Changes are being proposed to make the Associated Students Womxn’s Center more useful for marginalized students.
The restructuring would include a formal name change, a mission statement change and adjustments to make the office more effective and inclusive, according to the proposal.
Senior Abby Ramos, the current AS Resource and Outreach Programs Director, has led efforts to enhance the center by researching other women’s centers around the country.
“Being a feminist center, we need to be able to include all women, all gender identities and all identities,” Ramos said.
The center has faced declining student use. In-person traffic went from over 1,000 visits per year for the 2009-2010 school year to under 200 by 2013-2014, according to the proposal.
The center’s current mission statement is to support, educate and connect Western’s campus on issues about gender, while promoting gender equality and solidarity against violence.
“The students who work in the center do so much with so little. As a long-term strategy, they need to be better resourced.”
Vicki Hsueh, director of Women Gender and Sexuality Studies
“This restructuring isn’t going to get rid of any of that, it’s only going to enhance it in a different way,” Ramos said.
The proposal includes a new mission statement for the center, with the goals of thinking critically about social issues, viewing identities through an intersectional lens and continuing to stand against violence.
Although the Research and Outreach Programs directory still lists the office as the AS Women’s Center, the name AS Womxn’s Identity Resource Center was informally adopted in winter 2015, according to the proposal.
Senior Nova Clark is in their third quarter as Womxn’s Center Coordinator.
“Historically, this office has been for white, cis and straight ladies,” Clark said. “I think that the ‘x’ is a great way to get away from that.”
The Womxn’s Center Coordinator will begin recruiting volunteers after the restructuring. Ramos said she hopes having volunteers will allow the center to be open to students all day, versus the one or two hours a day that it is currently available since the employees are students.
In addition, Ramos said the restructuring committee will make job descriptions more detailed, and add peer counseling to the job.
Womxn’s Center employees are not currently trained in peer counseling, which can be difficult since many students seek counseling from the center. Lack of training in peer health counseling makes many of the issues that arise more than the staff can handle, Ramos said.
She also said they have discussed recruiting a peer health counselor from Prevention and Wellness Services for professional help.
Ramos has been working closely with Vicki Hsueh, political science professor and director of Women Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Hsueh has been involved in the restructuring since the beginning of the year after Ramos reached out to her. They aim to create a working relationship between the Womxn’s Center and the department. Hsueh believes her department could offer the Womxn’s Center more faculty support and space for students to spend time and have meetings.
“The students who work in the center do so much with so little,” Hsueh said. “As a long-term strategy, they need to be better resourced.”
Plans from the proposal also show that the Womxn’s Center wants to shift to a greater focus on advocacy over events.
However, Ramos mentions events will still be important to the Womxn’s Center, and she hopes that the next director will consider tailoring events to specific identities. Some examples of events she came up with included events where women of color or trans-women could speak about their experiences.
The Womxn’s Center has occupied Viking Union room 514 for over 40 years, but Ramos has offered a plan to move the Womxn’s Center to the Multicultural Center area. This came about after discussing the term “multicultural” with other ROP representatives. Together they concluded that the term goes beyond ethnicity and also encompasses gender, sexuality, and other identities. This idea has not been finalized and will continue to be worked on.
The center will also have an updated library with new resources for minorities on campus. The proposal states that a goal is to create an inviting and warm environment in what is currently seen as a small and more bureaucratic space.
Ramos mentioned that, since her position is up in June, most of the planning that is happening now to further the restructuring process will be continued by next year’s office.