Women’s Resource Center Renamed To Gender and Sexuality Center

Courtesy of the GSC

The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) has been renamed the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) to better reflect its objectives in providing an inclusive space for marginalized genders and sexualities. The renaming is the culmination of multiple months of discussion with students, center associates, faculty, and staff. Associate Dean of Inclusive Excellence Tiffany Thompson announced the name change through a campus-wide email on Feb. 15. She emphasized that the GSC would still be located in the “cozy cottage by Olde Club” and reaffirmed the center’s mission. 

“Our safe space ensures that all students can seek support and explore their experiences without judgment,” Thompson said. “Together, we strive to build a transformative campus environment that celebrates diversity, promotes understanding, and advocates for a more equitable and inclusive future for all students, including women, gender non-conforming, trans, and queer students.”

Thompson also explained in the same email that the Spring 2024 semester would be a transitional period for the GSC. 

“You might hear WRC and GSC used interchangeably. When you return in the fall, you will see new branding and [a] complete transition to solely the Gender & Sexuality Center!” 

Director of Gender and Sexuality Initiatives Paige Jennings spoke to The Phoenix about what motivated the renaming of the center.

 “The process of the name change started before I was even hired last July. There was a recognition that some students were feeling uncomfortable utilizing the Women’s Resource Center, because of the label ‘women’ on it,” she explained. “There were a lot of queer-identifying students, gender-nonconforming students, and trans students who wanted a space to go that felt like home and a safe space that they had some ownership over.” 

Jennings explained that the WRC had conducted research, held focus groups, spoke to students at tabling events, and accepted feedback from faculty, staff, and current associates last fall.

 “We had a really positive reception. One thing we were proactively avoiding was the perception that we were taking women out of the equation, and we’re certainly not,” she said. “[The WRC] has always been focused on everyone and all minoritized genders, but the name change encompasses that and makes it a more inclusive space.” 

Anastasia Lewis ’24, a senior associate at the GSC, explained that associates participated in meetings focused on discussing ideas for the renaming of the center. 

“We had plenty of chances for input, feedback, and opinions, because [Jennings], [Thompson], and a lot of the other centers recognized that the [GSC is] for the student body, so if the student body doesn’t like what they’re seeing or hearing, then it’s not going to work,” Lewis said.

After receiving insight from the community, Jennings submitted a proposal to President Val Smith’s staff, who “unanimously and excitedly approved” of the renaming. Smith gave the final approval for the name change before she took her sabbatical on Feb. 9.  

When asked how the rename would affect the center’s day-to-day operations, Jennings explained that the GSC would be more intentionally focused on LGBTQ+ programming. She first shared that the Pride Planning Committee, a student-run committee focused on creating queer-focused opportunities for socialization and fun separate from the GSC, would now fall under the GSC’s domain.

 “They’ll have more financial support, more support from me, and more constant contact with me,” Jennings said. 

Jennings also emphasized that hiring in the future would be expanded, stating, “we’ve always focused on women and gender-nonconforming individuals. Now we’re open to queer individuals who identify as cisgender, but otherwise [the GSC’s operations will remain] the same.” 

GSC Associate Hannah Rowland-Seymour ’27 expressed the importance of having the name of the center represent its goals and values. 

“As somebody who identifies as genderqueer, I really wanted this space to reflect our mission,” they said. “It was very clear from the start that [the center]’s mission is to be a space for marginalized communities. [Jennings] told me about the name change at the beginning of the year, and I was really excited.” 

GSC Associate Nick Rodriguez ’27 shared that at first, the name of the WRC had made him unsure of whether or not he would be accepted at the center. He emphasized the clarity of the new name and its role in making the space a more welcoming environment. 

“I think that’s reflective of a lot of other people’s experiences when they first hear about the WRC,” said Rodriguez. “They are initially confused on whether or not they’re allowed inside, and I think the name change makes it clear that [everyone is allowed in the space].” 

The name change was accompanied by an announcement sharing an expanded partnership for the center with the gender and sexuality studies program and Centennial Chair, Professor of Film and Media Studies, and Coordinator of Gender and Sexuality Studies Patricia White.

Jennings remarked that the gender and sexuality studies program has operated separately from the WRC, but had held events focusing on feminism and queerness similar to those held by the center. 

“We’ve communicated with them [before], but we haven’t been as intentional in forming a really strong partnership.”

With the expanded program, the GSC and gender and sexuality studies program will collaborate in helping students apply classroom topics and theory. 

“We’re going to focus on showing that academics are important; when we look at feminist and queer theory, [we see that] they really are important to the foundations of activism,” Jennings said. “When we link those two together, it makes a stronger and more well-rounded student.” 

Lewis emphasized that the expanded partnership will lead to more centralized and accessible ways of engaging with queer and feminist issues on campus. 

“[We’ll] have one place, a one stop shop, where [people] can start rather than trying to find the branches [themselves].” 

GSC associates and Jennings are hopeful for the future of the center and excited to continue engaging with the community through events. 

Rodriguez shared his excitement for the GSC’s upcoming Bodily Autonomy Fair on Mar. 21, Women’s History Month events, and the opening of his and Rowland-Seymour’s passion project, the gender affirmation closet. The closet will allow students to access binders, packers, and other gender-affirming items. 

“I’m really excited to get it going and get those resources out to the people who need them,” said Rodriguez. 

“We [will] have a couple items of different varieties so that people can see [them], try it on, see if it’s right for them, if it’s something that is able to be tried on, and request what they need [through a Google form],” Rowland-Seymour explained. 

Lewis hopes the center will continue expanding and serving as a welcoming space for students.

 “All I want for the future of this place and its community is [for them] to keep growing, thriving and being that space where it can be a home away from home,” she said. “[It’s a] comfy place where I am not challenged or questioned for who I am and who I might choose to be.”

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