxed to run the center,” said Nina Harris, director of the WRC.

According to Harris, the lack of an explicit purpose within the WRC eventually led it to have very few centralized, engaging events to bring in the community.

During the WRC’s recent hiring process, Becca Bernstein, Title IX fellow, described how students commonly considered the WRC as “undervalued” and “underutilized,” believing that it provided far less structure for discussion of gender and sexuality than they would have liked. Similarly, many first-year students expected the WRC to be more closely allied and active with other campus groups, such as SwatFems. “I think the WRC and SwatFems allying and having more events together is a really great possibility, and I would like to see them work together more closely in the future,” said Eliza Henneberry ‘19, a new general associate at the WRC.

During their recent open house on Friday, October 23rd, the WRC addressed these issues and announced the new aims that will be redefining their purpose on campus. Irene Kwon ‘17, the newly appointed senior coordinator, shared her vision for the WRC.

“I see the Women’s Resource Center as a group of people, a space, an institution that has the potential to render concrete all of the theoretical jargons and criticisms around gender…I want the WRC to be a space where students can explore and discuss their intersectional identities,” Kwon said.

Kwon added that in the future, the WRC will be reorganizing the physical space of their building to create an area in which gender and sexuality can be discussed more fully, in a more practical sense, outside of an entirely academic context.

In pursuit of these goals, the WRC is working to create a more structured environment. In the past, the WRC was only staffed by student “house sitters,” who kept the center open along with a few interns available as resources for students. Staff members were only available during the nights. The WRC will now be open and staffed more often: Tuesday through Friday from 2-6 p.m., Saturdays from 4 p.m.-2 a.m., and Sundays from 4 p.m.-midnight. Staff members will be available to discuss Title IX, violence prevention, and gender and sexuality during these times. The center also brought on people to work on graphic design, social media and marketing.

As another way to implement their goals, the WRC will be putting together two types of discussion groups. The first, “Misogyny Therapy,” is a space for students to come together and look at gender and sexuality in a practical sense, as it pertains to their daily lives. Bernstein described that the group will be a place in which individuals can “talk about gender microaggressions” and discuss the ways in which these affect their lives. She stated that it will be both a “safe” and a “brave” space for students to feel comfortable and supported while speaking about gender and sexuality but also to explore new ideas.

The second group is one in which students can openly discuss sex and sexual exploration, and with a focus on “sexual taboos.” The first meeting will be held on Thursday, November 5.

As an effort to promote accessibility, the WRC has moved the library down to the first floor and added more reliable WiFi to make the center a better study space. The third floor has been turned into a type of “restorative care” center to serve as a safe space that promotes self-care and provides violence prevention and staff resources for students.

“The hope is that because the college is putting more centralized student support and staff support, we can start to build [the WRC] up in the ways that the IC and BCC are,” said Harris. The WRC is working towards forming a strong community in which individuals can express their views about gender and sexuality and be part of an inclusive community.

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